Seducing the sexually inexperienced Tom Cruise
April 23, 2013 1:19 PM   Subscribe

 
Interesting, but sort of misses the real story here: white actress drops out of film when co-star is replaced with man of color. The Hollywood age line is more permeable than the race line.
posted by Bookhouse at 1:24 PM on April 23, 2013 [12 favorites]


This makes me SO MAD. I could not enjoy Silver Linings Playbook because Jennifer Lawrence is sixteen years younger than Bradley Cooper. That is almost an entire Jennifer Lawrence of age difference!

I know she was playing older but still, felt gross.
posted by troika at 1:25 PM on April 23, 2013 [17 favorites]


Good for Tom Hanks!
posted by Renoroc at 1:29 PM on April 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


(I know this is a general rule and should always be followed, but... DON'T READ THE COMMENTS!)
posted by kmz at 1:31 PM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Troika - In defense of Silver Linings Playbook's casting, the age difference is probably one of the least concerning red flags in the two main characters' relationship.
posted by midmarch snowman at 1:32 PM on April 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I'm not going to start accusing KStew of racism based on the fact that she correctly stated that the new male lead was older than the former male lead and that made her question the believability of the roles. She gets shit on for pretty much every single decision she makes as a young female star, I don't see the need to add kneejerk racism to the mix.
posted by elizardbits at 1:33 PM on April 23, 2013 [83 favorites]


omg youre back
posted by nathancaswell at 1:34 PM on April 23, 2013 [91 favorites]


Man it would be so cool to see historical ones like this. I'm straining to recall any age-appropriate love interest for a Humphrey Bogart character and can't. Hell, I'm straining to recall any age-appropriate relationships in classic film (that doesn't involve adultery and a cuckolded age-inappropriate spouse) and I'm having a hard time.
posted by griphus at 1:35 PM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


elizardbits -

That's assuming that Kristen Stewart made the call herself, which I would find highly unlikely.
posted by Bookhouse at 1:35 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Some of these fall within the half-your-age-plus-seven rule (which originates, I am told, from the Kama Sutra, but I've never checked for myself), but some of these fall astray of even that rather-liberal guideline (I'm looking at you, Richard Gere!)
posted by crazy_yeti at 1:36 PM on April 23, 2013


I'm kind of disappointed that they didn't include parallel graphs of the leading women.
posted by koeselitz at 1:36 PM on April 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm straining to recall any age-appropriate love interest for a Humphrey Bogart character and can't.

The African Queen. Bogart was only 8 years older than Hepburn.
posted by The World Famous at 1:37 PM on April 23, 2013 [13 favorites]


You yourself categorized this as "white actress drops out of movie when co-star is replaced with man of color"; if you didn't mean to suggest she personally was making a racially charged decision then perhaps you should have said "the management representing a white actress encourages her to drop out of a movie, etc".
posted by elizardbits at 1:37 PM on April 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm going to count the major US studio films that have an older woman/younger man dynamic when it's not a sugar mom/cabana boy thing. (Or a grifter trying to steal the maiden aunt's money)

Nope, still not there.

okay okay technically Sunset Boulevard, but the second one is heavily implied.
posted by The Whelk at 1:39 PM on April 23, 2013


new male lead was older than the former male lead and that made her question the believability of the roles.

Is 44/23 that much more unbelievable than 40/23?

*shrug* I'm sure there's probably all kinds of behind the scenes wheeling and dealing anyway, who knows what the real story there is.
posted by kmz at 1:39 PM on April 23, 2013


The cool thing about spelling Geena Davis's name as "Genna Davis" is that it looks like "Gehenna Davis", which means I'm now basically fantasizing about the all-demon version of the film, "Hellma and Louicifer."
posted by Greg Nog at 1:39 PM on April 23, 2013 [26 favorites]


Man it would be so cool to see historical ones like this. I'm straining to recall any age-appropriate love interest for a Humphrey Bogart character and can't.

Yeah, I want to see where Redford and Newman line up on these charts, too.
posted by furiousthought at 1:40 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I couldn't agree more Troika. I also thought it was really strange that she was supposed to be a widow. How many women her age are even married nowadays? So I was uncomfortable with her casting throughout the movie because I felt she was way too young. Obviously the Academy felt her acting skills more than made up for it, but still. I couldn't get over it and get to that suspended disbelief/just enjoy the movie place.
posted by ohyouknow at 1:41 PM on April 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is in my top five reasons I don't see most movies out of Hollywood.
posted by Squeak Attack at 1:42 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Some of these fall within the half-your-age-plus-seven rule

I'm all about the rule of four-fifths, which is still easy to evaluate and gives IMO more reasonable results.
posted by Jpfed at 1:42 PM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I feel like a lot of the reason behind these kinds of casting decisions is that so many Hollywood actors/directors/producers/etc are in May-December relationships themselves and see it as pretty normal.
posted by octothorpe at 1:43 PM on April 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


Susan Sarandon is ageless.
posted by Melismata at 1:43 PM on April 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


Eep, Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:43 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm going to count the major US studio films that have an older woman/younger man dynamic when it's not a sugar mom/cabana boy thing.

Does Psycho count? Janet Leigh is five years older than Anthony Perkins.
posted by griphus at 1:43 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wait, I think I may have chosen the worst possible example I could.
posted by griphus at 1:44 PM on April 23, 2013 [54 favorites]


I'm straining to recall any age-appropriate love interest for a Humphrey Bogart character and can't.

The African Queen. Bogart was only 8 years older than Hepburn.


I was just about to comment to say exactly that. Also, that it's such a brilliant film, and one of the best romance films I've ever seen - especially because neither character is young and pretty.

Hepburn also did many, many films with her real-life partner Spencer Tracy, who was 7 years older than her.
posted by jb at 1:45 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Does Psycho count? Janet Leigh is five years older than Anthony Perkins.

I dunno, I don't think that romance really went anywhere.
posted by kmz at 1:45 PM on April 23, 2013 [25 favorites]


It's gotten to the point where I get excited -- like, GLEEFULLY excited -- when I'm watching a thing in which both halves of a heterosexual romance are about the same age. I reflexively IMDB actors and actresses I'm not familiar with just to check. And the older I get, the harder it is for me to ignore -- I think I'm a year or two away from checking these things pre-emtively and skipping movies with huge age gap romances, because it creeps me out so much that I can't engage with the narrative at all. (Particularly when the age gap isn't actually important or commented on in the film -- I don't personally want to watch "Young Adult" but I get that it was doing a thing.)

On a related note: the Good Wife is consistently excellent about this, as well as just generally willing to allow lady characters of all ages to have boyfriends who adore them.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 1:45 PM on April 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


What I find hilarious is that the data points for a leading man's age form anything but a straight line. I mean, these men age one year every year, it is a completely uniform linear data set; you have to make deliberately odd choices about chart formatting to make it appear any other way. And what is the point of making those lines non-straight? To make the data seem more "real"?

Edward Tufte, these guys ain't.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 1:45 PM on April 23, 2013 [35 favorites]


What I find hilarious is that the data points for a leading man's age form anything but a straight line. I mean, these men age one year every year, it is a completely uniform linear data set; you have to make deliberately odd choices about chart formatting to make it appear any other way. And what is the point of making those lines non-straight? To make the data seem more "real"?

Seriously, this is why sometimes you go for best-fit instead of connect-the-dots.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:46 PM on April 23, 2013


Did anyone else want to throw something at the screen when Morena Baccarin (born 1979), as on screen wife of Damian Lewis (born 1971), said in a scene in Homeland, "We've been together since we were sixteen?" I didn't have a problem with an eight-year age gap, but it's so ridiculous to have actors playing that much older or younger than they are — it's not convincing.
posted by orange swan at 1:47 PM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


SMBC offers some insight: apparently we're using the wrong measurement metric.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 1:47 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


in my new movie 50 shades of hot intern i am like at least 7 years older than this hot intern
posted by elizardbits at 1:47 PM on April 23, 2013 [31 favorites]


But will this hold when, with digital retouching, everyone is essentially doing motion capture? When Tom Cruise does Mission Impossible 17 at 100 years old (still doing his own stunts, even from the nursing home), will it seem pervy when he's matched up with uber-assassin Kristen Stewart at a scandalous 72?
posted by ennui.bz at 1:48 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jennifer Lawrence is sixteen years younger than Bradley Cooper.

And John Ortiz is thirteen years older than Julia Stiles.

I'd beinterested to see a comparison between the ages of the on screen and real life romantic interests over time of Hollywood leading men.
posted by ODiV at 1:50 PM on April 23, 2013


Ugh, jeez, I meant "Liberal Arts" not "Young Adult."
posted by Narrative Priorities at 1:50 PM on April 23, 2013


Morena Baccarin (born 1979), as on screen wife of Damian Lewis (born 1971), said in a scene in Homeland, "We've been together since we were sixteen?"

Yeah, he was sixteen years and she was sixteen pounds.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:50 PM on April 23, 2013 [19 favorites]


The casting stretches belief outside of romantic relationships, too. I choked on Kate Bosworth (23, IIRC) in Superman Returns. I was supposed to believe she had (a) graduated college, (b) worked in journalism long enough to be a big-name reporter, and then had a six-year old kid before we see her in the film?
posted by Karmakaze at 1:50 PM on April 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


Edward Tufte, these guys ain't.

The years that the actors appear in movies do not form an arithmetic series. When an actor is in a bunch of movies in a short period of time, more consecutive data points have y-values close to one another, so their age-line looks flatter.
posted by Jpfed at 1:51 PM on April 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm going to count the major US studio films that have an older woman/younger man dynamic when it's not a sugar mom/cabana boy thing.

Bridesmaids
had Kristin Wiig (38) and Chris O'Dowd (32). What do I win?
posted by Tsuga at 1:51 PM on April 23, 2013 [12 favorites]


Natalie Portman is actually older than Thor, so I'm happy. He needs a woman with some common sense.
posted by Squeak Attack at 1:51 PM on April 23, 2013 [15 favorites]


Beside the long-running sexism/ageism against older actresses, the relatively recent difficulty Hollywood's had to launch young leading men might be an exacerbating factor.
posted by fatehunter at 1:52 PM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Squeak Attack: "Natalie Portman is actually older than Thor, so I'm happy. He needs a woman with some common sense."

Well, she's older than Chris Hemsworth anyway ;) Thor is something on the order of two thousand years old.
posted by Karmakaze at 1:53 PM on April 23, 2013 [12 favorites]


TEACH THE CONTROVERSY
posted by griphus at 1:53 PM on April 23, 2013 [39 favorites]


Beside the long-running sexism/ageism against older actresses, the relatively recent difficulty Hollywood's had to launch young leading men might be an exacerbating factor.

Hollywood is just like one of those ultra-Mormon polygamous compounds... the older generation just forces the young guys out.
posted by ennui.bz at 1:54 PM on April 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Hmm, Wikipedia says Thor is "many millennia" old. Any Marvel experts know when he was supposed to have come into existence?
posted by Chrysostom at 1:55 PM on April 23, 2013


So now I am down a rabbit hole of classic film romances and apparently Fred Astaire was born in 1899.
posted by griphus at 1:57 PM on April 23, 2013 [19 favorites]


One of the things I liked about Iron Man and The Avengers is that Pepper is more or less in the same ballpark as Stark.
posted by Mister_A at 1:57 PM on April 23, 2013 [10 favorites]


Griphus I was sitting down as I read that and literally missed the chair.
posted by troika at 1:57 PM on April 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


Discussing age differences with supernatural entities gets us to that creepy Angel place.
posted by The Whelk at 1:58 PM on April 23, 2013 [17 favorites]


Well, Kristen Stewart certainly would know about supernatural age differences.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 2:00 PM on April 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Now I have to decide of fictional Thor's age over-rides actor Chris Hemsworth's age. Don't make me give up my mindless enjoyment of the Thor abs franchise!

yes, i was going to mention Pepper Potts/Tony Stark until I got all confused by supernatural entities.
posted by Squeak Attack at 2:00 PM on April 23, 2013


Discussing age differences with supernatural entities gets us to that creepy Angel place.

do u mean haeven
posted by Greg Nog at 2:00 PM on April 23, 2013 [25 favorites]


Jabba the Hut was a LOT older than Princess Lea, and nobody complained about that.
posted by HuronBob at 2:02 PM on April 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Kristen Stewart? *blech* Good riddance. Her absence will improve the quality of the film.
posted by MyTwoCentsToo at 2:02 PM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


(I know this is a general rule and should always be followed, but... DON'T READ THE COMMENTS!)
....
Edward Tufte, these guys ain't.

...and the first comment I read is from a research biologist commenting on graph formatting. YMMV.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 2:02 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Natalie Portman is only 8 years older than Jake Lloyd!
posted by ODiV at 2:03 PM on April 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


But but but but Harold & Maude.

somebody had to say it
posted by mcstayinskool at 2:03 PM on April 23, 2013 [13 favorites]


Chris O'Dowd (32)

Don't they measure their ages in metric, though?
posted by drezdn at 2:03 PM on April 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


On a related note: the Good Wife is consistently excellent about this, as well as just generally willing to allow lady characters of all ages to have boyfriends who adore them.

I agree (I LOVE that Diane Lockhart, played by Christine Baranski, born 1952, gets a hot lovelife), although again they try to play with the ages. In the first episode in 2009, when Alicia Florrick tells Kalinda Sharma she hasn't set foot in court in 13 years, Kalinda says, "I was 12." I said out loud, "Oh, you are so not 25." Archie Punjabi was born in 1972, so she would have been 37 when she uttered that line. It was just senseless to make her character that young when there was no need for it in the context of the show.

Years ago, I read one article in which the producers of Forrest Gump were criticized for having Sally Field play Tom Hanks' mother when she is only ten years older than he. However, I thought in that case the criticism was unfair because they did show Sally Field as a young woman when Forrest was a child, and aged her considerably to play the adult Forrest's mother — a character who was actually old enough to play Tom Hanks's mother couldn't have pulled off the earlier scenes in the narrative.
posted by orange swan at 2:03 PM on April 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


Tsunga, you get a (+).

