One-Minute Book Reviews

March 3, 2011

Women, Age and Hollywood – Quote of the Day From Tracey Jackson’s ‘Between and Rock and a Hot Place: Why 50 Is Not the New 30’

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 2:52 am
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Screenwriter Tracey Jackson talks about women in film and television in her new Between a Rock and a Hot Place: Why Fifty Is Not the New Thirty (Harper, 287 pp., $25.99):

“In Hollywood 30 is considered 80, especially where women are concerned. This attitude tends to affect actresses first, but the second group on its hit list is usually writers, particularly those who write comedy, a genre not very friendly to women to begin with. …

“As in every profession, there are exceptions to the rule, and one of the biggest exceptions, if not the biggest, is that if you are a superstar in your field by the time you are 50, you can skid forward to at least 60. … You can run down a list of women in their 50s and 60s in top jobs, but I promise you every one of them was a superstar in her world by no later than 45. The general consensus seems to be that if you haven’t made it by then, the chances are you aren’t going to, so why keep you around?”


  1. When I was in grad school, I was taught that writing is a craft. Like any craft, our creative writing teachers told us, it gets better with practice. The assumption was that, after getting one or two “practice” novels out of the way, you improved as time went along. Maybe, I used to think, I’ll hit my stride when I’m in my 50s! If I keep at it long enough.

    Back then, it seemed to me the emphasis was on “tenacity,” or staying power. How long you were able to stay in the “game” without giving up. A kind of “last man standing.” I had classmates who became librarians, or entered another field entirely, within a few years of graduating from the Creative Writing Program. I think only half of my batch of writers are still actively writing books today. I’m one of those “survivors.”

    This is very different from what I see around me today. The New Yorker, Granta, other top magazines emphasize “20 Under 40” and so forth. So I guess writing is becoming more like Hollywood: If you don’t “make it” (i.e. land an agent and a big publisher) by the time you’re 40, forget it. So there’s none of this “pay your dues” kind of thinking. It’s “grab what you can now, because by the time you’re 40, no one will be interested in what you have to say.”

    I think this does a dis-service to young writers, putting so much pressure on themselves.

    Comment by anthropologist — March 5, 2011 @ 12:13 am | Reply

    • Your grad school professors were wise to emphasize staying power, because that’s what it’s all about in writing. So many young writers who get a lot of attention think it’s going to last forever. They can’t see far enough ahead to realize that next year, or five years from now, the New Yorker will have a new “20 under 40” list. And a lot of them have terrible problems, either personal or professional, when the waves of hype don’t keep coming their way. I appreciate your perceptive comments …

      Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — March 5, 2011 @ 2:01 pm | Reply

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