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Hollywood Magic: impossibly young mothers, ageism against women
July 7, 2014 9:45 PM   Subscribe

Hollywood is tough on older women -- it's like they're filed away in a folder simply marked "old" — and it’s a problem their male counterparts rarely have to contend with. To prove it, we’ve rounded up some recent examples of age-inappropriate casting, then imagined what would happen if some of these believability-busting pairings got a gender flip.

Slate -- Hollywood Abhors an Aging Woman. Too Bad for Hollywood.
It happened for the first time a couple of years ago when I turned on the television and stumbled upon a nondescript sitcom on network TV. The actress, who appeared to be in her late 40’s, was playing the television mother of an actor who looked to be in his early 40’s. I was confused when I heard the actor refer to her as “mom,” but then I realized that it was just another example of Hollywood’s insane ageism, particularly directed towards women—even actresses playing mothers to 40-year olds can’t be over 50. In order to continue watching, I somehow needed to reconcile that the “mother” had to be roughly eight years old when she gave birth to her “son.” And I couldn’t, so I turned the TV off.
The Guardian -- Oh, mother!
Why did Hope Davis feel so peeved when she was asked to play Johnny Depp's mother in a new film? Could it be because she was, er, exactly the same age as him? What on earth is behind these bizarre casting decisions, asks Hadley Freeman.
Mama Mia -- This is Hollywood's dirty little secret
I recognise a lot of models from my years working in magazines and I know roughly how old they are. If the way we see motherhood portrayed in advertising is to be believed, the average age for giving birth is about 12. 14 at the oldest.

Think about that for a moment. Think about the subconscious effect that has on how we calibrate what motherhood looks like. And it’s not just advertising. Movies and TV shows do it too – incessantly.
posted by filthy light thief (162 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite

 
I really appreciate the point of the first link but I think it would be better with pictures illustrating their examples; if you want to point out the absurdity, make it as visual as possible. Also, the reason I find it hard to picture Ben Stiller as Jason Segel's father has basically nothing to do with age.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:00 PM on July 7 [15 favorites]


I hate to quibble, because this is definitely a thing, and a gross and ridiculous one at that.

However I don't think Back to the Future is a fair example, being, yes, Lea Thompson had to play Michael J Fox's mother, but she also plays his creepy oedipal time-travel love interest, so... you know. A lot going on there. Way easier to age someone up with makeup for a time travel movie.

Angelina Jolie as mother to Colin Farrell, though? Unacceptable.
posted by misfish at 10:10 PM on July 7 [23 favorites]


The last link, I'm not sure if it's fair to compare Lea Thompson and Michael J Fox being mother and son in Back to the Future. Thompson's character was a teenager most of the movie, the same age as Fox's character. And they were BOTH 24, which lands them firmly in 90210/Glee teen casting ranges.
posted by mochapickle at 10:13 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


Oh, foo.
posted by mochapickle at 10:13 PM on July 7 [6 favorites]


Oh, man, of the many many things about the Star Trek reboot that made my blood boil, Winona Ryder as Zachary Quinto's mother was right up there. I'm honestly not sure how I survived that movie.
posted by misfish at 10:16 PM on July 7 [15 favorites]


Forrest Gump is a crazy example because it takes place across the span of multiple decades. Both actors needed to be able to be aged or youthened with makeup.
posted by the jam at 10:17 PM on July 7 [12 favorites]


The "Isabella Rossilini in the 90s" episode of the FANTASTIC podcast You Must Remember This touches on this a lot, how she became the face of Lancôme despite being scandalously old at 29 and then retired after a bitter fight at 40 and founding her own cosmetics company that might have been too cutting edge and before its time to exist ( all unisex, all practical, euro bleeding edge marketing) and talking a lot about how the ideal woman in Hollywood is "somewhere between 16 and 32 " and Anyang older then that is a grandmother.
posted by The Whelk at 10:29 PM on July 7 [6 favorites]


Interesting one: North by Northwest -- Jessie Royce Landis, who played Cary Grant's mother, was actually 10 months younger than Grant in real life. (via Pajiba)
posted by mochapickle at 10:32 PM on July 7 [11 favorites]


I sometimes miss major plot points on TV shows because I am busy calculating the maximum plausible ages of characters. I am frequently scandalised by the results.
posted by misfish at 10:37 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


This goes hand-in-hand with the 57-year-old-men-married-to-22-year-old-women thing hollywood movies have going on, too.
posted by maxwelton at 10:55 PM on July 7 [10 favorites]


Vulcans live much longer than humans, don't they? Which made that even worse, for me, because if that involves slower maturity (I am not that much into it to know) then a human's half-Vulcan child would make the age difference seem even more extreme, not less.

The older men paired with younger women thing always skeeves me out a lot. Not because an occasional couple with an age difference can't work, but because when I was younger I got a number of such propositions that I'm really pretty sure happened because the men involved really thought that it was perfectly normal for 40+ year old men to be dating 21-year-olds, when the only place that's normal is fiction. Some people just do not get that movies/TV are not that indicative of real life. By movie terms, I'm getting on in years. By real life terms, I have to say, sometimes I fuss about not having a partner yet, but I know relatively few people in their early 30s who can even call themselves adults with a straight face.
posted by Sequence at 11:02 PM on July 7 [11 favorites]


I'm not sure how Bea Arthur (b. 1922, played Dorothy on Golden Girls) and Estelle Getty (b. 1923, played Dorothy's mom, Sophia) fit into this.
posted by asperity at 11:10 PM on July 7 [12 favorites]


That window you mention is evidently right, The Whelk. Too bad for us. I'm finding I have a lot of internalized crap around beauty and aging that I have to take on. Sure, I'd like to look like Susan Sarandon at 67 (from the second link) -- who wouldn't? Vs. who actually does? SS's looks are a function of unusual luck. The less lucky members of her cohort are punished with ridicule when they resort to the tools available to them -- when it works out, they're vain/desperate; when it doesn't, they're monsters/stupid. Women who let it all hang out are punished for failing to 'take care of themselves', doomed to obsolescence. Genetic fluke is the only way to maybe win at that game.

I'm angry at how completely fucked it is that a good portion of even my non-thespian value is bound up with how well and effortlessly I 'preserve' myself over time, at the same time that I'm medium-anxious about succeeding at it.

Because it'd be the worst thing in the world to show some lines, right? Vanity, anxiety around mortality, and of the uncontrollability and impact of others' judgements as I make uncommon changes in career -- all that plays into it. Yeah, and of course relationships - even if I weren't single and thinking about maybe giving them another try, it's possible I'd still be looking over my shoulder, as a lot of married women seem to do.

Too much of me is vulnerable to those completely stupid imperatives, and it doesn't help matters that producers of representations believe and support them, too.

I'm annoyed enough about the years of my life already lost to worrying about my chest or butt or what have you. What a damn waste of time.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:18 PM on July 7 [12 favorites]




Then there is TV news: an aging man is one anchor and a much younger woman is the other anchor. Sometimes the man is quite thoroughly and naturally wrinkled, but not the female. Male wrinkles are photogenic, but female wrinkles are not? Male wrinkles = authority, female wrinkles = ugly?
posted by Cranberry at 12:04 AM on July 8 [11 favorites]


Let's not forget The Manchurian Candidate, in which Angela Lansbury played Laurence Harvey's mother, and was only about three years older than him.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 12:05 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]


This is a thing that I've been really angry about lately. It seems like women have two options: play a lot younger (everyone between the ages of, say, 20 and 35 who're still getting cast as teenagers) or playing a lot older (basically all the examples above).

It's like women between thirty-five and sixty-five just don't exist. We don't bat an eye at male action leads who're in their forties and fifties--they can kick ass and defeat the bad guys and get the girl and everything. But it's really rare to see a woman in the same age bracket who's even playing someone in that age bracket, let alone playing someone that age who's also allowed to kick ass.