Also both Adam Scott and Chris O'Dowd are younger than their partners in Friends with Kids, though a Jennifer Westfeltd movie may not fit the criteria of Major Hollywood Motion Picture.

Also, that movie was super disappointing.
posted by midmarch snowman at 2:04 PM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, made in 1958, featured Elizabeth Taylor (b. 1932) and Paul Newman (b. 1925). So she was 26 and he was 33. And both unutterably gorgeous.
posted by fikri at 2:04 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


So now I am down a rabbit hole of classic film romances and apparently Fred Astaire was born in 1899.

Daddy Long Legs has to be the height of age difference romance. On the plus side, various characters are aware that it's creepy.
posted by drezdn at 2:05 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I feel like a really obvious joke was missed by not doing this chart for Matthew McConaughey.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:06 PM on April 23, 2013 [43 favorites]


Hmm, Wikipedia says Thor is "many millennia" old. Any Marvel experts know when he was supposed to have come into existence?

The aliens who became the Norse/Greek/Other gods showed up after the Great Cataclysm. So maybe a few thousand years post-Conan.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:09 PM on April 23, 2013


Speaking of Adam Scott, Amy Poehler is one year old than him, so yay P&R!

(And hey, Nick Offerman is 12 years younger than real-life wife/Tammy Two Megan Lullaly. And three years younger than Lucy Lawless.)
posted by kmz at 2:09 PM on April 23, 2013 [17 favorites]


Daddy Long Legs has to be the height of age difference romance.

Huh, Leslie Caron was only two years younger than Audrey Hepburn, who was his love interest in Funny Face. I don't remember if they ever made a point of it, though.
posted by griphus at 2:09 PM on April 23, 2013


"Good for Tom Hanks!"

He's got a better record than most, but from the comments:
A quick note about Tom Hanks: Sally Field played his love interest in Punchline in 1988 and his mother in Forrest Gump just 6 years later.
posted by Room 641-A at 2:10 PM on April 23, 2013 [11 favorites]


"the feeling that the age difference between the two would be too large a gap."

As in, Will Smith is full of warmth, charisma and personality, and Stewart is a highly adaptable form of tree moss.
posted by SassHat at 2:10 PM on April 23, 2013 [15 favorites]


Joey Buttafoucault: "What I find hilarious is that the data points for a leading man's age form anything but a straight line. I mean, these men age one year every year, it is a completely uniform linear data set; you have to make deliberately odd choices about chart formatting to make it appear any other way. And what is the point of making those lines non-straight? To make the data seem more "real"?

Edward Tufte, these guys ain't.
"

Indeed, I noticed that too (and the "Genna Davis" misspelling) and it distracted me from the point they're trying to make. It's like charting the miles traveled vs. the odometer reading- and by god it should be the straightest line that ever straighted.
posted by notsnot at 2:16 PM on April 23, 2013


Morena Baccarin (born 1979), as on screen wife of Damian Lewis (born 1971)

Watching Homeland I thought they were both about 35.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 2:19 PM on April 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Jennifer Aniston (age: 44) seems to always be cast directly against age-appropriate actors. Going backwards through her listings gives her male counterparts as such:

Paul Rudd (44)
Charlie Day (37)
Adam Sandler (46)
Jason Bateman (44)
Gerard Butler (43)
Aaron Eckhardt (45)
Ben Affleck (40)
Owen Wilson (44)
posted by The Notorious SRD at 2:23 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ron Livingston (45)
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 2:24 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


A quick note about Tom Hanks: Sally Field played his love interest in Punchline in 1988 and his mother in Forrest Gump just 6 years later.


Which reminds me of the outlier of Sally Field as both older than the character she was playing and the actor playing her husband in Lincoln.

Following these patterns and through the weird mistaken transitive properties in my head, in 2019, 72-year old Sally Field will be playing Joseph Gordon Levitt's love interest.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:24 PM on April 23, 2013 [9 favorites]


(for the record, I was joking but I would also totally see that movie, no question)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:25 PM on April 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


(for the record, I was joking but I would also totally see that movie, no question)

Harold and Maude II:Maudlier
posted by drezdn at 2:27 PM on April 23, 2013 [17 favorites]


Ron Livingston (45)
posted by Pruitt-Igoe


True that. What I put there was just straight from the bottom of her wikipedia credits, no omissions (beyond documentaries) back to about 2008.
posted by The Notorious SRD at 2:27 PM on April 23, 2013




These charts are very interesting but I am sitting here resisting the urge to make similar ones for lead actresses. That is I want to try and separate out how much of this is due to the "leading" part and how much to the "man" part.
posted by mountmccabe at 2:30 PM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


As in, Will Smith is full of warmth, charisma and personality,

You must be referring to the pre-Willenium version. The prince isn't nearly as fresh these days.
posted by srboisvert at 2:31 PM on April 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


You must be referring to the pre-Willenium version.

Scientology has replaced him with a robot.
posted by doctor_negative at 2:40 PM on April 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


These charts are very interesting but I am sitting here resisting the urge to make similar ones for lead actresses.

Hey, don't resist on our account! Go do it!
posted by Narrative Priorities at 2:40 PM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


The original article lists at least 6 instances of female lead older than male lead in dramatically neutral plot lines. So, I'm not sure where the "I can't think of one" comments are coming from.

Still a big problem, of course.
posted by Chuckles at 2:42 PM on April 23, 2013


Thank the other gods that no real-life rock stars are pulling stuff like this just a few posts from here!
posted by Mister_A at 2:44 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


These charts are very interesting but I am sitting here resisting the urge to make similar ones for lead actresses.

These charts are awful. What could you possibly glean from them that you couldn't better just looking at a table of data yourself? They only make what's going on harder to suss out. Your urge would at least let some comparisons be drawn.
posted by floam at 2:45 PM on April 23, 2013


A chart for Sean Connery would be interesting, too.

(But I don't care how old he is, he is one hot hunk of burnin' love....)
posted by easily confused at 2:46 PM on April 23, 2013


I'm not sure where the "I can't think of one" comments are coming from.

Prolly from that place where no one ever RsTFA.

spoiler alert: that place is called metafilter
posted by elizardbits at 2:51 PM on April 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


The survival of patriarchy depends on men having more power than women. One of the many ways they maintain their power is by choosing younger women. It's so common, we just take it for granted. How many heterosexual couples can you think of in which the man is older than the woman? And how many in which the woman is older than the man. We think of the first as normal and the second as somewhat unusual. Can you think of any cultures in which it's the norm for woman to be older than their male partners?
posted by mareli at 2:51 PM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


(I know this is a general rule and should always be followed, but... DON'T READ THE COMMENTS!)

That rule is growing ever more true for MetaFilter itself. The article is actually kind of neat and interesting. MeFites' personal opinions on what constitutes an "age appropriate" relationship, less so.

Edward Tufte, these guys ain't.

It's a bit clumsy, to be sure. But Tufte's brilliance is partly (primarily?) about visualizing different facets of data in single, simple graphics. If you really don't care about illustrating other facets—like the actors' work rates by age, or frequency/distribution by era—and you just want to focus on comparing ages in order to make a point, it works okay.
posted by cribcage at 2:56 PM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Angela Lansbury was thirty-six at the time of filming, only three years older than Laurence Harvey, who played her son.

Anne Bancroft was only six years older than Dustin Hoffman, while Katharine Ross was a mere three years younger than Hoffman.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:56 PM on April 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


TEACH THE CONTROVERSY

I see this and raise it by "1st world problems".
posted by rough ashlar at 2:58 PM on April 23, 2013


In the first episode in 2009, when Alicia Florrick tells Kalinda Sharma she hasn't set foot in court in 13 years, Kalinda says, "I was 12." I said out loud, "Oh, you are so not 25."

This is just part of Kalinda's mysterious mystery.
posted by brain_drain at 2:59 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


One more:
Charade (1963)
Audrey Hepburn (34), Cary Grant (59)
posted by artdrectr at 3:03 PM on April 23, 2013




Tangentially obligatory.
posted by ssmug at 3:05 PM on April 23, 2013


I know we've moved on from Kristen Stewart but while the Variety article says she "fell out" of the movie and then gave that studio-publicist-approved reason for her leaving, the truth is more like Will Smith pushed her out because he has his own ideas about who he wants to work with.
posted by incessant at 3:07 PM on April 23, 2013 [10 favorites]


James McAvoy is two years younger than Jessica Chastain (The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby), four years younger than Angelina Jolie (Wanted) and eight/nine years younger than his Shameless romantic co-star and real life wife Anne-Marie Duff.* Most of his romantic co-leads are within a couple years of his age, if they're younger.

One actor doesn't change the whole pattern of Hollywood--which is obviously problematic--and who knows if his leading ladies' ages will change someday, but I'll take any excuse to see a McAvoy film and this one's as good as any (not that I need one).

*the same age difference between me and Mr. Weeyin, coincidentally.
posted by weeyin at 3:07 PM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Older woman, younger man. Minnie Driver has appeared in two movies where she was (a little) olderr than her love interest: Circle of Friends (she's five months older than Chris O'Donnell) and Good Will Hunting (nine months older than Matt Damon).

Oh, and John Malkovitch is six years younger than Glenn Close and they were... okay, love interests is definitely the wrong word, but there was a lot of sweaty hate between the two of them.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 3:13 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


When McMillan & Wife first aired in 1971 Rock Hudson was 46 and Susan St. James was 25. I never noticed it at the time (and I assume she was supposed to be a little older) but seeing it now...wow, she looks so young!
posted by Room 641-A at 3:14 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


A chart for Sean Connery would be interesting, too.
(But I don't care how old he is, he is one hot hunk of burnin' love....)


We used to have a secretary with a big crush on Sean Connery. She was in her early 20s while he was already in his early 70s. She wanted bedsheets with the life size picture of Connery printed on them. She eventually found a passable Connery substitute: a 60-something short and balding movie producer.
posted by elgilito at 3:15 PM on April 23, 2013


It's killing me that I can't remember who it was, or find it with my ham-fisted googling, but I heard an older actress recently talk about how in her career she had played a particular actor's young daughter, and then his wife, and that she was certain that if he had lived long enough she would eventually have played his mother.
posted by looli at 3:17 PM on April 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


James McAvoy is two years younger than Jessica Chastain (The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby), four years younger than Angelina Jolie (Wanted) and eight/nine years younger than his Shameless romantic co-star and real life wife Anne-Marie Duff.* Most of his romantic co-leads are within a couple years of his age, if they're younger.

I suspect that his female co-stars will remain young as he ages, though, which is the point of the article.

I think you'd be hard pressed to find a female movie star in her 40s to 60s who has played the love interest in a mainstream movie of a character played by a male actor in his 20s or 30s. When Something's Got To Give came out, a big deal was made about the romantic story being between two actors of similar - ahem - 'advanced' age. But Jack Nicholson was still a decade older than Diane Keaton.
posted by The World Famous at 3:21 PM on April 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


The latter-day career of Winona Ryder kinda fucks me up, as she was a serious movie star crush for me when I was in high school and is now, in her early forties, relegated to such roles as Embittered Formerly Attractive Decrepit Ballerina (Black Swan) and Mother of Zachary Quinto, a Man Google Tells Me Is Six Years Her Junior (Star Trek).
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:24 PM on April 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


Hey I made a chart in Google Docs.

I started with Julia Roberts and, similar to these charts for leading men, tried to pick films in which she was the star and had a major romantic interest. Google Docs seems to have limited chart editing features so I couldn't get her age to be a wavy line (and haven't figured out a good way to standardize the age range) but it works.

The chart is open for editing so please feel free to add more data sets for whatever actresses and actors you feel like.
posted by mountmccabe at 3:26 PM on April 23, 2013 [18 favorites]


Not one reference to Dazed and Confused? For shame, people.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:26 PM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Mother of Zachary Quinto, a Man Google Tells Me Is Six Years Her Junior (Star Trek).

Only because Quinto has that portrait of himself aging in an attic somewhere.
posted by The Whelk at 3:28 PM on April 23, 2013 [10 favorites]


I can't find a good way to format the data here but I can note that for Julia Roberts she was an average of 8 years younger than her romantic interest(s)* in the nine films I picked. She was only older than her romantic interest in 2010's Eat Pray Love.


* I made the odd choice of including both her husband and her love interest from Sleeping With the Enemy.
posted by mountmccabe at 3:37 PM on April 23, 2013


Not one reference to Dazed and Confused? For shame, people.

ahem


(And yes, I did do a CTRL-F on both "Dazed" and "McConaughey" just to make sure I hadn't missed one before I made that comment... also "Matthew" to be safe.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:37 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is what I get for only knowing the line and not the cast.

Or the movie, for that matter.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:39 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hollywood: Old dudes are still hot but old chicks aren't. Young girlfriends for everyone!

Half of Metafilter: Old dudes dating young chicks is morally and aesthetically repellant. Also, down with sexism and ageism!
posted by perhapsolutely at 3:40 PM on April 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


For those bringing up relatively minor age differences where the woman is older, that's part of the double standard. If a man is within 5 years of a younger woman, they might as well be the same age. If a woman is 5 years older than the man she's with, she's an "older woman" - the technical age difference is imbued with greater significance, both positive and negative.
posted by Selena777 at 3:49 PM on April 23, 2013 [26 favorites]


I was surprised to find out Affleck is only four years younger because my mental perception there is definitely way younger than Smith. Affleck's oldest child was born in 2005. Will Smith's kids are basically a decade older. So at least in Stewart's case, yeah, I can see why she could have felt there was a difference. Stewart is best known recently for playing adolescents, and Smith's kids are adolescents.
posted by Sequence at 3:49 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


So now I am down a rabbit hole of classic film romances and apparently Fred Astaire was born in 1899.

And five blocks from where I am sitting right now in Omaha, Neb., the Jewel of the Missouri River. When he was a boy and would make money by dancing with his sister Adele, he often performed in the ballroom of the Joel N. Cornish House, one block from where I am right now. So Hollywood, my old town, you can suck it.


