When I started out as a television dramatist in the ’60s, it was a truism that the more fanciable the female lead, the higher the ratings. Casting was a simple matter of sitting by the director while he flipped through acting photo directories and selected his preference. Theater was no different. When I took to writing plays in the ’70s, it was understood that if two mature women were talking onstage, audience members would cough and shift in their seats, but if two men of any age were talking, the audience would pay some attention. And if a man of any age and a young woman were alone onstage, you could hear a pin drop.
Not much has changed since then. Young, nubile women attract attention, aging women do not — on the street, on the screen, on the stage and, I fear for the novelist, on the page.