I saw a tweet the other day--this one, actually--that basically says ugh it's awful that twenty years ago, we didn't get a Wonder Woman movie starring Lucy Lawless. And I mean, I basically agree with that point, but I'm equally angry that we're not getting Wonder Woman starring Lucy Lawless right the fuck now. Lawless is 46. Affleck's Batman is 42; RDJ's Iron Man is 49. Hugh Jackman is 45 and is doing XMen movies for at least the next three years. But it's basically unthinkable that we could have Lawless as Wonder Woman, because she's just so old, I guess.
posted by MeghanC at 12:06 AM on July 8 [139 favorites]


I look at aging UK female actors and see how they are allowed to become older women and do so with grace and end up basically inventing new careers for themselves as they are allowed to show their age, and compare that to Hollywood female actors and how they are basically never EVER supposed to be physically older than 35 and how many of them end up looking freakish because of the surgical knife... and I find myself weeping inside.

Hellen Mirren, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith... can you imagine any of them having gone through Joan Rivers levels of plastic surgery and having any sort of career?

I read something about Gwyneth Paltrow having had plastic surgery recently and my heart really sank.

(And Nichole Kidman's plastic surgery was creepy, what? 10 years ago? and she's not even "old")
posted by hippybear at 12:44 AM on July 8 [10 favorites]


Male wrinkles are photogenic, but female wrinkles are not? Male wrinkles = authority, female wrinkles = ugly?

I guess that's the consensus.

I don't know. I see women in life aged 40 + (wearing their lines and all) as having beauty, but it's a kind that still sometimes jars my expectations, especially if a woman is trying, through her grooming and makeup, to be soft and new-looking and pretty, the way a young girl is pretty. "Lived-in and healthy-looking" looks good to me. (My prototypes here are the French or German sunbathers I've seen on vacations; English hikers, too. If I saw more like them on-screen, I think I'd feel easier about mouths turning down and furrows between brows.) Of course, it's often not possible to achieve that health, given the number time * physics can do on a person.

As it is, given extensive exposure to smooth-faced juvenalia, the experience of seeing an actual woman looking her years sometimes feels like a category mistake, and it's hard to get used to seeing transitions in people you know. I have an acquaintance who's been posting a lot of pictures on FB lately. She'd been movie-star-pretty in her 20s, and I took a breath when I saw a recent photo. "Even to her, it's happening", I thought. "It'll happen to me in a minute." And there's a kind of horror in it, for reasons mentioned. I bet this experience isn't unknown to producers.

It's still total shit, and those German nudists ought to be everywhere.
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:48 AM on July 8 [5 favorites]


"I see women in life aged 40 + (wearing their lines and all) as having beauty,"

So so true. Even when I was in my 20s I found a wide range of women beautiful, and their age didn't really come into it. It amazes me that Hollywood is so misogynistic as to behave like this. What is wrong with these people, do they truly hate women? I can see no other reason, to be honest. As mentioned upthread, outside of Hollywood, Helen Mirren is doing alright.

But then you look at American TV and the images of the USA and its people and it is so false its untrue. As Flavor Flav said "No on lives like that, no one even looks like that."
posted by marienbad at 1:25 AM on July 8 [6 favorites]


As mentioned upthread, outside of Hollywood, Helen Mirren is doing alright.

Mirren is doing just fine inside Hollywood too?

As with any rule there are exceptions to the "OLD = GOODBYE CAREER" thing that Hollywood tends to do to women, and Helen Mirren is one of those exceptions.
posted by Justinian at 1:53 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


Also in the news, Actors Play Characters Much Younger Than Themselves.
posted by Brian Lux at 2:04 AM on July 8


Not to deny Hollywood ageism but in the UK, people who only ever became famous because of their looks are the first to complain when that fame vanishes along with their looks.

Mirren, Dench et al were accomplished actresses in their youth and became better as they aged. Of course they kept on getting work.
posted by epo at 2:19 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]


I found it refreshing in the Marvel set of movies that Gwyneth Paltrow--whether she has had work done or not, and frankly, her looks are a big part of her business, so fair enough if she has--was playing an age-appropriate love interest to RDJ with a character who seems to share her b. 1972 age (or thereabouts).

Moreover, while she looks amazing on screen, she also looks "realistic", which is to say a few of my friends have "aged well"* by our society's standards and if you put them in a room with GP, they'd clearly be peers.

* Which is not meant as a put-down to anyone else, I'm someone's Dorian Gray picture, myself.
posted by maxwelton at 2:29 AM on July 8 [6 favorites]


I look at aging UK female actors and see how they are allowed to become older women and do so with grace and end up basically inventing new careers for themselves as they are allowed to show their age...

In general, I notice that UK tv (and to a lesser extent film) casts a larger range of attractiveness and body types.

There are fat people, thin people, balding people, missing teeth, big noses, whatever, and they are cast as 'regular' people.
Heck, they have people in their 50s or 60s having sex, and it's played straight, not as the punchline for a joke.

Of course, the UK has its fair share of Hollywood beautiful leading roles, but look at the background players sometime.
The difference is startling.
posted by madajb at 2:35 AM on July 8 [6 favorites]


I really appreciate the point of the first link but I think it would be better with pictures illustrating their examples; if you want to point out the absurdity, make it as visual as possible.

Yea seriously, in an era where everything has to be a damn video, or almost entirely made out of "the 7 most ridiculous" photos, where's... a bunch of photos? this is one of the few cases in which that actually would have been directly beneficial to what is already a totally cogent argument. The lack of photos in fact makes it seem a lot more abstract than it really is.

It's a bunch of text, setting up a case for a visual* issue with visual media. Pics, yo.

*and yea i know, social, etc.
posted by emptythought at 3:15 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]


Angelina Jolie as mother to Colin Farrell, though?

You are making several of my fantasies uncomfortable. Stoppit
posted by billiebee at 3:18 AM on July 8 [6 favorites]


I watched The Grand Budapest Hotel last night (which I enjoyed) but it was noticeable (and strange) that, despite part of its story being about a man who loves and beds old women, rather than have an actual 70-year-old play Ralph Fiennes lover they smothered Tilda Swinton in make-up instead (in contrast to Harold and Maude, which is presumably Wes Anderson's inspiration in general for his entire career, where the old lady was actually in her 70s rather than her 50s).
posted by dng at 3:21 AM on July 8 [10 favorites]


Also I found the most jarring thing in a film recently was in The Rum Diary, where Johnny Depp (48) is supposed to be playing a rookie reporter who is presumably only 20 or so (I think Hunter S Thompson was 22 when he wrote the original book). It's just baffling. Johnny Depp, old enough to be my dad, playing someone young enough to be my son.

His love interest in the film is Amber Heard (23 or so), of course.
posted by dng at 3:28 AM on July 8 [4 favorites]


There aren't many actual artists running Hollywood studios. They're making the movies they think will sell the most tickets. So how do you convince them that there's more money in employing actually older women than in employing younger women to play older women?
posted by pracowity at 3:36 AM on July 8


One of the few bright spots of Agents of Shield was casting Ming Na Wen who's in her fifties.
posted by octothorpe at 3:37 AM on July 8 [23 favorites]


Male Equivalent: If the 34-year-old Jason Segel starred in a comedy … where his father was played by the 48-year-old Ben Stiller and his grandpa was played by the 57-year-old Tom Hanks.

Point made, but on the other hand, I would go see this movie. Someone make it happen, please.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 3:59 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]


Lawless is 46. Affleck's Batman is 42; RDJ's Iron Man is 49. Hugh Jackman is 45 and is doing XMen movies for at least the next three years. But it's basically unthinkable that we could have Lawless as Wonder Woman, because she's just so old, I guess.