I was going to mention that in a lot of these films the older man/younger woman dynamic is part of the story -- such as Sabrina. But then I realized how creepy it is that Hollywood screenwriters keep coming up with storylines that allow 50 year old men to sleep with 21-year-old women.

It's also a bit distressing to me that Hollywood actresses seem to age in dog years, so if the studio occasionally feels it is weird to cast a 50-year-old opposite a 21-year-old, they will cast him opposite a 25-year-old.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:53 PM on April 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


I just found this board post that is all about actors not playing to age. It's not all couples, but there's 15 pages of stuff there.

When The Jeffersons first aired, Isabel Sanford was 54 and Sherman Helmsley was 33, although that wasn't reflected in their characters. They had a son in college so I guess they split the difference and made George and Weezie 40-ish.
posted by Room 641-A at 4:03 PM on April 23, 2013


Rank and apparently unexamined ageism aside, remind me what, exactly, is creepy about consensual relationships between older men and younger women.
posted by perhapsolutely at 4:04 PM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Rank and apparently unexamined ageism aside, remind me what, exactly, is creepy about consensual relationships between older men and younger women.

There might be other threads for that.
posted by amanda at 4:07 PM on April 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


Not one reference to Dazed and Confused? For shame, people.

ahem
posted by ssmug at 4:16 PM on April 23, 2013


I was in a critique group once where this girl was writing a YA novel about a 16 year old who was enslaved by/in love with (as one is) a 32 year old divorcee and her justification for that not being creepy was that Han and Leia don't seem creepy either.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:16 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jesus, I have enough trouble relating to the 20-year-olds I work with. I can't imagine having to talk to one enough to actually date 'em.
posted by klangklangston at 4:18 PM on April 23, 2013 [13 favorites]


God the entire premise of As Good as it Gets is the edgy and unexpected idea that an older man might, through great and painful personal growth, come around to the idea of dating a woman his own age.

That's depressing.

I'm so happy that real life is nothing like the movies or Hollywood.
posted by whoaali at 4:20 PM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


There might be other threads for that.

Most women I talk to (who tend to be in their 20s/early 30s and very progressive) say they don't like dating younger men or often even men their own age due to maturity differences and general attraction.

Some of the film differences they listed are drastic, but the general trend seems a clear reflection of society's preferences and choices. If you want to tell society they're making poor choices or that their choices are just caused by film, seems like this could be the thread for it.
posted by crayz at 4:23 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I recently saw a commercial for The Oranges in which a 27-year-old Leighton Meester has an affair with her married next-door-neighbor (and lifelong dad-figure, it seemed from the commercial) Hugh Laurie, who is 53. What a fresh, new, and appealing premise.
posted by 41swans at 4:28 PM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't necessarily think these pairings are creepy or morally and aesthetically repellant when I meet real people, in real life.

But I don't feel any need to pay for creative endeavors that are so unexamined, uninspired and lazy. My cash money doesn't need to support the tired fantasies of Hollywood producers and studio heads, even if they are just reflecting the tired fantasies of society at large.
posted by Squeak Attack at 4:32 PM on April 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Individually, there may be plenty of older men/younger women romances that work perfectly well. My girlfriend is 12 years younger than me and we have been together for 11 years. So I'm certainly not one to make a hard and fast rule that such things are not appropriate.

However, what's going on here is that these are being represented as entirely normal relationships. They aren't. There was considerable soul-searching on my part before I started dating my girlfriend, and I knew her for a year before we started going out. There are huge differences between somebody in their 30s and somebody in their 20s, and those must be taken seriously.

So the trouble isn't specific relationships, or the fact that older men/younger women relationships exist. It's that Hollywood represents them as being something different than they are -- in fact, idealizes them in a lot of ways. And while men in relationships may typically be older than the women they are in relationships, it's typically three to five years, not decades.

Also, all the women my age are dating younger men, so I suspect your experiences may be limited just to the women you know, and not a universal rule.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 4:33 PM on April 23, 2013 [12 favorites]


In North by Northwest Jessie Royce Landis was only seven years older than Cary Grant, who plays her son.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:34 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


There was one milestone in my life when the age of the models in the Playboy magazine was about my age. There was another one when the models were about the age of my daughter. That was kind of the time when mainstream porn started to feel vaguely creepy, and not in an oh-la-la way.

Just hit the next milestone when I walk down the street of my town and look around and there are all these children everywhere. Okay, they're in their 20s and early 30s. But they look so young! I never looked like that, given that I weighed 300lbs when I was their age.

I don't know any more what age means with relationships. I mean: consenting adults, right? I like people who are smart and kind and comfortable and vivacious. Is age so important?
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:36 PM on April 23, 2013


what's going on here is that these are being represented as entirely normal relationships. They aren't. There was considerable soul-searching on my part before I started dating my girlfriend, and I knew her for a year before we started going out.

I'm inclined to rebut this as evidence of what is or isn't normal, but you already did:

I suspect your experiences may be limited just to the women you know, and not a universal rule.
posted by cribcage at 4:40 PM on April 23, 2013


Disproportional representation on film of an attraction you do not share seems like a legitimate source of tedium. I think a lot of the comments here betray a more visceral reaction.

It's understandable that May-December may not be someone's cup of tea--much like homosexual or interracial relationships may not appeal to everyone on a personal level--but how is it not an embarrassment to blurt out how creepy you find someone else's consensual relationship, on screen or off?
posted by perhapsolutely at 4:40 PM on April 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


I see two kind of weird things in these graphs:

Firstly, it perpetuates the idea that men (in Hollywood) don't really age. All these leading men are playing GENERIC ADULT DUDES for most of their careers, despite ranging wildly in age from 20's to 60's. Sure, at the younger edge you've got Tom Cruise early in his career playing high school and college aged characters, and at the older edge you've got Richard Gere playing dudes at the older edge of middle age.

I have literally thought about what age Johnny Depp and George Clooney are approximately zero times in my entire life. They are just... dudes.

Meanwhile, for most of their female counterparts, there's a sharp cutoff at which they're simply not cast anymore. The oldest women on the chart are Susan Sarandon at 58 and Julianne Moore at 50 -- and the two of them, plus Diane Keaton and Meryl Streep are practically the ONLY Hollywood actresses still playing romantic leads over 50.

Secondly, looking at a lot of their female counterparts, it's interesting to me that -- especially for movies that came out when I was a kid or teenager -- I vastly overestimated how old most of them were. For example it just occurred to my by looking at a graph that Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher aren't around the same age.
posted by Sara C. at 4:45 PM on April 23, 2013 [19 favorites]


how is it not an embarrassment to blurt out how creepy you find someone else's consensual relationship, on screen or off?

I know, right? I'm totally embarrassed over how creepy I always found Buffy/Spike.
posted by Squeak Attack at 4:47 PM on April 23, 2013


Seriously? We're *just now* realizing this? This precise phenomenon has caused me to emit involuntary squeals of disgust since I was first old enough to watch movies with tongue kisses. It must suck to have a vagina in Hollywood because you're pretty much just a meat prop.
posted by Mooseli at 4:48 PM on April 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Secondly, looking at a lot of their female counterparts, it's interesting to me that -- especially for movies that came out when I was a kid or teenager -- I vastly overestimated how old most of them were. For example it just occurred to my by looking at a graph that Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher aren't around the same age.

Yeah. This is reminding me that I have no eye for how old people are. Just this weekend, I went to a BBQ in Boston - they had Tsaraev pinned in the boat when I left my house, and he surrendered about a half-hour after my friend and I sat down - and the waitress seated us beside a pair of women we'd never met. We got to talking, since the Tsaraev news was so exciting, and for whatever reason, they asked us how old we thought they were. We figured they were younger than we were, maybe around 23. They were actually older: One was 28; the other was 29.

In conclusion, Boston is a land of contrast.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:51 PM on April 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


how is it not an embarrassment to blurt out how creepy you find someone else's consensual relationship, on screen or off?

The relationships on screen are not "someone else's consensual relationship." They're someone's portrayal of an imaginary consensual relationship they think you'd like to watch.
posted by The World Famous at 4:51 PM on April 23, 2013 [21 favorites]


This is not about finding someone else's consensual relationship creepy. This is about Hollywood putting forth, over and over again (with few exceptions), the idea that a significant age gap is the general experience. If 40+ men and 20- women were the general experience, this would not be notable. But it isn't. Many women date older guys, yes, but the guys are in my experience 5 or fewer years older. This seems to be the case for lots of heterosexual relationships. But in Hollywood, a small age gap is the exception.

Most people don't find a larger age gap in a real life relationship that noteworthy - but it's definitely not The Norm. In Hollywood, it is The Norm.
posted by troika at 4:53 PM on April 23, 2013 [14 favorites]


And here, pointing out that a woman is older than a man by a few months is an example of an older woman.
posted by troika at 4:55 PM on April 23, 2013 [10 favorites]


It's understandable that May-December may not be someone's cup of tea--much like homosexual or interracial relationships may not appeal to everyone on a personal level--but how is it not an embarrassment to blurt out how creepy you find someone else's consensual relationship, on screen or off?

A vast majority of the movies we're talking about are not about "May-December" romances, they're portraying what they view as "normal" romance. And even then, consider how often it's an older woman/younger man vs older man/younger woman. Hint: very rarely.

You comparing our reaction to Hollywood's ageism and sexism to homophobia and racism is fucking gross.
posted by kmz at 4:57 PM on April 23, 2013 [16 favorites]


Most people don't find a larger age gap in a real life relationship that noteworthy - but it's definitely not The Norm. In Hollywood, it is The Norm.

Agreed. Here's some data which basically bears out the idea that women tend to date around their age, but much more often older men than younger men.
posted by crayz at 4:57 PM on April 23, 2013


--but how is it not an embarrassment to blurt out how creepy you find someone else's consensual relationship, on screen or off?

You really want this to be a conversation about how some people being creeped out by the age difference, and it's really not.

What the problem is is the crappy double standard that exists when it comes to casting men and women in romantic roles. I'm not even sure that it's about the ages of the roles either, I think it's mostly about the age of the actors involved and what sort of woman they believe are lovable, or attractive, or whatever. They're sending a message that once women show the slightest bit of age, they're no longer worth wooing. That's what's creepy.
posted by Gygesringtone at 4:58 PM on April 23, 2013 [26 favorites]


If people can't discern the difference between judging real actual "consenting adult" relationships and those written and cast by movie execs well I just don't even.

I would have no problem with all this "age is just a number" shit if it weren't such a consistent pattern of men (actors/characters) being allowed to age/be old and women (actors/characters) not.

Back in the real world, I'm 36, my boyfriend is 30. My good girlfriend is 35 and just started dating a 31 year old. It's not as uncommon as you'd think, especially once everyone's out of their 20s.
posted by misskaz at 4:59 PM on April 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


I have literally thought about what age Johnny Depp and George Clooney are approximately zero times in my entire life. They are just... dudes.

I was shocked when I saw Johnny Depp was 49. 49! Then I was even more shocked when I realized I am one year younger than him. The older I get the more I feel like I'm in some kind of weird time fun house, where everyone (including myself) seems really old or really young but I can't even remember my actual age.
posted by Room 641-A at 5:03 PM on April 23, 2013 [19 favorites]


Huh, I didn't realize Steve Carrell was 8 years older than Tina Fey. I guess in Hollywood terms, that's practically the same age.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:04 PM on April 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think a lot of the comments here betray a more visceral reaction.

Yeah dude idk maybe a lot of us womenfolk here at mefi are recalling how we were made to feel uncomfortable at the age of 15 by men who were older than our fathers, who, for some fucking godforsaken unknown reason were led to believe that they had the inalienable right to objectify us. Constant and relentless media depictions of older man/younger woman relationships is just a small part of an overall perceived entitlement to younger women's bodies displayed by men of all ages.
posted by elizardbits at 5:05 PM on April 23, 2013 [68 favorites]


or maybe we're just into young hotties and would like some media representation of me making out with tyler hoechlin
posted by elizardbits at 5:05 PM on April 23, 2013 [21 favorites]


I'll also weigh in here as someone who has dated older -- the oldest person I have dated was 15 years older than me, and the age gap seemed HUGE. It was definitely A Thing. There were Conversations about whether it was Appropriate for us to be seeing each other.

That age difference would be in the realm of normal if we were cast for a Hollywood version of our relationship. It would be one of the smaller gaps in most of those charts. It would probably be the kind of movie where nobody even remarked on the age difference of the romantic leads.
posted by Sara C. at 5:06 PM on April 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm just going to start listing my age as " Scarlett Johannson."
posted by The Whelk at 5:07 PM on April 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


I never said this particular relationship template a) was not disproportionately portrayed (it is, vastly) and b) does not point up a gross imbalance of power in Hollywood (it does). But the knee-jerk ageist 'creepy!' verdict is much more on a par with racist and sexist reactions to personally distasteful situations between (real or fictional) consenting adults. It's uncomfortable to confront prejudice in yourself, especially if you feel as if it's somehow justified/justifiable. You will still feel the discomfort.
posted by perhapsolutely at 5:10 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


If a woman is 5 years older than the man she's with, she's an "older woman" - the technical age difference is imbued with greater significance, both positive and negative.

Oh yeah. In one of Barbara Pym's books, the female heroine is 30. The man she marries is 25. At one point they're out somewhere (possibly getting a marriage license, though my memory isn't certain) and the heroine muses about what the person they're interacting with must be thinking to see a "middle-aged woman" with a "young man". I was all, "What the what?" I suppose this was more common back when the Pym books were written, but now it seems like a totally archaic attitude.
posted by orange swan at 5:11 PM on April 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think a lot of the comments here betray a more visceral reaction.

In real life I know a lot of rocking hot women in their forties. When all Hollywood shows us are May/December relationships, the message that women come with an expiration date, and men don't, is about as subtle as a sledgehammer. It's not that I am creeped out, it's that I am pissed off. It's this idea that men can live lives, and become more experienced, wiser, more capable, and women just get discarded. Fuck that noise.
posted by ambrosia at 5:16 PM on April 23, 2013 [59 favorites]


But the knee-jerk ageist 'creepy!' verdict is much more on a par with racist and sexist reactions to personally distasteful situations between (real or fictional) consenting adults.

