In the entertainment industry, youth is king. That's not just a trite truism: It's an actual line in a lawsuit directed at IMDb and Amazon (which owns IMDb) from attorneys representing an actress who's mad that the popular movie-and-TV database listed her actual age on her profile page. Now the actress wants $1 million. The reason is that she's convinced that she's getting less work because casting agents know how old she is now.
So, who's this actress? The 13-page lawsuit doesn't reveal her real name, simply calling her "Jane Doe." But the lawsuit, which was filed on Thursday, provides some vague clues about her background. Apparently she lives in Texas. Also, she's "of Asian descent" and has gone by a stage name because she "has a given legal name that is extremely difficult for Americans to spell and pronounce, and is generally not conducive to obtaining employment in the United States and particularly the entertainment industry."
What really angered her was that IMDb, she claims, used her credit card details to obtain information about her real age. (She's a subscriber to IMDb Pro, which is their more extensive service they offer for paying customers.) So now her actual birth date is up on her profile, and her career (according to the lawsuit) has had problems ever since:
If one is perceived to be "over-the-hill," i.e., approaching 40, it is nearly impossible for an up-and-coming actress, such as the Plaintiff, to get work as she is thought to have less of an "upside," therefore, casting directors, producers, directors, agents/managers, etc. do not give her the same opportunities, regardless of her appearance or talent.
But that's not all...
Defendants' actions have had a double-whammy effect on Plaintiff's livelihood. First, because lesser-known forty-year-old actresses are not in demand in the entertainment business, Plaintiff has suffered a substantial decrease in acting credits, employment opportunities and earnings since Defendants' addition of Plaintiff's legal date of birth to the Internet Movie Database. Second, because Plaintiff looks so much younger than her actual age indicates, Plaintiff has experienced rejection in the industry for each "forty-year-old" role for which she has interviewed because she does not and cannot physically portray the role of a forty-year old woman.
It's easy to be snide about this, especially if you're not an actor and don't know firsthand how cutthroat that world can be, but it's important to remember this isn't just a problem for actors. A summer ago, the Writers Guild of America raised a stink about the fact that IMDb listed writers' ages on their profile pages, which could hurt writers who are deemed "too old" by the industry.
It's a fact of life: Nobody who works in movies wants anybody knowing how old they really are. (We do have to add that this is not unique to showbiz types. All of a sudden, none of our Facebook friends list the year they were born, either.) But as far as this IMDb lawsuit goes, we can see both sides. If an actress like "Jane Doe" wants to advertize on IMDb and she isn't lying about her age -- which it appears "Jane Doe" wasn't -- is she therefore forced to have her actual age nailed to her profile page? On the other hand, for those of us who write about celebrities, well, it's sometimes helpful to know exactly how old they are. But a lot of times, those people we're writing about are famous, and so trying to hide a detail like that is pretty pointless. (The world will find out.) Normally, if an actress's personal information came out like that, it would have meant that she'd arrived: There were enough folks in the world interested enough in her to bother digging it out. For "Jane Doe," it sounds like she thinks she got all the downside of celebrity without any of the perks.
Still, it could get worse for her: We're sure there are people reading this right now that will scour IMDb to see if they can figure out her real identity.