If you wanted to be charitable you could say it's because she's a decade-plus removed from Xena and not exactly a proven and bankable movie star. But then you look at Gal Gadot's resume and, well, that comparison still comes out pretty solidly in Lawless' favor.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 3:59 AM on July 8 [4 favorites]


Natalie Portman is older than Chris Hemsworth so I Marvel does seem a little better than most of Hollywood about this issue.
posted by octothorpe at 4:14 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


My absolute favorite example of this is Legend of Drunken Master, where the 40 year old Jackie Chan plays the teenage son of 31 year old Anita Mui.
posted by empath at 4:15 AM on July 8 [12 favorites]


The real Olympia was 39 when her husband died, so the real issue with that casting is that Colin Ferrell was playing a teenager.
posted by empath at 4:22 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


Lies Hollywood Told Us: Love and Romance EditionHere are the ways in which Hollywood lies. It probably cheats, too. Based on a true story: film at 11.
posted by cenoxo at 4:26 AM on July 8


This has been mentioned a couple of times upthread, but the tendency to get people in their 20s to play teenagers just makes this worse. I mean, a 30yo actress could credibly be "aged up" to be the mom of a 15yo character, but when that 15yo is played by a 25yo, then things get kind of... weird. As noted.

Honestly, I am getting kind of sick of the whole "aging action star coming back for one last movie" thing. I mean, say what you like about Van Damme, but he gave us JCVD, which is a really interesting movie, Stallone, Willis, and Schwarzenegger are just embarrassing now. So, the answer may be more roles for older women and fewer for older men (or, you know, appropriate roles).

As far as the Grand Budapest Hotel goes, Tilda Swinton is timeless, so there can be no criticism about her age. Orlando was a documentary!
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:38 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]


This has been mentioned a couple of times upthread, but the tendency to get people in their 20s to play teenagers just makes this worse.

If actors and actresses both played older and younger equally, it would be less annoying, but actors consistently play younger and actresses consistently play older.
posted by empath at 4:40 AM on July 8 [8 favorites]


A bit of a siderail--something that I've noticed more and more as I get older (and have started having kids) is that Hollywood parents are young. Parents in a mainstream film or TV show get married at about 18 and have their first kid at around 20. That's it, that's the only acceptable timeframe. Even TV and print ads have almost exclusively young parents.

Not that being a young parent is wrong or even rare, but it's the only depiction out there. Some of us parents waited (gasp!) til our thirties.
posted by zardoz at 5:02 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


This has been mentioned a couple of times upthread, but the tendency to get people in their 20s to play teenagers just makes this worse.

This particular issue really irritated me in the first few seasons of Community, where we had Young Annie and Older Britta and it was made into a Big Thing -- but Alison Brie is 2 months younger than Gillian Jacobs, and she looks it.
posted by jeather at 5:02 AM on July 8 [4 favorites]


This goes hand-in-hand with the 57-year-old-men-married-to-22-year-old-women thing hollywood movies have going on, too.

I'm not yet quite at the point of turning the movie off when this happens, but I'm getting close. Like anything it's fine when it's once in a while, but it's such a constant trope that it's both boring and off-putting. And it's just the other side of the "no good roles for older women" thing; you won't fix that as long as ever 50+ year old actor has to be paired with a barely-legal actress.

I've been thinking about this issue a lot over the last few years, because I just crossed the 40 line and I've been noticing how few women my age appear in advertisements and movies. I like eye-candy and objectification as much as the next unreconstructed pig, but I want it to be age-appropriate eye candy and that mostly doesn't exist (with the exception of MILF fetish stuff, ick). It's not that 19 year olds aren't cute -- they are, but more and more they look like cute children to me, and it's making me aware viscerally of what I had always known theoretically, of how limited mainstream portrayals of women actually are.

The one place there is actually a better (though still much more limited than in the actual world) representation of ages and interesting body types is in good art photography -- not lame cheesecake stuff, but actual artists, like Laura Aguilar, say. If I had the budget of an oligarch, my large and beautiful house would be full of this kind of art.

There are fat people, thin people, balding people, missing teeth, big noses, whatever, and they are cast as 'regular' people.
Heck, they have people in their 50s or 60s having sex, and it's played straight, not as the punchline for a joke.


This is part of the reason I watch so much European cinema/TV -- it's far from perfect (I think there is a law in France that the old dude/young woman thing must appear in a certain percentage of movies every year) but is noticeably better than in US film, and consequently is more interesting to watch.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:08 AM on July 8 [6 favorites]


Ming Na Wen who's in her fifties.

...holy crap, you're right.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:13 AM on July 8


This has been mentioned a couple of times upthread, but the tendency to get people in their 20s to play teenagers just makes this worse.

If actors and actresses both played older and younger equally, it would be less annoying, but actors consistently play younger and actresses consistently play older.


Teenaged characters often make things less-bad-ish. Actors of all sexes consistently play younger in that regard -- the oldest main-credit actor playing a high-school sophomore on Buffy the Vampire Slayer was Charisma Carpenter at 27 (Nicholas Brendon was 26, Alyson Hannigan was 23, and Sarah Michelle Gellar was 20). Ditto Beverly Hills 90210, which had Gabrielle Carteris at 29 and most of the male actors in their mid-20s, but the other female actors were actual teenagers (if still a couple of years older than they were playing).

(Incidentally, Alyson Hannigan playing way younger translated over to HIMYM, where she's six years older than same-age-portraying husband Jason Segel, but then you get Josh Radnor wooing eight-years-younger Cobie Smulders and eleven-years-younger Cristin Milioti.)
posted by Etrigan at 5:14 AM on July 8 [4 favorites]


As mentioned upthread, outside of Hollywood, Helen Mirren is doing alright.

Mirren is doing just fine inside Hollywood too?


Well... there are a small number of Hollywood roles for older women, and Mirren is getting a lot of them. But it would be very, very hard to do a women's version of Last Vegas, say, because it would be hard to find three heavy-hitting septuagenarian female Hollywood actresses to prop it up.

If actors and actresses both played older and younger equally, it would be less annoying, but actors consistently play younger and actresses consistently play older.


There's a kind of elasticity to this, as Etrigan says. Male and female actors play teens in their early twenties - so the cast of Glee are at this point about thirty.

(Gabrielle Carteris was 30 or so when she started playing high school junior Andrea Zuckerman in Beverly Hills 90210, but she's an outlier.)

However, at a certain point male actors stop ageing - Bruce Willis is basically playing the same age from Moonlighting to The Fifth Element.

(His wife in The Sixth Sense, Olivia Williams, is over a decade younger than him.)

I think how long you can push this indeterminately fuzzy age depends on how well you age, and men can generally get away with it for a lot longer than women. As Etrigan notes, Alyson Hannigan (and Cameron Diaz in The Sex Tape) is older than her romantic partner Jason Segal, but comedy is a little different. And you want to stay in that indeterminate bracket for as long as possible, because it's where all the roles are: So, Winona Ryder was playing 18 at 23, and 22 at 28, but Spock's mom at 37 or so and a washed-up prima donna looking at the end of her career at 38 in Black Swan.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:29 AM on July 8


"There are only three ages for women in Hollywood; "Babe", "District Attorney", and "Driving Ms. Daisy." -- The First Wives Club
posted by Mchelly at 5:30 AM on July 8 [10 favorites]


I had heard there was a wonder woman movie but hadn't given much thought to it other than that I'd probably see it.

I have to say that it took until a moment after reading the comment upthread about how we're NOT getting a lucy lawless wonder woman for it to sink in. I guess in the back of my head I had assumed that, duh, who else would play her, so the comment wasn't making sense right away.