I agree. That's why it's so unbelievably offensive that older man/younger woman relationships are constantly portrayed as the norm while older woman/younger man relationships are either played for laughs, or treated as weird/gross/predatory.
posted by elizardbits at 5:18 PM on April 23, 2013 [28 favorites]


What the problem is is the crappy double standard that exists when it comes to casting men and women in romantic roles. I'm not even sure that it's about the ages of the roles either, I think it's mostly about the age of the actors involved and what sort of woman they believe are lovable, or attractive, or whatever. They're sending a message that once women show the slightest bit of age, they're no longer worth wooing. That's what's creepy.

Maybe it's 'cause I'm a guy, but this is what I see. It's not that Hollywood is saying "age difference is k00l! older d00dz should be datin' young ch1x!" -- which makes it sound like movie producers projecting or something; it's that Hollywood is a box office driven business, and for better or worse thinks "she's over 30 -- nobody's coming to the theater to see her". Not an especially new phenomenon, either, but it seems to be getting worse. I have known few actresses the age of Jennifer Lawrence to impress me as much as she has, but to suddenly have her competing with actresses aged 5, 10, 15, and 20 years older than herself seems incredibly unfair.

It's especially ridiculous when you consider that in real life there are women who are very, very attractive -- even sexual -- throughout their lives.
posted by dhartung at 5:19 PM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Here's a mind blowing anecdote for you. I once spoke to some guy off a dating system who told me that his mother had been married twice: the first time to his father, who was 25 years older than she, and after he died, the second time to a man 25 years her junior, and that marriage continued until she died. Her husbands were 50 years apart, if you can imagine that. And both marriages were very happy and successful and lasted over 25 years each.

I wished I could have met that woman because there must have been something exceptional about her.

Like lots of people are saying in this thread, there are successful relationships with huge age differences, but they are generally exceptions. Statistically you're the most likely to have a long-lasting, happy relationship with someone close to your own age, and in real life most people do date within about a five year differential age bracket.
posted by orange swan at 5:21 PM on April 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


it's that Hollywood is a box office driven business, and for better or worse thinks "she's over 30 -- nobody's coming to the theater to see her"

This is absolutely the actual real-life logic behind the phenomenon, and it's gross.

I mean, maybe the number isn't 30, maybe it's 40 or even 42. But it's still EXTREMELY true, and the women who are still being cast as romantic leads as they head towards 40 and beyond are most likely in that position at least partially because they can play younger, or because they are seen as sexy despite their age. Even for someone like Susan Sarandon who played sexy leading ladies into her 40's, some studio executive thought, "she still looks young enough to be sexy." Nobody was saying, "middle aged women are so sexy!"
posted by Sara C. at 5:29 PM on April 23, 2013 [12 favorites]


I think you'd be hard pressed to find a female movie star in her 40s to 60s who has played the love interest in a mainstream movie of a character played by a male actor in his 20s or 30s.

Tim Robbins (then 30) and Susan Sarandon (then 42) in Bull Durham. She was also the love interest of Kevin Costner (then 33) in the same movie.
posted by jamaro at 5:42 PM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


And she was fucking hot.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:46 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nobody was saying, "middle aged women are so sexy!"

Because they aren't sexy. Except for my wife.
posted by repoman at 5:50 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, but you had to go back 25 years to find an example?
posted by troika at 5:51 PM on April 23, 2013


Well, no, it's just the first movie that popped to mind, since I'm of a Certain Age and saw Bull Durham in the movie theater.
posted by jamaro at 5:53 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


There was White Palace in 1990, also with Susan Sarandon. I remember the age difference between her (44) and James Spader (30 playing 27) being touted as racy and rule-breaking at the time. The age difference was definitely a main focus of the plot, not just a given as her due as the hero of the tale.

And that was before the rise of the term cougar, which, don't even get me started because I'll probably choke on my own bile.
posted by Squeak Attack at 6:06 PM on April 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


There was also Geena Davis and Brad Pitt in Thelma and Louise, but in that pre-cougar era it was played as more of a novelty. But they still did it!
posted by Room 641-A at 6:19 PM on April 23, 2013


So the shared Google Doc I created now has tables and graphs for four actresses. They are, with the average age difference from their romantic interests:

Julia Roberts, -8
Helena Bonham Carter, -8 (twice cast with a man more than twice her age)
Meryl Streep, -5
Diane Keaton, -2

Overall it seems their leading men tend to age with them.

For the 41 leading men represented only 8 are younger than their leading lady, with the largest of these age differences being 61 to 52 (Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin in It's Complicated, where Meryl Streep also is with the 64-year-old Steve Martin).

Also thank you to whoever added more data!
posted by mountmccabe at 6:20 PM on April 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


The Jennifer Lawrence/Bradley Cooper thing especially bothered me because I read the book before seeing the movie, and Jennifer Lawrence's casting really changed the movie. (Spoilers coming, pretty much).

In the book, Tammy is about 38 and Pat is like 34. In the movie, it's Bradley and Jennifer and an obvious ten plus year age difference.

It's not that things can't ever change from the book, and they did make a bunch of changes I thought were fine - the dance contest was much less of a big deal in the book but it made sense for the climax of the movie, and Pat's father was kind of stoic and quiet, which wouldn't have worked casting Robert DeNiro.

But what really bothered me was that with a 38 year old Tammy and a 34 year old Pat, they get together in the end but it's sort of brittle, sad and anxious, yet in a sort of beautiful way. Because there's sort of a feeling that with a 38 year old woman, this depression is sort of who she is in a way, and here she was with a guy near her age and it's like, sort of heartbreaking that they have each other but they are so broken.

In the movie, because of the age difference, though JL did a good ( I don't think great) job, it seemed like this moody ingenue had come into Pat's life and was going to shake him up for the better, see like half of all romantic comedies ever.

I did hear that they had been interested in older actresses like Angelina Jolie or Winona Ryder but JL nailed her audition which I guess is fine. I think Rachel Weisz or someone like that would have been perfect.
posted by sweetkid at 6:28 PM on April 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


The problem isn't that Hollywood is portraying May-December romances, it's that they're NOT portraying them. Do I want every movie I see to be about a 50 year old man married to a 25 year old woman? No, not especially, but at least that would be an honest portrayal of what we are watching. Because instead what is going on is that we have 50 year old actors and 25 year old actresses playing couples that are ostensibly around the same age--at the same point in their careers, raising children, etc. So there's this unspoken message that says "this is what a couple in their forties looks like: guys have grey hair and laugh lines, women look exactly like they did when they were 22" (because they are exclusively played by 22 year old actresses).

That's why no one bats an eye when Sally Field plays Tom Hanks' mother even though she's only 10 year older than he is, but it would be unthinkable to have Steve Carell play Tina Fey's father (8 years older) or Brad Pitt play Angelina Jolie's (10 years)!
posted by looli at 6:33 PM on April 23, 2013 [44 favorites]


Or Guy Pierce playing Charlize Theron's father!
posted by P.o.B. at 6:45 PM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Can you think of any cultures in which it's the norm for woman to be older than their male partners?

I couldn't, which is usually a hint to me this isn't entirely a cultural phenomenon.

There can be explanations for why things may be why they are - I understand birth defect risks scale worse over time for mothers than they do for fathers, and a child is probably worse off if their mother dies of old age than their father did.

What happens in the future when genetic damage and gestational issues may be easily addressed? Should we expect age gaps to only tighten over time? Headed for cougartown as the desire to get laid by any means possible becomes the more significant biological factor?
posted by floam at 6:47 PM on April 23, 2013


You really want this to be a conversation about how some people being creeped out by the age difference, and it's really not.

It really has been. Or rather, let's meet halfway: It shouldn't be, and much of it isn't. But other parts of it absolutely have been, and those are the parts that Perhapsolutely (which is an excellent username, by the way) was objecting to. Heck, the second comment in the thread uses the word "gross." If you're arguing that conversation shouldn't be happening, I'm with you, but that's different from claiming that it isn't.
posted by cribcage at 6:47 PM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's why no one bats an eye when Sally Field plays Tom Hanks' mother even though she's only 10 year older than he is

This is a terrible example, considering that Sally Field plays Tom Hanks' mother in a flashback.
posted by Sara C. at 6:47 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Since it's only been mentioned peripherally: Kristin Stewart's first bigtime role there has her character romanced by and having a child with a guy literally ninety years older. But he's supa hawt, so it's okay.

P.S. Someone should use something like this to make a version of Twilight where Edward Cullen actually looks more than 100 years old. I might be able to withstand watching it then, with the lulz.
posted by XMLicious at 6:55 PM on April 23, 2013


Yes, it felt gross to have a 22yr old playing that character. If you look at my later comments in this thread I mention that I don't find such age differences problematic in real life. The problem I have is with Hollywood.
posted by troika at 6:56 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


What's age got to do with it?
Way back in '61, when he first became a screen gem in Splendor in the Grass, Warren Beatty was 24 and his lissome costar, Natalie Wood, 23. Beatty heart-throbbed again in Shampoo at age 37; his love interests then were Goldie Hawn, 29, and Julie Christie, 33. By the time he made Bugsy in 1991, he was 54 and the woman of his dreams, Annette Bening, 33. In his latest, the raucous political satire Bulworth, Warren, 61, finds love with the very beautiful and really-a-whole-lot-younger Halle Berry, 31. In 37 years of moviemaking, Beatty has aged 37 years; meanwhile, most of the women who love him, on film, have aged—It's a miracle!—no more than 10.

Beatty, of course, isn't alone. Lately, it seems, you can't go to the movies without stumbling into at least a one-generation relationship gap. There's Michael Douglas, 53, and Gwyneth Paltrow, 25, in A Perfect Murder; Jack Nicholson, 61, and Helen Hunt, 35, in As Good as It Gets; Robert Redford, 61, and Kristin Scott Thomas, 38, in The Horse Whisperer; and Harrison Ford, 56, and Anne Heche, 29, in Six Days, Seven Nights. But wait, there'll be more: In the currently filming Entrapment, Sean Connery, 67, canoodles with The Mask of Zorro's Catherine Zeta-Jones, 28. And there's always the next Woody Allen movie.

(emphasis mine)
posted by Room 641-A at 6:59 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


My opinion, representative of myself and not any other woman, I have a hard time accepting that an attractive young woman would want to sleep with Steve Martin in Shopgirl or Alec Baldwin (before he lost the weight, because it made him look older and his undetected were puffy---he was in this movie with Sarah Michelle Gellar). I have a hard time imagining the sex being sexy. But Alec Baldwin lost weight, looks younger---though I can't quite imagine him having sexy sex anyway, because he's got a short temper and seems irritable.

I also thought the sex scene between Maggie Gyllenhaal and Jeff Daniels in Crazyheart was not very sexy. I can't remembered if it was supposed to be though. I just had a hard time accepting it.

But obviously studio guys didn't and don't. And in real life, Baldwin is married to a much younger woman and they seem in love.

And honestly, it's really easy to be attracted to a man who treats you kindly, makes you feel beautiful and cared for. That's my explanation for why I saw so many super young women happily canoodling on a very rainy day last Friday with guys in their 50s and 60s last Friday at some posh restaurants near Foggy Bottom.

So I don't think it's that far-fetched to pair an older lead with a younger woman, especially since looks aren't the only thing that matter to women.
posted by discopolo at 7:01 PM on April 23, 2013


For a while, almost all of Tom Cruise's films paired him with an older man; an older, wiser man, who showed him tradecraft (how to fly a jet plane, how to drive a racecar, how to tend bar, etc.) and helped the young man learn about himself in the process. Can't really pair up Cruise with an older man anymore, because Cruise is too old for that now.
posted by twoleftfeet at 7:06 PM on April 23, 2013


This is a terrible example, considering that Sally Field plays Tom Hanks' mother in a flashback.

Not just in a flashback, I don't think.
posted by looli at 7:07 PM on April 23, 2013


because Cruise is too old for that now.

Insanely, he's the same age Wilford Brimley was in Cocoon.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:13 PM on April 23, 2013 [16 favorites]


Bradley Cooper, George Clooney, etc, also aren't representative of ordinary men. These hotties use sunscreen, moisturizer, laser, photo facials, etc. They look a lot younger than their true ages.

There are a lot of guys who are younger than Bradley Cooper but look so much older than him.

Also, look at Hugh Jackman at 44. I wouldn't believe a 20 year old would turn down the opportunity to sleep with him/date him, etc. I'm 12 years younger and he's been my dream guy since I was 25 or younger , I think.
posted by discopolo at 7:13 PM on April 23, 2013


Women use the same treatments, so by that logic equal ages shouldn't be an issue.
posted by troika at 7:16 PM on April 23, 2013


It really has been. Or rather, let's meet halfway: It shouldn't be, and much of it isn't. But other parts of it absolutely have been, and those are the parts that Perhapsolutely (which is an excellent username, by the way) was objecting to. Heck, the second comment in the thread uses the word "gross."

I think if you change that to "much of it" to "almost all of it" we'd be in agreement. People have mentioned that they find certain examples particularly gross, or creepy, and there's even somebody that says all of them are gross. But, it's been something like 5 or 6 out of 170 some odd comments. Heck, perhapsolutely almost doubles the number of comments about that aspect by himself. I don't think it's a huge problem, or a a large enough part of the conversation that you could really say that the conversation's been about that.
posted by Gygesringtone at 7:17 PM on April 23, 2013


Keira Knightley was Orlando Bloom's love interest in the Pirates movies, not Johnny Depp's.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:19 PM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Pairing Catherine Zeta Jones and Sean Connery in Entrapment wasn't necessarily unrealistic... for her.
posted by knoyers at 7:22 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


looli, she wears old age makeup in the scenes where Forrest is an adult.

