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A mid-30’s female by any other name would still act as sweet

March 2, 2012

I’m grateful for every role I get to play.  And at my current age, there are actually a decent amount of them.  According to many young filmmakers, my type, that is: moms, teachers and nurses are in their mid-to-late 30’s and are complex creatures.

In the radio drama writing class I’m currently taking, we have learned that character names are vital to storytelling. In fact, our teacher will send back assignments if we haven’t named the characters. Even if the character’s name is never spoken in the piece we still baptize each role with a proper name, as this gives the character an essence, a life-force, a history.

So, what am I to think, when I have auditioned for the following characters these past few weeks:

Lois, Lorraine, Shirley, and, best of all…………ETHEL!!!


There are people in retirement villages in Florida named Ethel. And her aqua-aerobics buddies are Lois, Lorraine and Shirley.  None of these lovely ladies are 30-something moms.

People my age were born in the 70’s. We have quite “modern” names, like Stacey, Dawn, Kim, Erica, Kelly, and yes, my name, Tara. In fact, if writers did a little research, they might find that Tara was a hugely popular name for babies in the 1970’s because of the re-release (in “STEREOPHONIC SOUND”… OOOOHHH.) of Gone with the Wind. Parents in the 1970’s did not name their babies after the characters in Golden Girls (in fact, that wasn’t even on TV yet….) Babies were given, supposedly ground-breaking, often hippie-inspired (Dawn) or  gender-neutral names (Kelly, Kim) in keeping with the women’s liberation movement that was in full swing.

But I suppose what is really irking me is not that the writers of these names haven’t done their research into the era. It’s that they are giving the character a name based on a feeling…as names tell a lot about the character… and well….. to the 20-something writers of these films… a mid-30’s mom is OLD. So her name must be too, because the character’s essence is all about being OLD, and I guess, in the case of ETHEL, kind of quaint and proper.

So as I said, I’m grateful for the roles people. But all I’m asking is that when you want to give the audience the right essence of a 30-something mom, don’t just come up with a random “old-sounding” name.  Consider, for a moment, that this character was actually born long after World War 2, and, even though it may have been in the back of her parents’ VW van, she did see Gone with the Wind in stereo!

Though, to be honest, Went With the Wind (also from my childhood!) is my favorite:

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 2, 2012 10:40 am

    I just have to say that I love this post. And I don’t think you’re an Ethel 🙂

  2. March 5, 2012 11:31 am

    Thank you, though I have an addendum….I was excited to see another one of my favorite childhood movies on TV this weekend…….”Pretty In Pink.”

    However, I was slightly alarmed that the ad break featured a commercial for AARP. Targeted advertising!??!!!

    I’m heading for Florida…. see you at aqua aerobics!

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