Now I'm kinda bummed.
posted by sio42 at 5:36 AM on July 8


On the topic of Marvel movies, Rene Russo is 30 years older than Chris Hemsworth, and thus entirely credible as his mother.
posted by jscalzi at 5:52 AM on July 8 [3 favorites]


Teenaged characters often make things less-bad-ish. Actors of all sexes consistently play younger in that regard -- the oldest main-credit actor playing a high-school sophomore on Buffy the Vampire Slayer was Charisma Carpenter at 27 (Nicholas Brendon was 26, Alyson Hannigan was 23, and Sarah Michelle Gellar was 20). Ditto Beverly Hills 90210, which had Gabrielle Carteris at 29 and most of the male actors in their mid-20s, but the other female actors were actual teenagers (if still a couple of years older than they were playing).

Although I think they're are problems with having 20-somethings play teen roles (in terms of engendering false or damaging expectations in children about how they should look and act, among other things), Hollywood (and entertainment in general) treats child stars so abominably I'm not sure they should even be allowed to employ actual children these days.
posted by dng at 5:53 AM on July 8 [5 favorites]


I thought quite a few of the Glee cast were surprisingly plausible as teenagers, but it was kind of awkward that the older guys were only a couple of years younger than Matthew Morrison. And Will Schuester isn't even presented as a young teacher - you can clearly see from flashbacks to his own Glee Club days that he's meant to be in his mid-to-late 30s. But as far as gender, I guess it's not all bad news on Glee. Kristin Chenoweth is a decade older than Morrison, and plays a love interest who is supposed to be three years older. Jessalyn Gilsig is seven years older than Morrison and playing a character the same age.

This is something I really liked about 30 Rock. I have a habit of, whenever characters' ages or age differences are mentioned onscreen, looking up the actors' ages on Wikipedia. As far as I can tell, Liz Lemon is the same age as Tina Fey and Jack Donaghy is the same age as Alec Baldwin. (I especially like the scene where Jack is crashing Liz's school reunion and winds up pretending to be a classmate. "How is this working? You're 12 years older than everybody here!")
posted by lwb at 5:56 AM on July 8 [7 favorites]


"Rich 50 is the middle class 38."
posted by Iridic at 6:00 AM on July 8 [17 favorites]


because it would be hard to find three heavy-hitting septuagenarian female Hollywood actresses

Well the reason for that is that they stop getting work at 35.
posted by empath at 6:11 AM on July 8 [7 favorites]


actual teen vs adult teen is a fun tumblr to see what stars playing teenagers actually looked like as teenagers.
posted by nadawi at 6:17 AM on July 8 [8 favorites]


For another angle on representations on television of women in the UK, see this analysis of news presenters.

"The figures showed that 30% of TV presenters are over 50, a figure that roughly corresponds to the 34% of the UK population aged 50 and above.

Of the TV presenters aged over 50, however, 82% were men."

Would be fascinating to see this for the States.
posted by eyeofthetiger at 6:19 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]


because it would be hard to find three heavy-hitting septuagenarian female Hollywood actresses

Well the reason for that is that they stop getting work at 35.
posted by empath at 2:11 PM on July 8


I'd cast Helen Mirren, Judi Dench, Catherine Deneuve and Pam Grier and it would be the best or at least the most tolerable Las Vegas-based comedy yet made.
posted by dng at 6:24 AM on July 8 [11 favorites]


If actors and actresses both played older and younger equally, it would be less annoying, but actors consistently play younger and actresses consistently play older.

Not true on the lower end. In TV especially, teen roles are regularly played by mid- to late-30s for both men and women. The problem, as you point out yourself, is that women are sidelined by their mid-30s, which is a shame and an injustice. And that a few women in every generation avoid this is not really a comfort -- we don't see justice when excellent actresses maintain their careers; we see justice when as many mediocre actresses as actors maintain their careers.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:28 AM on July 8


Male Equivalent: If the 34-year-old Jason Segel starred in a comedy … where his father was played by the 48-year-old Ben Stiller and his grandpa was played by the 57-year-old Tom Hanks.

They got two-thirds of the way there (if you squint) in Undeclared, where Stiller played Segal's ex-step-dad. No Tom Hanks to be found, unfortunately.

Are we too late for #threeseasonsandamovie for Undeclared, by the way? #finehowaboutjusttwo? #wouldyoubelieveachristmasspecial?
posted by Vendar at 6:34 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]


Wonder Woman should obviously played by Gina Torres.
posted by FunkyHelix at 6:40 AM on July 8 [14 favorites]


The whole "no actresses in major roles over thirtyish" thing really spoils movies for me, because I'll be watching something where a character is supposed to be a brilliant scientist, or an accomplished career soldier or just a really smart and together person with a well-established career, and they'll be, like, twenty-five. And honestly, although there are some prodigies out there, it's really unlikely to have, like, a PhD and an established career with a lab and grants when you're 25, no matter how early you started. And it just derails the whole thing. That's not the only reason I don't watch a lot of mainstream movies, but it's relatively high on the list.

I would also enjoy, actually, some action adventure roles for middle-aged men where the men in question weren't childish fuck-ups whose basic plot arc is "I am a childish fuck-up yet also a genius, how can I overcome my fucked-upness at the advanced age of 49 because even though I have had every advantage I am also a tragic woobie".
posted by Frowner at 6:40 AM on July 8 [34 favorites]


I feel this thing I wrote a year ago is somehow connected.

And yes, a couple of the examples in the FPP are kind of shaky, especially when there is time-travel involved, or the narrative spans decades and there is much makeup involved. While traditionally making someone appear younger on screen is difficult, I am much impressed by Richard Dreyfuss having a few decades removed here in the otherwise forgettable Mr. Holland's Opus (here he is acting his age a year later in Night Falls on Manhattan). I have speculated before that better sunscreens and moisturizers and in some cases discreet plastic surgery have been preserving performers better for a while now and it is easier to age someone youthful-looking. Of course, this doesn't take away from the general point that women are being passed over in favour of someone fifteen years younger.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:40 AM on July 8


how do you convince them that there's more money in employing actually older women than in employing younger women to play older women?

By showing them the grosses for Last Vegas and Space Cowboys and asking "Would you like to be the Bridesmaids of old-people movies, ROI-wise?" By sidelining older actresses, Hollywood is leaving so very much ticket money on the table, because just like Bridesmaids proved there were a lot of women eager to pay for a gross-out comedy, there are a lot of Boomer women out there who are pouring money into British TV because it's the only place where they see characters they can identify with.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 6:49 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


Let's not forget The Manchurian Candidate, in which Angela Lansbury played Laurence Harvey's mother, and was only about three years older than him.

At this point I will share my screenshot from the Manchurian Candidate starring a 37 year old Angela Lansbury.
posted by phunniemee at 6:53 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]


Y'all are complaining about these movies and TV shows but watching them anyways?
posted by unixrat at 6:55 AM on July 8


Y'all are complaining about these movies and TV shows but watching them anyways?

Are we supposed to only watch perfect movies and TV shows?
posted by jeather at 6:57 AM on July 8 [18 favorites]


I had to check Orphan Black and Maria Doyle Kennedy is 49 where Tatiana Maslany is 28 and Jordan Gavaris is 24. Not perfect, and I think Mrs S has to be a little older than Kennedy, but at least not utterly ridiculous.
posted by immlass at 7:08 AM on July 8


Y'all are complaining about these movies and TV shows but watching them anyways?

Are we supposed to only watch perfect movies and TV shows?

Well, life is short . . . .
posted by JanetLand at 7:17 AM on July 8


The whole "no actresses in major roles over thirtyish" thing really spoils movies for me, because I'll be watching something where a character is supposed to be a brilliant scientist, or an accomplished career soldier or just a really smart and together person with a well-established career, and they'll be, like, twenty-five. And honestly, although there are some prodigies out there, it's really unlikely to have, like, a PhD and an established career with a lab and grants when you're 25, no matter how early you started.