I think that, if you're making a movie that spans 30+ years and follows one man from childhood to middle age, and you need to cast someone as that guy's mother, who needs to be believable as a young attractive woman and also as an elderly woman decades later, casting a woman who is somewhere in the middle is about the best you're going to do.
posted by Sara C. at 7:23 PM on April 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


use sunscreen, moisturizer,

Everyone should wear sunscreen and moisturize. it's good for skin health.
posted by The Whelk at 7:24 PM on April 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


A little ageism never hurt anyone, eh? Like tossing in a stray racist epithet now and again (as long as it's only 6 out of 170 comments), or that one person who livens up the discussion with their hysterical gay-panic episodes. Nothing to derail over. Anyway thankfully most people grow out of ageism. I'm patient.
posted by perhapsolutely at 7:26 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think I missed the day at school where they explained that it's ageist for middle aged dudes not to be almost universally depicted in the media as pairing off with women half their age, whereas if you're an actress over the age of 35 you basically can't get a job in Hollywood.

(Forgive me if I'm misunderstanding your point, perhapsolutely)
posted by Sara C. at 7:29 PM on April 23, 2013 [9 favorites]


Generally speaking, shallow women are attracted to perceived power. Job status and money are two of the most common ways in society to demonstrate power. The older a man is, the more likely he is to have more power through his job status or financial situation.

Generally speaking, shallow men are attracted to physical attractiveness, fitness, and sex appeal. In our society, younger people are deemed to possess these traits in greater numbers than older people. The younger a woman is, the more likely she is deemed to be considered physically attractive, fit, and sexy.

Given that there are an enormous amount of shallow people in the United States, it makes sense that older, more powerful men and younger, more attractive women would be considered to be the most desirable people. It follows that movies (generally either about powerful men or attractive women) would reflect this age disparity.

And when you consider the Hollywood actors themselves, this disparity would become even greater. Who has a greater job status and wealth than a very successful movie star? Their appeal increases as they age as their perceived power increases. And who has greater physical attractiveness, fitness, and sex appeal than a young Hollywood actress? The two are going to very naturally be paired up.
posted by flarbuse at 7:35 PM on April 23, 2013


And who has greater physical attractiveness, fitness, and sex appeal than a young Hollywood actress?

This is a societal construct that we have been taught to accept, not the naturally programmed thing you seem to think it is. And it's not unquestionably true that a younger actress is more attractive, sexier and fit than an older one and it's just sexism to claim that's true.
posted by sweetkid at 7:38 PM on April 23, 2013 [16 favorites]


And who has greater physical attractiveness, fitness, and sex appeal than a young Hollywood actress?

salma hayek?
posted by twist my arm at 7:46 PM on April 23, 2013 [11 favorites]


I'm attracted to powerful women.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:50 PM on April 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


I admit I find it kind of surreally hilarious that the term "ageism" is being used in reference to older male Hollywood actors, many of whom are among the most powerful individuals in the entertainment industry.

I really don't think that Harrison Ford runs any risk of being discriminated against. I don't think that he's the one that needs to be looked out for and defended in the entertainment industry.

I mean, we can have a separate conversation about whether or not older white men are discriminated against in the real world, but we aren't talking about the real world; we're talking about how American films about fictional characters tend to pair up their actors and actresses in a manner that discards most women over 40.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 7:55 PM on April 23, 2013 [19 favorites]


Creepy older guy/younger girl sex scenes? Bates and Anna in Downton Abbey. *shudder*

I LOVED Weeds, though. I'd love to be as hot and confident in my hotness as Nancy Botwin once in my life. Just for, like, 5 minutes, please. Someone needs to do an age graph of all of her -ups from that show.

That being said, my husband is 10 years older than me, my good friend's husband is 15 years older than her and my best friend (two weeks younger than me) is happily married to a man 23 years older than us.
posted by jillithd at 7:58 PM on April 23, 2013


Oh, and in the last season of Weeds, Andy has a relationship with an older woman and with a much younger woman. It was hilarious IMO when it backfired on him.
posted by jillithd at 8:01 PM on April 23, 2013


I really don't think that Harrison Ford runs any risk of being discriminated against.

I presumed "ageism" referred to older female actresses who can't get work because they have aged out of the small window of opportunity when they might be cast as the romantic partner in a film, but, rereading this thread, it is being used in a way I don't understand.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:03 PM on April 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm attracted to powerful women.

Oh, so that's why Margaret Thatcher was so popular.
posted by XMLicious at 8:03 PM on April 23, 2013


It was all me.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:05 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


You are, I regret, Sara C., utterly missing my point. I decry (in this thread in fact) Hollywood's partiality to that older-man/younger-woman template. It is tedious, slights older actresses, and skews perceptions of healthy aging. It is grossly unfair to women.

A few early commenters felt the discussion of this imbalance would be a good place to expound arguments amounting to 'old-guys-are-gross' or 'May/December is creepy' or suggesting that such relationships are not 'natural', and those are what I addressed.

If you did not make such comments, please (continue to) disregard what I've said.
posted by perhapsolutely at 8:09 PM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Bradley Cooper, George Clooney, etc, also aren't representative of ordinary men. These hotties use sunscreen, moisturizer,

TODO: Research this lotion technology before it's too late
posted by floam at 8:12 PM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


The only problem I have with this is deceptive scaling on the y-axis in the plots.
posted by supercres at 8:13 PM on April 23, 2013


TODO: Research this lotion technology before it's too late

::looks in mirror::

fuck, too late
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:13 PM on April 23, 2013


If you did not make such comments, please (continue to) disregard what I've said.

There are so few of these comments that maybe they shouldn't be the subject of this thread. It seems an overwhelming majority of the people here take issue specifically with Hollywood's representation of this sort of romance, and not the fact of it in real life.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:20 PM on April 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


This feels off base to me.

What's a departure from reality is for the kind of character a 40- or 50-something A list actor usually plays (handsome, intelligent and holding a position of authority or rogue independence) to be unmarried -- in reality those men almost always are married, and usually to women relatively close to their age due to having married young. However, for dramatic reasons movie characters tend to be single and needing to find love, and that gets grafted onto all the characters, including alpha male leads. It's simply not unusual in reality for that kind of man -- in the unusual case of his being single -- to date significantly younger women.
posted by MattD at 8:44 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


By my quick math, Helen Mirren was 59 and Cuba Gooding Jr. 37 when they made Shadowboxer.
posted by stargell at 8:55 PM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


My parents were 18 years apart and married for 30 happy years. I'm not quite that far apart from my girlfriend but we've been together 8 (again, happy) years. The problem, as already stated several times, is not the age difference, which can certainly work fine for consenting adults, but that Hollywood has turned every on screen couple into a May-December romance.

This makes me SO MAD. I could not enjoy Silver Linings Playbook because Jennifer Lawrence is sixteen years younger than Bradley Cooper.

As someone that didn't read the book, I had no trouble with the age difference. I thought Lawrence did a good job. And as someone that had been married, then widowed, while also having mental problems, I can understand why she might not have much in common with a 25 year old guy.

I couldn't agree more Troika. I also thought it was really strange that she was supposed to be a widow. How many women her age are even married nowadays?

Are you serious? I get that nationally maybe the age of marriage is going up, but there are still plenty of places that getting married young is the norm. My girlfriend is 26. Almost every girl she graduated with wasn't only married, but had kids by 23. That a she's not married 26 is shocking to most people, and that she doesn't want kids (ever), well, let's not even go there.

If people can't discern the difference between judging real actual "consenting adult" relationships and those written and cast by movie execs well I just don't even.

This isn't the first time the subject of age difference in relationships has come up on metafilter, and it's almost always been one sided, condescending, and pretty much condemning to the whole concept. If you want to believe that metafilter is now only judgmental (gross!) when it happens in Hollywood, be my guest. But I don't buy it.

There are huge differences between somebody in their 30s and somebody in their 20s, and those must be taken seriously.

I have more in common with my girlfriend (politically, religiously, entertainment wise, what we want out of life) than anyone I've ever dated. There are no huge differences.

Even accepting your sweeping generalization, there can be (in general) big differences between races, people from the north and south, people of different religions, different world views, etc. and yet they still can make it work. That's basically a relationship, making it work despite the differences. Age doesn't change that.

I'll also weigh in here as someone who has dated older -- the oldest person I have dated was 15 years older than me, and the age gap seemed HUGE. It was definitely A Thing. There were Conversations about whether it was Appropriate for us to be seeing each other.

Ignoring the discussion of 'appropriateness', which, as long as you were both adults, is baffling to me, what does this have to do with anything? It's one data point. Maybe you're just uncomfortable with anyone older. Maybe he was too mature, not mature enough. Maybe you didn't click and blaming it on the age difference was an easy out. Who knows. But it's one data point, and has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with the viability of a relationship with an age difference. A lot of relationships work, a lot don't, regardless of anything else, with large age differences and without.
posted by justgary at 9:11 PM on April 23, 2013


what does this have to do with anything?

My point was that I was once in a relationship that would be seen as the norm if it were a movie, despite the fact that it was made clear to both of us at every turn that such a relationship is NOT the norm in real life.

Most people don't date someone with a 15+ year age difference. Plenty of people do, and I'm glad those people are happy (and I've had plenty of perfectly good relationships with people who were older than me), but it IS strange that so many films depict these relationships as the default.
posted by Sara C. at 9:18 PM on April 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's simply not unusual in reality for that kind of man -- in the unusual case of his being single -- to date significantly younger women.

Yeah, it actually is. I know my fair share of single men in their 30's and older. Most of them date women roughly around their own age. Practically zero of them date women in their early 20's.

I mean, I'm sure there exist 50 year old men who date 20 year old women and there's nothing untoward about it and everyone is happy and more power to them. But it certainly isn't the default, it is unusual, and it is definitely odd that most movies depict this as a normal thing not worthy of note in any way.
posted by Sara C. at 9:21 PM on April 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


What is or isn't unusual in your experience is just that.
posted by cribcage at 9:23 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I look a lot younger than I really am. They should just cast me.

Of course, I've never been Hollywood attractive, more like pudgy 15-year old well into my 20s...(the babyfat didn't go away, it just went middle aged).
posted by jb at 9:25 PM on April 23, 2013


What is or isn't unusual in your experience is just that.

You think Hollywood age differences between lead actors and actresses reflect reality pretty accurately? Given that (as has been brought up several times in this thread) women older than 40 rarely are cast as romantic leads in mainstream films, do you also think women over 40 just don't date?

I mean some people are just not getting the point here. If people are in relationships with younger men or women, great, but this is about sexism in Hollywood and how it negatively affects women's employment opportunities in Hollywood as well as a general societal imbalance in what is considered "attractive."
posted by sweetkid at 9:32 PM on April 23, 2013 [11 favorites]


Mountmccabe - in Howard's End, Helen Bonham-Carter's love interest wasn't Anthony Hopkins, that was Emma Thompson (22 years apart). (And Vanessa Redgrave who was the same age as Anthony Hopkins.) Her love interest was Samuel West. They were the same age. Samuel West's character's wife was only three years older. I'm surprised, I always thought Leonard's wife and HBC were much older than he was, but I think that's because he looked like a 12 year old with an awkward mustache.
posted by artychoke at 9:34 PM on April 23, 2013


this is about sexism in Hollywood

If your read of this thread has been that everyone is talking strictly about Hollywood, that's fine. That is not my interpretation of every comment in this thread. We can quibble about precisely how many comments that is, but I'd say two things. First, as Perhapsolutely pointed out, if the relationship disparity under discussion were race or gender, we wouldn't be counting. Second, as Gygesringtone halfway pointed out, the count inflates every time somebody weirdly responds to a comment that obviously isn't talking about Hollywood as if it were.

There are two parallel conversations. If you dislike one, flag it. But pretending Conversation #2 is actually Conversation #1 hasn't been especially productive.
posted by cribcage at 9:56 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


The post is about the Hollywood thing, not whether May-December relationships are gross.

And if most relationships in films were depicted as being weirdly unrealistic on the issue of race or gender (for example if virtually all major films were about lesbian relationships, or virtually all major films depicted white men dating nonwhite women and there were very few white female actresses), I think that's something that would be worth discussing.
posted by Sara C. at 9:59 PM on April 23, 2013


sweetkid-

You think Hollywood age differences between lead actors and actresses reflect reality pretty accurately?

What I've always figured is they sorta reflect Hollywood reality... or maybe I just think that from watching so many skewedly-cast movies about the movie business. But it does seem to me, anecdotally, that Bogart/Bacall is a lot more common configuration than Demi/Ashton. So to the people who greenlight this crap, it really might seem normal.
posted by hap_hazard at 10:00 PM on April 23, 2013


I think if people started making comments that lesbian relationships were "gross," or that it was "creepy" how Hollywood kept finding ways to get white men into bed with nonwhite women, we'd start talking about it right quick regardless of what the linked article said.
posted by cribcage at 10:02 PM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


The things about the drastic age difference between older men and younger women:

(a) Yes, in Hollywood it means that no studio executive and most hot male actors want to fuck anyone over 30, blech.

(b) This reminds women that they socially expire at 30 (plus the usual "must have baby now" pressure crap), and this makes us angry. No 30+ woman wants to hear about how her boyfriend wants kids, just not for the next few years, so he'd rather throw her over for a future 22-year-old to have babies with. I don't even want kids and that makes me kinda rage thinking of that.

(c) In real life, it's considered squicky to date a woman who's drastically younger due to the power differential. A lot of skeezy guys date younger women in part because well, the women don't know enough about the shit men can get up to, and they can snow them, and they look better than they are when judged by 20-something men standards. Hollywood reminding me of this is not good either. Not all older men are like that, but there are enough guys like that to worry me when that kind of thing happens.

I had a boyfriend that was 8 years older than me and by the time I was his age when he dated me, I was all, "why the hell did he date me at 20? I was an IDIOT." What does it say about the guy who's always chasing the younguns who can't keep up with him mentally? It's...not great. And that was from an 8 year age difference. It wouldn't be as much of an issue now, though (see below).

(d) As for older women/younger men, that power differential thing can happen, but we just don't hear about it as often.

