It's no secret that it can be a challenge for women of a certain age to find meaningful roles in Hollywood. There are countless films where male actors have much younger female actresses as their love interests, as well as plenty of movies (and TV shows) where the actors playing parents aren't much older than their adult children.
All that to say: The 2017 Emmy nominations were a refreshing surprise for female actresses. The Emmys are recognizing the work of women of all ages, from Millie Bobby Brown as Stranger Things' Eleven to Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, and Laura Dern in Big Little Lies. Plus, four actresses from Feud — Jessica Lange, Susan Sarandon, Judy Davis, and Jackie Hoffman — are nominated for their performances.
Compared with other awards shows, and even the Emmy nominations of years past, there's a healthy mix of ages among the female Emmy nominees this year. The Oscars, for example, have been known to appear to favor younger actresses, though the Academy Awards' nominations don't tend to include many older women. A USC study published earlier this year found that characters above the age of 60 "are scarce in Best Picture-nominated movies." (Still, it's worth noting that the 2015 Emmy nominations were also especially age-diverse for women.)
As Variety's Sonia Saraiya wrote in June, the past year's TV landscape saw a record number of "meaty roles for mature women." And that's a trend we hope continues for years of TV shows to come. In addition to Feud and Big Little Lies, Saraiya points to Julia Louis-Dreyfus' and Tracee Ellis Ross' performances on Veep and black-ish, respectively, as evidence of game-changing roles for women over 40. Saraiya also lists Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin's Grace and Frankie roles, as well as Allison Janney's Mom character. All five women were nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.
That doesn't mean the Emmy nominations have fully achieved equality, though. As Saraiya points out, most of the female nominees are still white women, with the notable exceptions of Ross and How to Get Away with Murder's Viola Davis.
It's great to see the Emmys are recognizing the work of women of all ages — and there's an easy way to continue that in the future. A recent study found that shows created by women where more likely to feature "a proportion of major female characters that accurately reflected the 51% of the U.S. population," The Hollywood Reporter noted. If you want representation to be done right, it's best to have people who've been there both on and off-screen.