I take it you weren't a fan of famed nuclear physicist Dr. Christmas Jones.
posted by The Gooch at 7:20 AM on July 8 [6 favorites]


Honestly, I occasionally watch an imperfect movie because friends want to see it or there's some other reason to watch it (so I saw an X-men movie a couple of weeks ago because a friend who teaches junior high promised his students he'd watch it). Movies and TV are pervasive - I don't even have a TV and I almost never go to the movies, but I've seen a little bit of a lot of stuff.

Sometimes I just want a superhero movie that isn't, like, fascist and racist and misogynist, though. Just an ordinary escapist superhero movie, is that really so much to ask?
posted by Frowner at 7:22 AM on July 8 [5 favorites]


I had to check Orphan Black and Maria Doyle Kennedy is 49 where Tatiana Maslany is 28 and Jordan Gavaris is 24. Not perfect, and I think Mrs S has to be a little older than Kennedy, but at least not utterly ridiculous.

Also, foster parent, so they get some leeway there.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:33 AM on July 8 [3 favorites]


Are we supposed to only watch perfect movies and TV shows?

What's the quote? "Don't tell me what you value. Show me what you spend your time and money on and I'll tell you what you value."

All you're doing is giving lip service to the issues above while directly causing the creation of even more. Nothing is ever going to change.
posted by unixrat at 7:35 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


Although it was only a bit part, Jo Van Fleet was only 11 years older than Paul Newman when she played his mother in Cool Hand luke.
posted by Gungho at 7:41 AM on July 8


There's a show out there called "Witches of East Dell" or something, which is sort of a Buffy for, well, those people old enough to remember Buffy. For all its faults it gets the age of its protagonists pretty right.

The mom and her younger sister are played as the correct age by actresses who look the part. And they have age appropriate couplings for the sexy sex parts.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:42 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure how Bea Arthur (b. 1922, played Dorothy on Golden Girls) and Estelle Getty (b. 1923, played Dorothy's mom, Sophia) fit into this.

Golden Girls ran from 1985 to 1992, which meant that Bea Arthur and Betty White (also born 1922) were in their early sixties at the beginning of the series.

I thought that they were supposed to play 50-something-year-old characters. Which meant that here was an exceptional case where older women played characters who were actually younger in age.

Man, i always thought to myself lately (watching Golden Girls reruns) how progressive (or subversive, depending on how you look at things) that show was for its day. Seems like it was even more progressive/subversive than I thought.
posted by bitteroldman at 7:49 AM on July 8 [5 favorites]


I married a hook-up buddy that I met in a school and didn't talk to for 10 years in-between. So, cenoxo I have to take issue with your link.
posted by juniper at 7:50 AM on July 8


All you're doing is giving lip service to the issues above while directly causing the creation of even more. Nothing is ever going to change.

Is the concept of "change" something I would need to own a TV to understand?
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:55 AM on July 8 [4 favorites]


All you're doing is giving lip service to the issues above while directly causing the creation of even more. Nothing is ever going to change.

I'm not directly causing anything since I am not at all involved in Hollywood. I don't watch everything; I preferentially watch things that are, if not perfect, better than average, but that have problems anyhow. But sometimes I want to watch things that have crappy age casting, or that are sexist or racist, because there are other good things about them.
posted by jeather at 7:56 AM on July 8 [8 favorites]


Wonder Woman should obviously played by Gina Torres

It would be nice to see a WWOC, and Torres is great, but in this case:

s/Torres/Carano/

(Note: I would see most any film that could be accurately retitled _Gina Carano Beats People Up_ followed by a number)
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:59 AM on July 8 [4 favorites]


Wonder Woman should obviously played by Gina Torres Davis.

FTFY.

There's a BBC program showing now on PBS called Last Tango in Halifax, where the main characters, an older couple, are both played by people actually in their 70s, both of whom even look in their 70s. Wikipedia says
The series has been praised for its depiction of the older generation, strong acting and believable dialogue. A critic for The Daily Telegraph summarised the series as "a triumph against TV's ageism"
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 8:20 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure how Bea Arthur (b. 1922, played Dorothy on Golden Girls) and Estelle Getty (b. 1923, played Dorothy's mom, Sophia) fit into this.


When it comes to older actors I'm curious to whether there's some Hollywood business-paranoia concerned -- "If we're spending x dollars and planning to work for eight months there's no way we're employing someone who really is seventy-five, no matter how smoothly they pass a physical!"
posted by mr. digits at 8:23 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


Alexander is another film where the casting is screwy because the time-span covers decades. Yes, Angelina Jolie (born 1975) plays the mother of Alexander (Colin Farrell, born 1976), but she also plays the mother of Young Alexander (Connor Paolo, born 1990), which is totally appropriate.
posted by Bill_Roundy at 8:34 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]


Are any of these movies worth watching anyway? The approach to casting seems more like a symptom of how worthless these movies are, rather than the actual cause of their awfulness.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:34 AM on July 8


The series has been praised for its depiction of the older generation, strong acting and believable dialogue. A critic for The Daily Telegraph summarised the series as "a triumph against TV's ageism"

If you like "reality" you will like a movie like this. I suspect that most people do not watch Hollywood movies to see reality reflected back at them. People watch movies for a sense of escape and fantasy, and what is more "fantastic" that an older man screwing a much younger woman?

I enjoyed watching the Linklater "before" trilogy for its realism, but I don't think realism is everyone's cup of tea. Realism is depressing. Getting old is depressing.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:38 AM on July 8


Are any of these movies worth watching anyway? The approach to casting seems more like a symptom of how worthless these movies are, rather than the actual cause of their awfulness.

Well, the quintessential example is Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate, and if you want to tell me that's not worth watching I've got a copy of the film I'd love to stick directly up your nose.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:43 AM on July 8 [4 favorites]


People watch movies for a sense of escape and fantasy, and what is more "fantastic" that an older man screwing a much younger woman?

That depends, are women included as "people" here? Because if so, my idea of escapist fantasy is not necessarily banging an older man.
posted by dialetheia at 9:00 AM on July 8 [57 favorites]


I think this has been in an FPP or a comment previously, but here's an Emmy roundtable clip of Amy Poehler, Sarah Silverman (who auditioned to play Jonah Hill's mother!), Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and others, discussing women and age in films. Link.
posted by peep at 9:04 AM on July 8


One of the things I loved about The Devil Wears Prada was that scene in the hotel in Paris.

Meryl Streep, no makeup at all, looking exactly as old as she is. (I mean okay she, like Rosselini, seems to have hit a certain age and then just stopped getting older facially.)

Apparently the scene was filmed that way at her specific request. And I am disgusted that it was considered 'brave' to do so.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:07 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]


Seriously, women watch movies too. I don't want to see this repeated as much as it is. And let's start a campaign for a Wonder Woman starring Lucy Lawless - cause that would be rad!
posted by agregoli at 9:08 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


That depends, are women included as "people" here? Because if so, my idea of escapist fantasy is not necessarily banging an older man.

Yeah, yeah, if you insist on making me prove that I am arguing in good faith, "women are people too." God the internet sucks sometimes, like-minded people having these little petty battles.

Sure, that may not be your escapist fantasy, but movies like Sabrina and Six Days, Seven Nights where Harrison Ford was starring opposite much younger women, are not "guy" movies. Women go to these movies.

Why?
posted by KokuRyu at 9:09 AM on July 8


Of course, perhaps I am not arguing in good faith because I would say "if you don't like these movies, don't watch them and don't care about them, focus on finding things you like instead." It's a wonderful way to remove stress, drama, and anger from your life.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:11 AM on July 8


This has been mentioned a couple of times upthread, but the tendency to get people in their 20s to play teenagers just makes this worse.

For Hollywood, the ideal movie is a story about teenagers (trying to appeal to teenage audiences) starring actors with a few hit movies under their belts (which, of course, very few teenage actors have).