(e) I have less objection to it the older that the woman is. I like to think that with a few more years or decades, the woman will have enough experience/sense of herself as an adult woman that she will be able to hold her own against an older guy. A 20-year-old woman dating a 40-year-old man is much more of a red flag to me than a 40-year-old woman dating a 60-year-old man. May/December isn't my favorite kind of relationship, but I have less worries about that 40-year-old woman getting into trouble.

(f) I will say that there's the occasional younger-woman-older-man pairing that doesn't red flag me--maybe because the younger woman seems to have enough sense of herself/come off as older than her years, and I have the feeling that she knows what she wants and isn't going to put up with stupid drama. Bates and Anna don't bother me because that girl comes off as mentally at least 35, no matter how old the actress is (I have no idea, I'm assuming mid-to-late 20's). And Jennifer Lawrence didn't bother me in Silver Linings because despite having an ingenue face, she comes off personality-wise as a world-weary 42-year-old who's tough shit. I don't worry about her getting used and abused by some smooth talker with a "real job" who "wears a tie to work" and thus he seems like a good guy and real adult, when in reality he isn't.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:05 PM on April 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


cribcage: "I think if people started making comments that lesbian relationships were "gross," or that it was 'creepy' how Hollywood kept finding ways to get white men into bed with nonwhite women, we'd start talking about it right quick regardless of what the linked article said."

Well, elizardbits already dealt with this pretty superbly, but:

cribcage, you have to know that what you're talking about is a complicated issue with several different facets. On the level of real-world relationships, there are (I agree) some closed-minded people who have somewhat "ageist" perspectives on this. And, yes, there are times when people use the word "creepy" to describe perfectly fine and consensual relationships that ought to be respected. Fair enough.

But there's a larger dimension that it seems like you're completely ignoring here in the name of going after a few comments here that you disagreed with. Can you really say you don't see the patriarchal dimension here? The fact is that movies constantly treat older women as completely disposable; at best, they are relegated to matron status, playing elder mothers or teachers or Margaret Thatcher or whatever. They aren't potential partners for anybody. The fact that this is a sexist trope is made clear by the fact that it's clearly just fine for men in movies to continue to have relationships with women of all ages.

So - I mean, it's probably best to think of this in a personal sense and use that sense to inform how you read this thread. There have been a few people, yes, who used the term "creepy." But there have been a lot of women who are justly frustrated with this remarkably diminished window of opportunity that Hollywood seems to want to thrust on them. I'm a single guy at 33, so there's a part of me that feels keenly that, as an adult, I'm not doing some of the things I really want to do: have a partner, have a family, etc. But I can only imagine what a lot of women must feel at fifty, even at forty, hell (according to Hollywood) even at thirty-five, considering the fact that famous women in Hollywood who play the characters that "leading men" are involved with seem to be forced to start playing old women around the age of twenty-eight. It's kind of annoying to be going along with your life doing the typical human things - looking for a partner, hoping to fall in love, etc - when all the while the movies are screaming at you that you're too old. I don't want to lay it on too thick, and I'm sure it's not the worst thing a woman has to deal with, but like I said, as a single guy, there's part of me that sympathizes there.

And I would point out that in this case it's obvious that the feminist issue is clearly more dire and more pressing than the ageist issue. People's discomfort with that divide may bother you, but Hollywood doesn't have a problem with it at all, and is happily broadcasting to everyone the message that age is not at all a limiting factor when forming relationships - unless the older person is a woman. Then, Hollywood apparently thinks, it's disgusting and wrong and to be avoided at all costs.

In a way, this is really about privilege - the privilege men are assumed by Hollywood to have, the privilege of not being judged for dating people younger than them. You are right that we should not want to take away the privilege to love the (consenting adult) people who love us, whether it's through false moral outrage or silly misplaced squeamishness about "creepiness." But at the same time, in the name of equality, that privilege - that freedom - to love those who love us regardless of age needs to be extended to women, too. And the films that Hollywood produces represent a pressure against equality on that front.
posted by koeselitz at 10:45 PM on April 23, 2013 [20 favorites]


I thought the point of the linked article was that older women don't get the same opportunities to play love interests as older men do:
It seems like time and time again, male movie stars are allowed to age into their forties, fifties, and even sixties while the ages of their female love interests remain firmly on one side of the big 4-0
... and it reminded me of Rosanna Arquette's Searching for Debra Winger, about difficulties actresses face in Hollywood when they've reached "that certain age."
posted by kristi at 11:13 PM on April 23, 2013


(a) Yes, in Hollywood it means that no studio executive and most hot male actors want to fuck anyone over 30, blech.

I know it's cool to say stuff like this and I know you mean this more for affect than as an actual piece of fact, but empirically this isn't true, not in the least. Does Hollywood have more than its share of May-December relationships? Yes, sure, absolutely. Do the vast majority of "hot male actors" fuck people in their same age range? Yes, as do the execs.
posted by incessant at 11:14 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


There have been a few people, yes, who used the term "creepy." But there have been...

Hang on, stop there. Those people are all I was talking about. I haven't said anything at all about Hollywood's patriarchal privilege. I'm not crazy about speaking for anybody else so don't take this too seriously, but as far as I can tell neither did the several other people who have piped up.

There were some vulgar comments made, and people objected. That's all. The reaction to those objections, I think, has been noteworthy. Several people said the comments were misinterpreted and were, in fact, only about Hollywood. I think it's evident that isn't true. Other people brushed it off by saying the comments might have been offensive but there were only a few of them, which I'm not sure is relevant. And I don't think I've implied that any issue is more/less dire than any other. Again, that seems to me a weird response. Why go there?

There's engaging conversation to be had about older leading women. Does anybody remember some of the articles that were written when Rene Russo was cast in The Thomas Crowne Affair? Or when Jamie Lee Curtis performed a striptease in True Lies? Or how Sophia Loren became an epithet? Or how Irina's character in The Sopranos was outflanked by Edie Falco, Lorraine Bracco, Julianna Margulies, Annabella Sciorra? It's not a new conversation. We've been having it for awhile. Probably longer. I think we can continue it without talking about how age gaps are "gross" or "creepy," without (yes, patriarchal) prescriptions about which relationships are "age appropriate," without the always charming "half-plus-seven rule."
posted by cribcage at 11:26 PM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Hollywood thing grosses me out, too. As a million people point out here, it's not very common in the real world, and often times is a sign of broken people (in my experience)...but in film we're just supposed to expect it as "natural". It isn't, it just isn't common enough to be "natural". And it's often so absurd it really pulls me out of the film.

Another thing that bothers me about this is that "common wisdom" says a man's power comes from success or wealth, and a woman's power comes from her beauty. That's fucked up, sure. But even if you were to grant the premise, Hollywood films feature incredibly powerful women (by that definition)--but the women are almost exclusively ornaments for the men in the film, they have no power at all.
posted by maxwelton at 11:29 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Tim Robbins (then 30) and Susan Sarandon (then 42) in Bull Durham.

Also Susan Sarandon (then 44) and James Spader (then 30) in White Palace.
posted by homunculus at 11:50 PM on April 23, 2013


looli: "The problem isn't that Hollywood is portraying May-December romances, it's that they're NOT portraying them. [...] Because instead what is going on is that we have 50 year old actors and 25 year old actresses playing couples that are ostensibly around the same age--at the same point in their careers, raising children, etc. So there's this unspoken message that says "this is what a couple in their forties looks like: guys have grey hair and laugh lines, women look exactly like they did when they were 22" (because they are exclusively played by 22 year old actresses)."

This is what I take issue with, too. I'm not sure if people here are talking past each other at all, but I think it's an important distinction worth noting.
posted by Room 641-A at 4:27 AM on April 24, 2013 [10 favorites]


In real life, it's considered squicky to date a woman who's drastically younger due to the power differential. A lot of skeezy guys date younger women in part because well, the women don't know enough about the shit men can get up to, and they can snow them, and they look better than they are when judged by 20-something men standards.

Counterintuitively, older guys who date really young women (teens/early 20s) are more often lower status. It's probably harder to impress an older woman, who has high standards about career and earning potential, while the younger woman might think he's hot shit because he can afford a car and some weed! (He's like sooo mature.) But also contra the power differential narrative, the "skeezy" older guys also behave better than the younger guys who the women would otherwise be dating. They're less likely to be physically abusive and more likely to stick around after a pregnancy. Probably because they are "losers" (young guys can just go get more easy sex from other young women, while the older guy would have a tougher time getting another woman of similar value, so he invests more to keep her happy).

More likely it's considered "squicky" for two different reasons. Older women have an interest in stigmatizing may-december relationships, because younger women are huge competition in the mating market for high status males (universal male preferences for youth are some sort of mind poison and social problem, that must be eradicated). On the other hand, older women also don't like to see high value younger women dating men they themselves consider mating market defects (older, low status men). Since they would never retroactively make that decision, it seems like the young women are being severely duped.

Also, it's considered "squicky" by some, more simply, because old people are seen as grosser and less attractive than young people.
posted by dgaicun at 5:22 AM on April 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


"I never said this particular relationship template a) was not disproportionately portrayed (it is, vastly) and b) does not point up a gross imbalance of power in Hollywood (it does). But the knee-jerk ageist 'creepy!' verdict is much more on a par with racist and sexist reactions to personally distasteful situations between (real or fictional) consenting adults. It's uncomfortable to confront prejudice in yourself, especially if you feel as if it's somehow justified/justifiable. You will still feel the discomfort."

"I think if people started making comments that lesbian relationships were "gross," or that it was "creepy" how Hollywood kept finding ways to get white men into bed with nonwhite women, we'd start talking about it right quick regardless of what the linked article said."
If y'all can somehow get past the conviction that older dudes have some kind of inalienable right to creep on who they please and listen to the women in this thread you might find that there are really good reasons for older people creeping on dramatically younger people - on an appropriately log scale - being seen as really not ok. From a relationship perspective, much younger people are pretty much defined by their comparatively still developing boundary setting skills and lack of judgment or context for things that aren't so great about their partners. While this obviously doesn't mean there is anything wrong with young people dating, them dating people who have developed established ways to interact with and recognize other people's boundaries as well as the context for understanding them inherently puts young people and their interests at a colossal disadvantage. This, at best, makes much younger people incredibly complicated for an ethically minded much older people to date, but in practice actively selects for creepers who thrive on it.

Now as an adult with the ability to consciously maintain healthy relationships and recognize bullshit I can tell honestly creepy much older fucks to fuck off and tell them exactly why, but as a teenager I solidly lacked those skills and had to rely on my culturally mediated instinctual sense of what is creepy. I for one am glad that at 17 I was inherently suspicious of the 40+ year old dudes who would hit on me even if I did not quite understand how vulnerable I was – being teenage immortal – or how that was precisely why they were hitting on me. These kinds of instincts are valuable, and no, they are not the least bit analogous to racism or homophobia. Women in particular are generally socialized to not trust their instincts, to devalue them, and to consider them irrational. This only serves one purpose, to make women more vulnerable and manipulate-able.

Fuck that noise
posted by Blasdelb at 5:34 AM on April 24, 2013 [21 favorites]


because Cruise is too old for that now.

Hollywood performers have been de-aging for a while now, possibly due to the aforementioned sunscreen and moisturizer. Tom Cruise turned fifty last year; Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp will do so this year, and George Clooney did so in 2011. Carroll O'Connor was 46 when the regular run of All In The Family began shooting and I believe he was 43 when the first pilot was shot. Buddy Ebsen was 54 when The Beverly Hillbillies began, and Irene Ryan ("Granny") was 59, four years young than Meryl Streep currently is, and sixteen years younger than Jane Fonda is today (n.b. she is just before her seventieth birthday in that photo).

In probably the most striking (if not the highest-profile) case, when Max von Sydow played Father Merrin in The Exorcist (released in 1973 and by all appearances set in 1973), he was 43 or 44. Decades later, a prequel was made (twice, but that is a different FPP) in which we see Father Merrin during World War II. Needing an actor to portray a character some thirty years younger than von Sydow's version, the producers chose Stellan Skarsgard, almost a decade older at that time than von Sydow had been in the original.

No one acts their age anymore.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:33 AM on April 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I read one article in which the producers of Forrest Gump were criticized for having Sally Field play Tom Hanks' mother when she is only ten years older than he.

In the new version of Dallas, Judith Light is playing the mother of Mitch Pileggi, who is three years her junior in real life. I honestly can't tell if his character is supposed to be much younger than he appears, or if hers is supposed to be much older, or some combination of the two.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:50 AM on April 24, 2013


What have we learned here? That the key to staying sexy in Hollywood is to die young.
posted by jonmc at 6:56 AM on April 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


In terms of how society perceives people's value as mates, I think that on average women and men tend to have the same worth overall. However, women tend to have that value distributed very unevenly, where it is disproportionately high over the first third of their life and then peaks off sharply, whereas male value tends to be distributed relatively evenly. OKcupid Trends suggests that on average, age 26 is where males become more desirable than women of the same age.

From an emotional perspective, I think that there's more to it than simply sexual attractiveness. There's a lot of other issues tied into this for men. For example, if a woman isn't interested in me when she's young and attractive and everybody wants to have sex with her, but then when she gets older suddenly she wants to be with me, I have to question the legitimacy of her emotions. Is it true that she suddenly realized I was the best guy for her (as she tries to frame it), or is it that she started to run out of options and is settling for the best option remaining? I'll never really know. By contrast, a woman who is willing to give the best years of her life to me - years when she is considered "high value" and could be fooling around with musclebound gym rats much better-looking than I - is a woman who clearly values me for who I am inside, and therefore deserves my complete loyalty later on in life, when society considers me more "high value" than her.

From a purely utilitarian value perspective, it's advantageous for women to parley their temporary value advantage while they are young into finding partners who have good long-term potential and will remain committed to them after their looks fade, since the value advantage will eventually shift dramatically in the opposite direction. Unfortunately, by the time most women have enough relationship experience to reach this understanding, it's already too late because they're passed the age where they've peaked (at least in society's eyes). It's totally unfair and kind of a shitshow, but that's life for you.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 7:23 AM on April 24, 2013


"...since the value advantage will eventually shift dramatically in the opposite direction."

