Lisa Kudrow Talks Ageism, Sexism & Representation Of Women In Film

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If there is anyone who has the experience over a long period of time to make a judgement on how women are represented and treated by Hollywood, it’s Lisa Kudrow. Having been on the cast of ‘Friends’ for ten years and ten season, a show which today is ranked as one of the most popular sitcoms of all time, and which has had a cultural impact on men and women worldwide, we can only imagine that experience has also impacted Lisa in a big way.

She is now the creator and star of her own comedy series on HBO called ‘The Comeback’ where she plays a TV star from yesteryear who is trying to make that comeback in television again. It is a plot line that is not that dissimilar to her own life. The difference being, that her character on screen is the somewhat ditzy, flighty woman who is trying to capture what she had in her “golden days”, but in real life Lisa is more interested in taking control of her career and spending time behind the scenes also.

Lisa has had some memorable guest roles in movies and TV shows. She played the university dean in ‘Bad Neighbors’ and a political representative in ‘Scandal’ where she delivered a kickass monolog about sexism and how women are valued only for their physical appearance in that arena.

In an interview with Net-A-Porter’s ‘The Edit’ online magazine, Lisa talks about her career, her signature character and how older women are treated in Hollywood.

She talks about how her character Valerie in ‘The Comeback’ is desperate for fame again and is the subject of a new reality TV series because it is the only way a woman of her age can appear likeable or wanted.

Instead of trying to make it look like a Real Housewives-type reality show, ‘The Comeback’ is more about looking at the deeper issue of how women are portrayed in the media after a certain age.

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“[People] don’t think twice about Valerie being on a reality show and being humiliated all the time. It isn’t shocking to watch a woman allow herself to be treated that way. It’s traditional now,” she said referring to how we are so used to watching women be catty, desperate and insecure.

In real life, Lisa says she is more happy being in her 50s because now she can play the serious politician roles and isn’t trying to please “the system”.

“It’s an age thing, but that’s great,” she says. “I’m thrilled! No one can be mad at me for not being sexy and cute anymore. That’s fantastic. People get mad at women for not trying to be sexy and cute. It’s terrible.”

Despite the industry forcing women to aspire to the sexy imagery when they are young, and casting them aside as they get older, Lisa’s outlook shows a healthy regard for every age. Rather than looking at getting older as a death wish, women in Hollywood and the media need to start aggressively going after the more substantial roles so that getting older is something sought-after in the industry, rather than an exit strategy.

One of the ways she takes control of her image on-screen is with her fashion sense, refusing to fit into the stereotyped mold that Hollywood seems to impose on women.

“If I wear pants instead of a dress and heels, [men think]: ‘What are you hiding? Why don’t you like yourself?’” she said. Her conscious decision to do this shows how ingrained into society these standards are, because of the reaction she often gets.

“I went to a meeting in New York wearing these clunky men’s shoes, and one man just looked at me and said: ‘Why are you wearing those? Put on a heel. Why would you want me to see you in that?’ I grew up in a house where attention was paid to how you look. I tried, but I never felt like it worked,” she says.

We need to hear more messages like these, not because we all want to be actresses and need some encouragement, but because the more variety of representations we have on screen, the more that is going to affect our culture in a profound way. Instead of letting reality shows dominate the conversation, we’d rather have diversity.

In a sense things have come full circle for Lisa, not because she is on another hit sitcom, but because she has found the true value in being a role model to women and how she can once again impact the global culture we live in by being herself, not just Phoebe Buffay.

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One Comment

  1. I want to see “The Comeback” – I didn’t know about that show! I guess as you get older some people can’t play the teenage / young adult roles so much but you can still be sexy! I guess Hollywood just needs more good roles for older females and females in general than the young sexy love interest

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