Natalie Portman is older than Chris Hemsworth so I Marvel does seem a little better than most of Hollywood about this issue.


That's mostly due to Marvel's strategy of hiring a young, pretty, no-name (and therefore cheap) actor to play Thor.
posted by straight at 9:12 AM on July 8


because I would say "if you don't like these movies, don't watch them and don't care about them, focus on finding things you like instead." It's a wonderful way to remove stress, drama, and anger from your life.

I'm pretty sure that cutting out most movies that are easily available or in theatres is also stressful, in a different way. (Not for everyone. But for many people.)
posted by jeather at 9:14 AM on July 8 [4 favorites]


People watch movies for a sense of escape and fantasy, and what is more "fantastic" that an older man screwing a much younger woman?

I am only one data point, but "escapist fantasy" for me pretty much requires things that are minimally racist, sexist, misogynist, etc. It's not "escapist" if I am yanked back into reality by thinking "jesus, that was a racist depiction of an Asian dude" or "once again, I am reminded that older women are considered worthless" or "hey, this is really rapey and the rapeyness is depicted as funny".

That is precisely why, in fact, I would really enjoy some kind of superhero movie where there were, like, superheroes who really were a diverse group and there was some approximate not-sexist-not-creepy dynamic. This is, actually, a reason why I sometimes read fanfiction - because while you usually can't find an actual escapist movie that isn't gross and depressing, you can often find a relatively competently-written novella which humanizes and complexifies the characters, engages in racebending, includes queer characters and tends to describe even the improbably good-looking people as if they were real improbably good-looking people. (I mean, I have a friend who basically looks like a Tolkien elf, improbably good-looking people are not actually as they appear in the movies either.)
posted by Frowner at 9:14 AM on July 8 [20 favorites]


There's an awful lot of advertising money out there that relies on the idea of people wanting to look like an ideal that is literally impossible for someone their age.

"This is what a 15-year-old girl should look like!"
"This is what a 45-year-old woman should look like!"
posted by straight at 9:16 AM on July 8


Again, gender comes into play - for me, "escapist" means "escaping from all the routine sexist shit I encounter daily, while also enjoying a lighthearted plot", while for straight dudes, I guess, it's "thinking about women I will never get to bang in life and imagining someone my age banging them".
posted by Frowner at 9:17 AM on July 8 [12 favorites]


In Mean Girls Rachel McAdams (36) plays Amy Poehler's (43) daughter.

So, you have an actress who is too young to be the mother of the actresss playing her daughter who was too old (26 at the time) to play the high school student she was cast as.

(I haven't seen it so I'd be happy to be corrected if I'm missing something.)
posted by Room 641-A at 9:26 AM on July 8


kokuryu, weird premise there. We're filled with stress, drama, and anger because we criticize a feature of Hollywood that's sexist? Com'on. That's like basic 101 dismissal of a woman's opinion. Please try harder.

It's not petty to point out that the perspective you shared had little to do with the female experience, while using the word, "people."
posted by agregoli at 9:26 AM on July 8 [26 favorites]


for straight dudes, I guess, it's "thinking about women I will never get to bang in life and imagining someone my age banging them"

I don't know that it's really "someone my age getting a hot young girl" so much as valuing different things in male and female actors. Straight dudes seem to be drawn to male actors who they've enjoyed in other movies (therefore probably older) and female actors who look young and pretty.
posted by straight at 9:36 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


This was why I stopped watching Homeland. I couldn't suspend my disbelief over Morena Baccarin being the mother of teenagers.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:49 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]


(Although that's hardly universal. This straight dude would have gladly taken less Scarlett Johansson, Emily VanCamp, or Cobie Smulders for more Jenny Agutter in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.)
posted by straight at 9:55 AM on July 8


MeghanC: We don't bat an eye at male action leads who're in their forties and fifties--they can kick ass and defeat the bad guys and get the girl and everything.

When writing up this post, I was reflecting on Stand Up Guys, which starred Al Pacino (72*), Christopher Walken (69*), and Alan Arkin (78*) as old-time heist guys who had been "out of the business" for a few decades. They are clearly old, playing old guys, but they can still kick the asses of young punks, and they can still please the young ladies, with Arkin (who casually left his oxygen tank behind) leaving them begging for more (literally). It was such a shameless old guy fantasy film, with the only old lady seen being a woman who asked to be taken away from a retirement home, just to be left behind and never seen or mentioned again. It all made me feel so awkward.

* Their ages at the time of the release of the movie, so they might have been a year or two younger when the movie was filmed.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:56 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]


Do casting people even really care about the real age of the people involved? I would think they screen based on the photo, cast based on the audition, and never really look at the personal details.
posted by smackfu at 10:07 AM on July 8


Do casting people even really care about the real age of the people involved?

It's odd, isn't it, how this industry-wide apathy somehow manages so consistently to result in older women not being on-screen opposite Stallone and Schwarzenegger.
posted by Etrigan at 10:15 AM on July 8 [13 favorites]


> I would think they screen based on the photo

Yes, exactly.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:16 AM on July 8


That's the problem, smackfu. People think a 40-year-old mom should look 30, so they cast a 30-year-old.

List of age differences between James Bond and female lead.

Seems like a pretty bizarre coincidence that the women are almost always much, much younger.
posted by mochapickle at 10:17 AM on July 8 [7 favorites]


I suspect that most people do not watch Hollywood movies to see reality reflected back at them.

Well yes, exactly. The reality is that once a woman gets past about 35 she is on a sliding scale of invisibility. I enjoy movies that let me escape that reality.

This is slightly tangential, but I was in the UK last year and was totally surprised to see young and old alike out at the pub. How refreshing! Here in North America we sort of expect retirement aged folks to just lock their doors and stay away from where we can see them.
posted by jess at 10:34 AM on July 8 [4 favorites]


Heh, that's certainly a positive spin on a drinking culture.
posted by smackfu at 10:38 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]


After juniper took exception to cenoxo's link, I had to look at the "Hollywood Lies" article:

You will not find someone ten years after you met them but did not give them your number because you were being weird or whimsical and, at the time, coyly believed in fate. You will not be able to track them down using old receipts and half-disappeared memories, they will not appear magically at a skating rink when it has just begun to snow. And even if they do, even if you and your wacky friend do somehow manage to track this person down, it will have been ten years and you only met them the once so it will be awkward and you will very quickly realize that the connection you felt all those years ago was just a quick, passing thing, a ribbon of lightning gone as quick as it came. You're both older now and you have different values and you live all the way across the country and this whole adventure will suddenly feel sad and strange instead of exciting and romantic. You will realize that if you were interested a decade ago you should have just given them your stupid phone number and he or she would have called and you would have gone on some dates and maybe it would have worked out and maybe it wouldn't have, but at least it would be then, and you would know, rather than wasting all this money on airplanes to New York ten long years later.


In 2001, I was living in SF and briefly met a friend of my brother's when I visited him in Portland. On another visit in 2006, I met him again. We reconnected after an unexpected connection via my bro and a phone call in 2012, visited a bunch, then I moved here last fall.

We're getting engaged this year. My brother's going to give me away at the wedding. (Hollywood, give us a call.)
posted by sfkiddo at 10:51 AM on July 8 [13 favorites]


All I can say is awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww, sfkiddo. All the very best to you both.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:06 AM on July 8 [3 favorites]


List of age differences between James Bond and female lead.

This strikes me as a terrible example. The whole point of James Bond is a male power fantasy. This is why it's so easy to skewer with Austin powers and a million other parodies.

It's like criticizing donuts for being unhealthy or something. He's supposed to be an older experienced secret agent dude who has "so much game" that he regularly seduces much younger women.