This is no where near as dramatic as we are lead to believe.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:41 AM on April 24, 2013


There's a lot of other issues tied into this for men. For example, if a woman isn't interested in me when she's young and attractive and everybody wants to have sex with her, but then when she gets older suddenly she wants to be with me, I have to question the legitimacy of her emotions. Is it true that she suddenly realized I was the best guy for her (as she tries to frame it), or is it that she started to run out of options and is settling for the best option remaining? I'll never really know. By contrast, a woman who is willing to give the best years of her life to me - years when she is considered "high value" and could be fooling around with musclebound gym rats much better-looking than I - is a woman who clearly values me for who I am inside, and therefore deserves my complete loyalty later on in life, when society considers me more "high value" than her.

What is all this? What do *you* look like or bring to the table? How is that not even a concern I don't even

Also, I'm not a man, but personally I don't think women who think they will fall off an ugly cliff at 30 are really worth dating. Some of us like to think we are beautiful at any age, regardless of what evo psych is telling us.
posted by sweetkid at 8:12 AM on April 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


If y'all can somehow get past the conviction that dudes have some kind of inalienable right to creep on who they please and listen to the heterosexuals in this thread you might find that there are really good reasons for dudes creeping on other dudes being seen as really not ok.

The bigotry, it writes itself.

If you're playing SJ lingo-bingo at home, creeping on, in this instance, refers to the older person's experience of mutual attraction in a relationship between consenting adults (not between a 40+ year old and a 17 year old, which in many jurisdictions is illegal and not the subject of this FPP, but instead between a 40+ and a 23-26 year old, let's say, someone old enough to totally know the score--figures that are much more representative of the Hollywood standard, and the subject of the FPP).

It is this experience of creeping on that is currently denied to women over 40 in Hollywood; the experience of being crept on by older women, that younger Hollywood men are spared. By this metric, the social justice glass is half-full, not half-empty, since all that really needs to be eliminated is older men from potentially (but not, surely, inevitably) exploitative romantic lead positions--positions that are already (thankfully, right?) cleared of older women. I see where this is going. Only couples matched for age, finances, and experience points, and, if you'll excuse the trendy cliche, fuck the noise of star-crossed lovers, or anyone else who due to circumstances beyond their control find themselves attracted to someone you disapprove of for them, legality and personal sexual preferences be damned.

Enlightenment-wise, it scores low, I have to say. No matter how many decades of sexual and relationship experience you've personally gathered, projecting your conclusions onto society at large in some sort of prescriptive capacity based on the squicky feelings you got is no more noble than the bassackward bigots protecting our women from their men, and our youth from evil homosexual recuiters. At some age you just have to grow up and let other people (young women in this instance, but it works equally for men) make adult decisions, no matter how incompetent you seem to think they are to duplicate the choices you would make, if you were in a position to run their lives.
posted by perhapsolutely at 8:13 AM on April 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


From a purely utilitarian value perspective, it's advantageous for women to parley their temporary value advantage while they are young into finding partners who have good long-term potential and will remain committed to them after their looks fade, since the value advantage will eventually shift dramatically in the opposite direction. Unfortunately, by the time most women have enough relationship experience to reach this understanding, it's already too late because they're passed the age where they've peaked (at least in society's eyes).

Yeah, no thanks. I think women would just like to live their lives and do their thing without being constantly warned that they will abruptly lose all their value when they hit thirty. I found your whole comment pretty creepy, actually.
posted by onlyconnect at 8:20 AM on April 24, 2013 [29 favorites]


From a purely utilitarian value perspective, it's advantageous for women to parley their temporary value advantage while they are young into finding partners who have good long-term potential and will remain committed to them after their looks fade,

Fortunately, the Real World does not seem as committed to a purely utilitarian perspective - at least, not from what I see when I walk around in this world, which is packed full of totally ordinary-looking people who are coupled up with similarly aged other totally ordinary-looking people.

if a woman isn't interested in me when she's young and attractive and everybody wants to have sex with her, but then when she gets older suddenly she wants to be with me, I have to question the legitimacy of her emotions

Younger people have less experience and less perspective, and fewer skills in communicating their needs and desires (and less ability to even know what those are!); those needs and desires also change as one gets older. People (U.S.-type people, at least) change enormously from their early 20s to their late 20s - actual, biological adolescence is still a thing when you're 22 years old.
posted by rtha at 8:40 AM on April 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's starting to smell a bit like MRA "Ladder Theory" bullshit in here.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 8:54 AM on April 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


But it's wearing its finest perfurmed Evolutionary Psychology wig!
posted by griphus at 8:58 AM on April 24, 2013 [12 favorites]


yeah single women over 30 can pack it in because SCIENCE
posted by sweetkid at 8:59 AM on April 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


But it's wearing its finest perfumed Evolutionary Psychology wig!

The breeches and the wig are not enough;
you need the stockings and the box of snuff!
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:02 AM on April 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm becoming more convinced no one should be allowed to date anyone under 30. Especially another person under 30. Problem solved. Whose idea was it to let these inexperienced, narrow-perspectived, inarticulate, self-oblivious, mercurial 18-29 year-old proto-humans loose into the dating pool, and why are they allowed to promulgate their necessarily inchoate theories in public?
posted by perhapsolutely at 9:05 AM on April 24, 2013


sorry, are you trolling? WTF does that have to do with anything we've been talking about?
posted by sweetkid at 9:15 AM on April 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


[Howzabout everybody just cool it right now.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:20 AM on April 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


perhapsolutely: "If y'all can somehow get past the conviction that dudes have some kind of inalienable right to creep on who they please and listen to the heterosexuals in this thread you might find that there are really good reasons for dudes creeping on other dudes being seen as really not ok."

If you're going to actively misquote someone, awkwardly shoving in new words where you feel like, please at least have the decency to make that clear.

You seem pretty invested in the idea that old dudes with a preference for dramatically younger women are being oppressed just like gay people, but in this thread is no one is saying that consenting adults should be prevented from doing whatever the hell they want, disapproving of healthy and happy relationships between consenting adults, or even that there would be anything inherently wrong exactly with the true age differences in the relationships displayed in the films we are talking about - however artfully disguised with film magic. I am however saying that a large age difference in a suitor, even one that are not technically illegal like the 40+ year old men who hit on me as a teenager in my jurisdiction, are a totally valid source of suspicion that maybe that suitor has in abundance at least one of the seemingly infinite possible fucked up issues lots of people manage to accumulate that would necessarily prevent them from being a non-abusive partner. I am also saying that creepiness as a spectrum is an excellent model for understanding that suspicion as it does not require disabusing oneself of teenage notions of immortality and reverses the subject object order of creeping, where instead it is the creeped upon appraising the creep.

Men who develop dramatically unhealthy relationship patterns seem to have better luck with younger people who haven't seen their flavor of shit before than older people who have, and they know this. If only for being at the bottom of the shitty older peoples' attentions totem pole, much less the reasons they're there, it makes logical healthy sense for young people to be inherently suspicious of dramatically older people's attentions - and it makes logical healthy sense for us all to be inherently suspicious of attempts to make young people more vulnerable to shitty attention.

So no, Creepophobia ≠ Homophobia

Please try again
posted by Blasdelb at 9:21 AM on April 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Does anybody remember some of the articles that were written when Rene Russo was cast in The Thomas Crowne Affair? Or when Jamie Lee Curtis performed a striptease in True Lies?

I'm too lazy to look it up and do math and such before finishing my coffee, but I have a sneaking suspicion that both of those actresses were younger than their leading men in those films.

That's exactly the thing. A 45 year old actress cast in a Sexy Leading Lady role is an "Older Woman", and a novelty that comes along only a few times per decade. It's newsworthy, to the point that people remember it decades later.

But a 50 year old woman doesn't have a chance of being cast in that role unless she's Susan Sarandon or Helen Mirren, and even then the movie in question usually has to be about the novelty of Old People Sex.

Meanwhile women make up 50% of the middle aged and elderly population in this world, and a great many of them have successful romantic and, yes, sexual, relationships.
posted by Sara C. at 9:22 AM on April 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


Hollywood performers have been de-aging for a while now, possibly due to the aforementioned sunscreen and moisturizer. Tom Cruise turned fifty last year; Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp will do so this year, and George Clooney did so in 2011. Carroll O'Connor was 46 when the regular run of All In The Family began shooting and I believe he was 43 when the first pilot was shot. Buddy Ebsen was 54 when The Beverly Hillbillies began, and Irene Ryan ("Granny") was 59, four years young than Meryl Streep currently is, and sixteen years younger than Jane Fonda is today (n.b. she is just before her seventieth birthday in that photo).

I think this is very much about the Baby Boom generation and the idealization of Youth and Sex that came with the 60's/70's and which has never faded away as the Boomers have aged.

In fact, I actually don't think Hollywood has had trouble finding the next generation of marketable leading men. I think it's yet another symptom of the hold that the Boomers have on American culture.

(Also more pragmatically it's that casting Tom Cruise in your movie automatically makes it a three or even four quadrant film, whereas casting Robert Pattinson makes it a one quadrant, or maybe a two-quadrant if you count TwiMoms as standing in for the entire "older women" quadrant.)
posted by Sara C. at 9:32 AM on April 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think this is very much about the Baby Boom generation and the idealization of Youth and Sex that came with the 60's/70's and which has never faded away as the Boomers have aged.

This is the thing that gets me about the It Has Always Been Thus and High Value Women and evo psych stuff. The youth obsession only really started late 50/60s/70s (yes mostly 60s).

I am now reading Pain, Parties, Work about Sylvia Plath's month as a college guest editor in New York in 1953 (which was an unexpected catalyst for her own suicide attempt and later, inspiration for the Bell Jar) and it makes the point that in the 50s women models were very definitely older women ( I think 30s) because they were meant to add an air of sophistication and wordliness to the clothes. And therefore could justify the high price tags.

Now we have 14 year olds on runways wearing clothes that 40 and 50 something socialites invariably end up buying, because most young people can't afford them.
posted by sweetkid at 9:39 AM on April 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


I have a sneaking suspicion that both of those actresses were younger than their leading men

Rene Russo is nine months younger than Pierce Brosnan. As for True Lies, it's true that I don't recall anybody pointing out the age difference between Jamie Lee Curtis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. But the point is that nobody was talking about him at all. Her casting was the story, and the decision to have her perform that scene. People talked, mostly in good ways.

My point about Sophia Loren also wasn't in reference to a particular leading man. My point about The Sopranos, on the other hand, was. I wasn't disagreeing with the premise of the FPP. (Although I'd add Meryl Streep to your list, and Meg Ryan and a few other names.) But the conversation is a lot richer than just, "This thing never happens."

If y'all can somehow get past the conviction that older dudes have some kind of inalienable right to creep on who they please

If it fits your personal narrative to twist what I wrote into some kind of men's-rights justification for pedophilia then God bless, but it's pretty plainly dishonest and deserves little more than a turned-around "fuck that noise" in reply.

The comment immediately after my last asserted that May-December relationships are a sign of "broken people." Not in Hollywood, but in real life. Not men and underage girls, just people. It is precisely what I had been talking about. If you feel compelled to defend that, I'm content to let that speak for itself.
posted by cribcage at 10:18 AM on April 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


You are thus far the sole person in this thread to make accusations of pedophilia. You might want to review that suggestion of dishonesty.
posted by elizardbits at 10:24 AM on April 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


Rene Russo is nine months younger than Pierce Brosnan.

So they are the same age, and yet everyone was talking about this Sexy Older Woman. Why isn't it a big news story when Pierce Brosnan is cast in a movie? Why isn't he considered the Sexy Older Man when cast alongside a younger woman, as he has been in basically every other movie?

Her casting was the story, and the decision to have her perform that scene. People talked, mostly in good ways.

But, again, why is it Big News when a woman over 40 is cast in any film, at all? What does that say about all other movies, ever?

Meg Ryan

Has Meg Ryan worked at all since she fit comfortably into the sexy cute ingenue roles? I don't remember her starring in a single film in the last decade at least. And she's just barely 50 now, which means her career definitively ended when she was 40, if not younger.

It's also interesting to note that she was 28 to Billy Crystal's 41 in When Harry Met Sally, despite the fact that they are portrayed as being around the same age.
posted by Sara C. at 10:29 AM on April 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Why isn't it a big news story when Pierce Brosnan is cast in a movie?

Writers did comment on Brosnan's age when he was cast as James Bond, and again when he was replaced by Daniel Craig. And I do think he's considered a "Sexy Older Man" when cast alongside younger women. I don't think he is considered the Sexy Older Man because that title, as I understand it, belongs to Sean Connery.

For the record, I don't think Jamie Lee Curtis actually was over forty when she was cast in True Lies; but again, the story wasn't about her being cast in the movie but rather for that scene.
posted by cribcage at 10:38 AM on April 24, 2013


I just looked at Pierce Brosnan's latest film credits and at this point it might actually be news if he's cast in a movie.
posted by griphus at 10:40 AM on April 24, 2013


Yes but Remington Steele.
posted by elizardbits at 10:42 AM on April 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


Sara c.: So they are the same age, and yet everyone was talking about [Rene Russo as] this Sexy Older Woman. Why isn't it a big news story when Pierce Brosnan is cast in a movie? Why isn't he considered the Sexy Older Man when cast alongside a younger woman, as he has been in basically every other movie?

cribcage: I don't think he is considered the Sexy Older Man because that title, as I understand it, belongs to Sean Connery.

So the "sexy older man" is Sean Connery, at any age between 60 and (now) in his 80s. But the sexy older woman is Rene Russo, aged 44 in The Thomas Crown Affair, the same age Connery was just after he stopped play Bond for the first time. (He did it again aged 53.)

