IMDb announced today that entertainment professionals can now choose whether to display their age and other demographic information on their profiles. Screen performers’ union SAG-AFTRA had pushed for the change for years, viewing it as a front in the war on ageism in Hollywood.
The new policy lets anyone with an IMDb page claim their profile and choose whether their age and birth year, birth name, alternate names and other demographic information show on their profiles. Although performers’ ages will remain on places like Wikipedia, the actors’ union SAG-AFTRA believes the policy will discourage age-based discrimination.
In a letter to union members (reported by Variety), SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher said she worked closely with IMDb for several months to influence the policy shift. “This means professionals can choose how they want to represent themselves to fans and industry decision-makers,” she wrote. “And it will make it easier for casting directors, producers and others to discover and hire talent from all backgrounds for their project.” In addition, Drescher noted that the new policy covers free and paid IMDb accounts.
IMDb, which Amazon owns, spent years resisting the change. In 2016, California passed a law barring websites from publishing the ages and birthdates of performers. It was a popular law with performers, as over 2,300 people asked IMDb to remove their ages in the three months following the bill’s passage. However, IMDb refused to oblige, filed an injunction based on First Amendment rights and won. (SAG-AFTRA and the state of California appealed, but an appeals court upheld the initial ruling.) Apart from Drescher’s note about working with IMDb, it’s unclear what factors led to Amazon’s about-face.
Although ageism isn’t limited to any single industry, Hollywood is a textbook example — especially towards women. Dame Helen Mirren hasn’t minced words on the subject, describing the practice as “fucking outrageous” in a 2015 interview. “We all watched James Bond as he got more and more geriatric, and his girlfriends got younger and younger. It’s so annoying.”