What's being described in this thread is totally a thing, but this is not a good example. It's criticizing something for a conscious choice that's part of the canon. Criticize that if you want, but it's not the same as the point this thread has been making so far.
posted by emptythought at 12:02 PM on July 8


He's supposed to be an older experienced secret agent dude who has "so much game" that he regularly seduces much younger women.

The fact that the reflection of a shitty dynamic is intentional does not make it too very much less shitty.
posted by Etrigan at 12:06 PM on July 8 [13 favorites]


And according to the books (and the original Connery portrayal), Bond's in his mid-thirties.

So it's perfectly fine for the actor playing him to be pushing 60 (View to a Kill), because we're told a 60 year old man's still got it. Why can't a woman his age still have it, too?
posted by mochapickle at 12:13 PM on July 8 [10 favorites]


I thought the Tammy casting was done on purpose as a stunt to highlight the problem! Although, in a sad biological way, it is not impossible for a 24 year old to be a grandparent.
posted by Renoroc at 12:20 PM on July 8


This has been mentioned a couple of times upthread, but the tendency to get people in their 20s to play teenagers just makes this worse.

For what it's worth, labor laws and SAG rules make it significantly more expensive for a movie to have a cast of actual teenagers than 20-somethings playing teenagers. There's work hour limitations, tutoring, dealing with parents as a go-between because they are still the legal voice of the contracted talent, and so forth. This doesn't even get into content standards, the biggest example right now being the need to make almost everyone on Game of Thrones significantly older than they are in the books because eeeew.

I don't really know what to think. I feel like it's a shitty hand for female actresses who get screwed either way. Rachel McAdams was awesome in Mean Girls and if she can play the role as well as she did it seems hypocritical to say "she can't play 18 when she's 26" and then be furious at the idea that they'd cast a 48-year-old to play a grandmother.

And yeah, I don't even know what to say about the James Bond arguments when the entire point of that character is that he's a socially archaic lech, and even if you disagree with the direction of that character, good luck convincing Hollywood.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:22 PM on July 8


The best Bond line ever was when they had Judi Dench actually reference that, when her M calls Bond "a sexist, misogynist dinosaur, a relic of the Cold War".
posted by Tknophobia at 12:28 PM on July 8 [6 favorites]


So it's perfectly fine for the actor playing him to be pushing 60 (View to a Kill), because we're told a 60 year old man's still got it. Why can't a woman his age still have it, too?

Ironically, Connery's one of the rare examples of a male "this makes no sense" age issue, in that he was cast as Harrison Ford's father in Last Crusade, with an eleven year age difference between them.

They then slept with the same woman in the movie. So I don't even know if this is an issue with James Bond or if it's a situation specific to Sean Connery. He's that old guy who sleeps with young women.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:28 PM on July 8


Actually, Connery (65 at filming) also fought with Richard Gere (46 at filming) in First Knight over Julia Armond (29 at filming.) So... yes, my point now officially holds.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:31 PM on July 8


there is always something to nitpick in an example, there's always an argument for there being a reason in that specific case - but it's also totally fair to say, for all the reasons and all the arguments, the majority of movies made in hollywood cast men of all ages and body types in all sorts of parts while most women have a very narrow path of acceptable ages, body types, and roles to play (and that hollywood favors whiteness. while not the topic of the thread, still relevant to the overall issue). it can also be pointed out that the jobs of writers, directors, producers, and studio execs are overwhelmingly white men, which, wrapping it back around, plays into why women and people of color are often seen as tertiary characters, used to develop the white male lead's story.
posted by nadawi at 12:33 PM on July 8 [8 favorites]


Yeah, and there's Lorraine Bracco in Medicine Man (25 year gap). And Catherine Zeta Jones in Entrapment (a whole 39 YEARS YOUNGER).

Shorry, Sean...
posted by mochapickle at 12:36 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


re: sean connery - he was in at least one movie that got all the ages pretty damned close to right, "playing by heart" - sean connery (b 1930) was married to gena rowlands (b 1930), gillian anderson (b 1968) dates jon stewart (b 1962), angelina jolie (b 1975) dates ryan phillippe (b 1974), madeleine stowe (b 1958) is married to dennis quaid (b 1954) and fooling around with anthony edwards (b 1962), and ellen burstyn (b 1932) is the mother to jay mohr (b 1970) - connery and rowlands are also the parents to anderson, jolie, and stowe. if anything the parents are a bit older to have the kids, but a nice change from the norm, regardless.
posted by nadawi at 12:47 PM on July 8 [8 favorites]


which is a really interesting movie, Stallone, Willis, and Schwarzenegger are just embarrassing now

Whoa now. Yes, I cannot think of a role Schwarzenegger has played well in 2 decades. But Willis was fantastic in Sin City (2004) and Stallone in Rambo (2008) was amazing. Some of their other stuff was awful, but they are still capable of amazing stuff.

Of course, in the two movies I just mentioned, neither had a love interest (at least not one they embraced), so perhaps that's part of the key to not embarrassing yourself on screen when you're an old man.
posted by HappyEngineer at 1:08 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


in that he was cast as Harrison Ford's father in Last Crusade, with an eleven year age difference between them.

This is just basic "grey hair equals old, doubly so if you have a beard."
posted by smackfu at 1:17 PM on July 8


Yes, I cannot think of a role Schwarzenegger has played well in 2 decades.

In fairness, he was out of circulation for eight of the last 20 years. And True Lies is 19 years and 51 weeks old today.
posted by Etrigan at 1:25 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


The weird thing is, back in 1999 (okay, I looked it up) Rene Russo got tons of positive press as the love interest - with a nude scene - in The Thomas Crown Affair. I remember thinking it was a sign that things were improving - but nope, apparently that window was only open to Rene Russo.
posted by Mchelly at 1:25 PM on July 8


I want to defend Amy Poehler's casting in Mean Girls because the whole comedic point was that she was obviously playing much older than she herself was at the time, but this defense leads down a road to "it was funny because her character was desperately trying to be the young, hip, and cool mom" which is a pretty misogynistic idea itself, that women are usually much more obviously desperate when they're trying to look young. (Men aren't given a free pass on this, but they get more years before it's clearly "desperate".)

Can anyone finish this argument in my head so that it leads to a reasonable rationalization/defense for Amy Poehler's casting? Other than, of course, Amy + Tina = yay.
posted by aabbbiee at 1:27 PM on July 8 [2 favorites]


Can anyone finish this argument in my head so that it leads to a reasonable rationalization/defense for Amy Poehler's casting? Other than, of course, Amy + Tina = yay.

Fey wrote the part specifically for Poehler, for one.
posted by Etrigan at 1:32 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I think it's just: "I will give my 33-year-old female friend a good part (even if that takes a part away from a 43-year-old female.)"
posted by smackfu at 1:59 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


At 43, she's not much younger, if at all, than you'd expect for the mother of a high-school senior. If her daughter is supposed to be 18, she'd have been 25 when she gave birth, which is not unusual at all. The age gap is reduced because McAdams is so much older than her character, but you can certainly argue that casting a 20-something as a teenager doesn't mean you have to skew the entire cast older as well just so the age gap doesn't look so extreme.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:06 PM on July 8


To be fair, empath, Ling was Wong Fei-hung's stepmother. Anita Mui's 17 years young than Ti Lung, so, go Wong Kei-ying.

