Sandra Bullock credits the new lease of life in her career to Netflix; here's how streaming is giving Hollywood women their due
Netflix has not only helped revive Sandra Bullock’s career but has also pushed forward the filmographies of several other aging actresses, ensuring they continue to be as prolific and get to play meaty, layered, and interesting characters on screen.
In the column Let's Talk About Women, Sneha Bengani looks at films, the world of entertainment, and popular media through the feminist lens. Because it's important. Because it's needed. And because we're not doing it enough.
The 57-year-old star told The Hollywood Reporter, “If it wasn’t for Netflix, a lot of people wouldn’t be working. Their stories wouldn’t be told. Who would think that I, as a woman, would still be working at this point? I would have been out in the cow pasture.”
Notably, Bullock’s career got a major boost after the bumper success of her 2018 dystopian thriller Bird Box that became Netflix’s most-watched film of all time up until the recent release of Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, and Gal Gadot-starrer Red Notice, which finally dethroned it. Interestingly, The Unforgivable has been receiving a lot of love too. So much so that within 28 days of release, it has become the ninth most-watched original Netflix film of all time.
The streamer has not only helped revive Bullock’s career but has also pushed forward the filmographies of several other aging actresses, ensuring they continue to be as prolific and get to play meaty, layered, and interesting characters on screen.
Take Jane Fonda, for instance. Netflix’s Grace and Frankie — with 82 [and counting] episodes across seven seasons — gave the veteran actress a solid run at a time when most of her contemporaries had long retired. At 84, Fonda is gearing up for the release of Luck, an animated fantasy comedy, slated to release in February on Apple TV+.
Right now, Gillian Anderson is arguably in the most exciting phase of her 30-year-long acting career, thanks to Netflix. Once known for her work in The X-Files, the 53-year-old is currently popular among millennials and Gen-Z as Jean Milburn of Sex Education, who she has been essaying since 2019. Anderson also played the United Kingdom’s former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the streamer’s premier show The Crown. Though she appeared in only six episodes of the fourth season, her class act won her a Golden Globe, an Emmy, and a Screen Actors Guild Award.
Robin Wright (55) and Laura Linney (57) have also gained immense traction in recent years, courtesy their Netflix shows. Playing Claire Underwood of House of Cards from 2013 to 2018 was a landmark in Wright’s career, making her the first woman to ever win the Best Actress Golden Globe Award for a show on a streaming platform. Meanwhile, Linney has already featured in two Netflix shows — Ozark and Tales of the City.
Netflix may be the industry leader, but it is not the only streamer that has been actively collaborating with veteran actresses. Other platforms, such as Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Apple TV+, and Disney+ have also followed suit. If you look at Jennifer Aniston’s outings in the last five years, all of them have been on streaming platforms, except The Yellow Birds, the obscure festival film, her solo release of 2017. Netflix enthused life into her sagging filmography with two original films, Dumplin’ (2018) and Murder Mystery (2019). The 52-year-old star followed it up with arguably her career-best performance since Friends in Apple TV+’s The Morning Show, for which she bagged a Screen Actors Guild Award and Golden Globe and Emmy nominations.
Patricia Arquette, who won an Academy Award for Richard Linklater’s 2014 coming-of-age drama Boyhood, has not appeared in any film as substantial since. But the 53-year-old actor extraordinaire has not let the absence of theatrical releases stop her. Her Netflix comedy Otherhood released in 2019. The same year, she also appeared in The Act, Hulu’s crime drama series. She is currently working on two shows for Apple TV+, one a comedy, the other a crime thriller.
In a video that Netflix released with its 2020 inclusion report, the first ever such attempt by a streamer, Kabi Gishuru, the director of Global Inclusion Recruiting Programs at Netflix, says, “It is really important that we open the door for underrepresented folks. Because once we open the door for them, they will turn around and open the door for others."
It is true. For the longest time, Meryl Streep has been the lone representative of women past 50 in ageist Hollywood. But not anymore. We need a bigger table now. And a lot more chairs. Streep’s finally got company.
When not reading books or watching films, Sneha Bengani writes about them. She tweets at @benganiwrites.
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