Hmm, Lena Headey (Sarah Connor) is 14 years older than Thomas Dekker (John Connor), so not terrible. I thought there was a bigger gap, though.
posted by porpoise at 2:07 PM on July 8


Mchelly, weren't all of Rene Russo's nude scenes in Thomas Crown done by body doubles?
posted by porpoise at 2:09 PM on July 8


Holy Zarquon, Amy Poehler is now 43, and Mean Girls was 10 years ago.
posted by aabbbiee at 2:52 PM on July 8


Just as a sidebar about casting: Rene Russo in Thomas Crown was my headcanon casting for the Black Widow in my "if I made a Marvel movie" for years before ScarJo showed up). While Widow doesn't seem to be anybody's love interest in the Avengers she is the youngest actor of the six and she and Hemsworth (a year older) are a decade-plus younger than the rest of the Avengers actors.
posted by immlass at 3:09 PM on July 8


I don't mention this as a defense of sexist/ageist movie casting, of course, but it's worth noting that in RED Helen Mirren (again!) is cast as a totally bad-ass former spy with a love interest alongside Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, and John Malkovich, and Willis's love interest is realistically* played by Mary-Louise Parker.

*YMMV, but as a woman who is the same age as Mary-Louise Parker I think her character falling for Bruce Willis is realistic.
posted by Room 641-A at 3:53 PM on July 8


weren't all of Rene Russo's nude scenes in Thomas Crown done by body doubles?

I have no idea - good question and a great point. It certainly wasn't promoted that way - they kept the illusion that it was her, and didn't use her body as a reason to cast someone else.
posted by Mchelly at 4:14 PM on July 8


I know nothing about "Sex Tape," but I see it starts Cameron Diaz (41) and Jason Segel (34) as a couple.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:32 PM on July 8


It's a comedy, which means it's operating along somewhat different lines (see also Melissa McCarthy, who is hitting her movie stride after 40...)
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:00 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


Room 641-A: Interesting, I thought that Red and to a much greater extent RED II, were EXCRUCIATING in the Mary Louise-Park / Bruce Willis pairing. Well, that along with continuing to play her as the "naive, young person". I'm older than her, BTW, and don't find Bruce Willis in the tiniest attractive. I'm sure he would feel the same way about me though.
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 5:13 PM on July 8


Just as a note for Helen Mirren -- her breakout film role was at the age of 24 in Age of Consent, in which she pursued a 60-year-old James Mason. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.
posted by Etrigan at 5:33 PM on July 8 [2 favorites]


Age of Consent was directed by Michael Powell(b.1905) who was married to Thelma Schoonmaker(b. 1940), almost the same age range as in the movie. No wonder directors think that's the normal state of things.
posted by octothorpe at 6:10 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


Rachel McAdams was awesome in Mean Girls and if she can play the role as well as she did it seems hypocritical to say "she can't play 18 when she's 26" and then be furious at the idea that they'd cast a 48-year-old to play a grandmother.

I would argue that the problem isn't the acting ability of the people in question, but the simple fact that a twenty-six year old, no matter how youthful, looks different than a eighteen year old, and that by (consistently!) casting twenty-six year olds as eighteen year olds, we're really skewing expectations for what women look like. You can't see person after person presented as eighteen when they are, in fact, twenty-six and not internalize a little bit of ok, this is what eighteen year olds look like.

And then forty-eight becomes what a grandmother looks like. It's a narrowing of what we expect women to look like--our collective mental image of fifteen is based on twenty-five, and our collective mental image of sixty is based on forty-five, and I guess that anyone past about sixty is based on the old woman from the start of Titanic.

Meanwhile, Daniel Radcliffe, Tom Hiddleston, Ralph Fiennes, Richard Gere, and Patrick Stewart are all viewed as perfectly reasonable choices for leading men.
posted by MeghanC at 7:55 PM on July 8 [12 favorites]


Looking at PenDevil's link above, Tom Cruise's female co-stars get younger and younger. The latest, Emily Blunt, was born in 1983, the year he starred in Risky Business.
posted by blucevalo at 8:40 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


And then forty-eight becomes what a grandmother looks like.

Forty-eight isn't an unusual age for a grandmother.
posted by MikeMc at 8:45 PM on July 8


The older men paired with younger women thing always skeeves me out a lot. Not because an occasional couple with an age difference can't work, but because when I was younger I got a number of such propositions that I'm really pretty sure happened because the men involved really thought that it was perfectly normal for 40+ year old men to be dating 21-year-olds, when the only place that's normal is fiction.

It bothers the hell out of me when people who could be my father or grandfather come on to me and think that's cool and froody. I strongly suspect they have issues with dating equals and want some young dumb thing they can snow. Like dude, if you really were a Hollywood screenwriter, what are you doing in my small town? You think I'm gonna buy this? Ugh. Unfortunately, it's not fiction. If I had a buck for everyone who told me that I should totally date men who are "experienced"/20 years older/looking for a third wife....I'd probably own a condo in Hawaii. And now I'm officially hitting that age where people my age won't date me, right? Ugh.

"Catherine Zeta Jones in Entrapment (a whole 39 YEARS YOUNGER)."


That movie made me gag so much. She did look like she was desperately trying to nail her grandfather and the daddy issues were incredibly creepy.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:31 PM on July 8


> Forty-eight isn't an unusual age for a grandmother

It's the average age for a grandparent but not for the grandparent of a teen, which is how they're being cast in these movies. Besides, if it's the average age for a grandparent, why aren't 48-year-old men being cast as grandfathers instead of as the suave romantic lead?

Yes, yes, grandfathers can be suave and romantic. This discussion isn't about reality, it's about movie casting.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:36 PM on July 8 [7 favorites]


Inspired by PenDevil's link, I took the data in mochapickle's link, added Skyfall, and made a graph: age of Bond and female lead by year.
posted by narain at 12:53 AM on July 9 [4 favorites]


Well, that along with continuing to play her as the "naive, young person".

That puts a finger on why I can't get into MLP in the Red movies, which is a bit weird because I otherwise really liked them (especially Helen Mirren). Age differences in and of themselves don't bother me because my parents were 18 years apart, but mother never was cutely dumb--she was capable and effectively a single parent during stretches of my childhood while my dad was traveling internationally in the years of expensive phone calls and no internet--and my father would never have considered patronizing her as if she were.
posted by immlass at 7:14 AM on July 9


This morning I see we have a female lead for the fifth Mission Impossible. She's 30. Tom Cruise is 52.
posted by immlass at 8:59 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


Because of course.
posted by mochapickle at 9:26 AM on July 10


Tom Cruise is older now than Wilford Brimley was when he made Cocoon.
posted by octothorpe at 11:36 AM on July 10 [3 favorites]


That says more about Wilford Brimley always looking old than anything else.
posted by smackfu at 11:49 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


It's okay, 40-something ladies, at least one Esquire writer (a 50-something, natch) thinks (some of you) are still HAWT: In Praise of 42-Year-Old Women

Tom Scocca responds at Gawker: Esquire Writers: We're Willing to Fuck Early Middle-Aged Ladies
posted by tonycpsu at 11:49 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]


The best comment from that Gawker link:
"In his defense, Tom Junod is stunning in a summer dress."
posted by mochapickle at 11:55 AM on July 10




smackfu: "That says more about Wilford Brimley always looking old than anything else."

True but Cruise is over fifty and still basically playing thirty year olds.
posted by octothorpe at 12:39 PM on July 10 [1 favorite]




Boyish, with a whiff of Ted McGinley.
posted by mochapickle at 1:49 PM on July 10


Holy shit that Tom Junod article. I feel like I'm in Pontypool.
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:22 PM on July 10


I'll just leave this here.
posted by Tom-B at 12:45 AM on July 11


Tom Cruise is older now than Wilford Brimley was when he made Cocoon.

Ok that's legitimately mind blowing.
posted by zardoz at 3:26 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]




So apropos of that whole Ming-Na Wen/Lucy Lawless comparison, guess who just got cast in Agents of SHIELD!
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:16 PM on July 22 [1 favorite]


Damn it. Now I have to start watching it again, don't I.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:22 PM on July 22


Tom Cruise is older now than Wilford Brimley was when he made Cocoon.

Cruise, Pitt, Depp are all on the far side of fifty; Keanu Reeves will join them in about four weeks.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:05 PM on August 2 [1 favorite]


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