Thanks for implicitly making that clear.
posted by Len at 10:54 AM on April 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh, and just a note: Jamie Lee Curtis was only 35 when True Lies came out, and yet, all the fuss about the striptease scene was about her being an "older woman" doing such a risque scene. 35!
posted by Len at 10:56 AM on April 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


Oh, and just a note: Jamie Lee Curtis was only 35 when True Lies came out, and yet, all the fuss about the striptease scene was about her being an "older woman" doing such a risque scene. 35!

ugh.
posted by sweetkid at 11:00 AM on April 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Pierce Brosnan need never work again after The Matador because when you've done something perfectly, there's no need anymore.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:38 AM on April 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Has Meg Ryan worked at all since she fit comfortably into the sexy cute ingenue roles? I don't remember her starring in a single film in the last decade at least. And she's just barely 50 now, which means her career definitively ended when she was 40, if not younger.

I think Meg Ryan stopped working when she permanently altered her features so she no longer looked like Meg Ryan. This famously happened to Dirty Dancing's Jennifer Grey, too.

Do the vast majority of "hot male actors" fuck people in their same age range? Yes, as do the execs.

It's been a while since I've been in that realm, but I tend to agree with this statement. However, I'd add the caveat that they might not be exclusively fucking people in their age group.

On a positive note, Julia Louis-Dreyfus (52) and Jennifer Aniston (44) both have thriving careers!
posted by Room 641-A at 11:39 AM on April 24, 2013


One more:
Charade (1963)
Audrey Hepburn (34), Cary Grant (59)


It was even worse in Funny Face (1957):
Audrey Hepburn (28), Fred Astaire (58)

Not only was Astaire way too old to be plausible, he was probably too unattractive to be paired with Hepburn at any age. Not only that, they wrote him as something of an insecure prick to boot. Really, the only way the script could save itself was to randomly make Astaire's much younger (35ish), much more plausible romantic rival into some sort of date rapist. Otherwise it really wouldn't make sense why Hepburn would choose square geezer Dick Avery over hunky Professor Emile Flostre.

Silver Lining Playbook would have been an entirely different movie if Jennifer Lawrence was the age she was supposed to be. As if its a big deal that some sexy 20 year old nympho could make some guy forget about his broken marriage. I would leave my wife and kill all my kids, to destroy the evidence the marriage ever even existed, for an opportunity to make out with Jennifer Lawrence for ten minutes*.

*disclaimer: I am not married and do not have kids. ... And I probably never will be if this comment comes to wider attention.
posted by dgaicun at 11:45 AM on April 24, 2013


Silver Lining Playbook would have been an entirely different movie if Jennifer Lawrence was the age she was supposed to be. As if its a big deal that some sexy 20 year old nympho could make some guy forget about his broken marriage. I would leave my wife and kill all my kids, to destroy the evidence the marriage ever even existed, for an opportunity to make out with Jennifer Lawrence for ten minutes*.

See my comment about the book - yes, it would have been a different movie if she were older, but not for the reasons you're making it out to be.

Also, it seems like you see the movie as some sort of wish fulfillment fantasy for men, which, ok cool but I think that's just on you.
posted by sweetkid at 11:50 AM on April 24, 2013


It was even worse in Funny Face (1957):
Audrey Hepburn (28), Fred Astaire (58)


Oh man that is five years short of the age difference between James Mason and Sue Lyon in Lolita. I mean, it's obviously a world of difference considering Sue Lyon was, literally, a child, but, still.

Also, I fucking love that movie, glaring flaws and all. I enjoy the fact that (SPOILER ALERT FOR A MUSICAL FROM 1957) she knocks Flostre the fuck out instead of just running away.

Bonjour, Paris!
posted by griphus at 12:05 PM on April 24, 2013


It's not that reality imitates art, but rather that people watch what they want to watch. If more people wanted to see 50-year-old leading women, Hollywood would dutifully make it so. It is stupid to argue about art catering to public taste as "sexist": De gustibus non est disputandum.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 12:05 PM on April 24, 2013


it seems like you see the movie as some sort of wish fulfillment fantasy for men, which, ok cool but I think that's just on you

Thanks for the pointer, I missed your comment on SLPB. I didn't know the book character was written that much older, but that makes a lot of sense. I didn't want the movie to come across as dull "male wish fulfillment", but yeah, those overtones are strong (I thought you were getting at that too with "moody ingenue"), which is why I agree it should have been casted like the book intended.
posted by dgaicun at 12:09 PM on April 24, 2013


Blasdelb, I'm kinda confused. You're saying nobody in the thread is "disapproving of healthy and happy relationships between consenting adults", but it reads to me like you also characterize any dating of younger women by older men as "older people creeping on dramatically younger people" and say it's "really not ok". And, given that there are several MeFites in this thread who are in May/December relationships, I'm taking it (and, it seems, they're taking it) as if you're therefore calling them creepers and describing their relationships with their SOs as "really not ok".

I mean, I totally agree with the fact that this Hollywood trend is fucked up, but there's a big jump from saying "May/December relationships are not the norm in real life, but they are being depicted that way in Hollywood because of a misogynist worldview that women have no value or are not attractive after age 30, while men are" and "May/December relationships are inherently 'creeping' and 'really not ok'"
posted by Bugbread at 12:10 PM on April 24, 2013


I agree it should have been casted like the book intended

Oh cool I got something totally differnent from your comment.
posted by sweetkid at 12:11 PM on April 24, 2013


If more people wanted to see 50-year-old leading women, Hollywood would dutifully make it so.

Hollywood pretty obviously caters to teenage boys, sooooo
posted by troika at 12:14 PM on April 24, 2013


yeah and it's pretty pointless for us to discuss these things, because what the people want to see in movies is uniform and will never change, even if we make "Hollywood" more diverse and people are able to tell different kinds of stories and depict life and love and sexuality in different ways.
posted by sweetkid at 12:16 PM on April 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


It is stupid to argue about art catering to public taste as "sexist".

Well, unless of course the public taste itself is sexist.
posted by Gygesringtone at 12:19 PM on April 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


yeah and it's pretty pointless for us to discuss these things, because what the people want to see in movies is uniform and will never change, even if we make "Hollywood" more diverse and people are able to tell different kinds of stories and depict life and love and sexuality in different ways.

Have you considered writing your own screenplays, painting your own canvases, writing your own books? We live in a society in which people are able to tell whatever stories they like.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 12:20 PM on April 24, 2013


Speaking of the rare movies that attempt to portray real human relationships ...

The actor who plays Georges in Amour is 82, while the actress who plays Anne is 85.

TOTAL COUGAR.
posted by dgaicun at 12:22 PM on April 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


It is stupid to argue about art catering to public taste as "sexist".

Well, unless of course the public taste itself is sexist.


You want to decide what the public taste should be? How would you react to someone telling you what to like, whom to find attractive?
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 12:22 PM on April 24, 2013


A less flip response: Because older man/younger woman movies are so abundant, no one questions the relationship as a reason for success or failure. But when an age-appropriate/older woman is the love interest, if it fails, that (according to many) has to be the reason. It will never be the writing/directing/marketing/other aspect of the movie. It will be read as "people do not want to see older women."
posted by troika at 12:24 PM on April 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


How would you react to someone telling you what to like, whom to find attractive?

We're all already responding to cues culture, society and media are telling us about what to like and whom to find attractive.
posted by sweetkid at 12:24 PM on April 24, 2013


esprit de l'escalier: " How would you react to someone telling you what to like, whom to find attractive?"

Man, that happens all the time, both on MetaFilter and in real life. Not a big deal so far.
posted by Bugbread at 12:25 PM on April 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


How would you react to someone telling you what to like, whom to find attractive?

We're all already responding to cues culture, society and media are telling us about what to like and whom to find attractive.


I understand that that's your hypothesis. I see it as the other way around. Since I see myself as a progenitor of culture and desire, I see my taste in art as a priori to the art itself.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 12:30 PM on April 24, 2013


If more people wanted to see 50-year-old leading women, Hollywood would dutifully make it so.

But people do want to see 50-year-old leading women. All those Nancy Meyer movies where Meryl Streep has her choice of dudes rake it in hand over fist. Helen Mirren can absolutely carry a movie. People are STILL TALKING about how great Rene Russo was in this one kinda forgettable movie in the 90's, or Jamie Lee Curtis's turn in True Lies from literally almost 20 years ago. If you say "Mrs. Robinson" people IMMEDIATELY know what you're referring to.

In a different world, this would all be categorical PROOF that what Americans want to see is hot middle aged women.

Meanwhile women are expected to sit back and accept aging movie idols like Richard Gere and Alec Baldwin. Nobody is terribly concerned that female moviegoers don't have enough eye candy.

The main issue here is that, for a variety of reasons, the demographic the studios want the most is 18-30 year old men. That demographic doesn't much care how old a leading man is, but DEMANDS that all movies feature a critical mass of hot chicks and explosions.

The reason for this stuff is really and truly based on the way that Hollywood looks at audiences and the assumptions studio executives make about what those audiences want to see. Some of which is based on numbers and solid research, but some of which is not.
posted by Sara C. at 12:31 PM on April 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


You want to decide what the public taste should be? How would you react to someone telling you what to like, whom to find attractive?

Right? Why is Hollywood telling me that I should be gunning for men my father's age, and that I'd damn well better find one in the next 10-15 years, before I turn into a hunched old crone?

or does your criticism only apply to people who are critiquing the dominant culture?
posted by kagredon at 12:31 PM on April 24, 2013 [11 favorites]


esprit de l'escalier: “It's not that reality imitates art, but rather that people watch what they want to watch. If more people wanted to see 50-year-old leading women, Hollywood would dutifully make it so. It is stupid to argue about art catering to public taste as 'sexist': De gustibus non est disputandum.”

You do realize that you just argued that there's no such thing as sexism, right? Nothing is truly sexist; it's merely supplying the market's desire for sexist things, and since that's just desire it is (apparently) beyond moral categories.

sweetkid: “We're all already responding to cues culture, society and media are telling us about what to like and whom to find attractive.”

esprit de l'escalier: “I understand that that's your hypothesis. I see it as the other way around. Since I see myself as a progenitor of culture and desire, I see my taste in art as a priori to the art itself.”

This is an odd and interesting assertion. You see your taste in art as a priori to the art itself; that's well and good, but what is a priori to your desire? Are you really saying you are the conscious progenitor of your own desire? That you contemplated the subject for a while and said to yourself: 'I will desire tall men who are slightly cloying, men who have facial hair and dirty toenails, because that specifically is the most rational thing to desire'? On what basis did you decide what to desire? Have you honestly never had a hitherto-unthought desire, a desire that didn't conform to what you chose to desire but rather sprang from you without you knowing how or why?

Or to put it more simply, I guess: if you really choose what you desire – how do you choose? How is it not the case that you choose to desire what you desire to desire?

The notion that desires are shaped by experiences and by media is a little disconcerting, yes, but I think it's a notion we have to contemplate if we're going to come at this thing honestly.
posted by koeselitz at 12:42 PM on April 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Have you considered writing your own screenplays, painting your own canvases, writing your own books? We live in a society in which people are able to tell whatever stories they like.

Look, I get what you're saying here. But in the context of this particular conversation, it isn't a particularly useful sentiment.

The studio system is awful. Many of the films distributed in mainstream American theaters are awful -- racist, sexist, facile, violent in all the wrong ways, take your pick -- and that's part of why I don't personally watch very many of them anymore.

I am super excited that cheaper equipment and near-ubiquitous high-speed internet are enabling small groups of individuals -- operating OUTSIDE that shitty system -- to make good movies and put them out there for people to watch. In my perfect world, this trend will continue until film and television look a lot more like music and publishing, in terms of the ability of independents to make and (effectively) distribute awesome content.

But we're not there yet. Huge, powerful companies are spending millions of dollars to try and keep us from ever getting there. Honestly, even with music and publishing, those giant companies still control the majority of what most people consume. It's really, really hard to shout loud enough to be heard when you're just one person, let alone one person doing a different thing from the norm.

So telling people that if they don't like the media they should just go out and make their own...well, I mean yes. Yes we should. But it's hard. It's really hard -- hard to make things without any infrastructure to support you, hard to find talented collaborators who can afford to help you for little or no compensation, hard to win an audience when you don't already have one in place, hard to hold people's attention once you have it, man, ALL OF IT is so hard. Hard in a way that being a cog in the entertainment machine is not. And almost definitely unpaid.

Meanwhile, we still have to live in a world where we're surrounded by shitty mainstream media all of the time, in ways we often can't avoid unless we stay inside all day with the TV off and only a select few websites loaded on our computers. And for a lot of us, by the time we're even old enough to see just how terrible that media is, the damage is already done. We've learned the awful lessons, we've internalized the loathing, and we'll be actively pushing back against that shit for a long time -- in ourselves, and in the people around us.

So I think it's pretty fair that a few of us, in this little corner of an internet forum, want to talk about how that shitty mainstream media has made us feel over the years that we've consumed it.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 12:43 PM on April 24, 2013 [20 favorites]


Also, I would write a whole thing about how irritating I find it that "sexiness" is always at the center of these conversations -- Of course it's okay to have an older woman in a film, as long as she's hot!!!! -- but I realize that I'm way way in minority on that issue.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 12:49 PM on April 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Why is Hollywood telling me that I should be gunning for men my father's age, and that I'd damn well better find one in the next 10-15 years, before I turn into a hunched old crone?

Let's be fair, now. Hollywood isn't telling you that you should be gunning for men your father's age. It's telling you that, when you're your father's age, you should look like you're young enough to be your own granddaughter.
posted by The World Famous at 12:56 PM on April 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Have you considered writing your own screenplays, painting your own canvases, writing your own books? We live in a society in which people are able to tell whatever stories they like.

Here's the problem with this, and most likely the reason that this is such a problem in Hollywood and to an extent on TV but not really so much in other media.

Film and television are collaborative media that are still VERY expensive to produce and distribute.

You can't just decide to go out and make a feature film. I work in film and TV, have the requisite skills to produce my own stuff, and yet still, the pilot episode of the web series I want to make is going to easily cost $1000. The whole 6-episode season will probably cost about $5000. These are not amounts of money I personally have sitting around, so I'll have to convince other people to give me money.

Now, for $5000 I can probably make a web series that corresponds to my vision of the world, because I really only need to find 100 people to each give me $50. I can probably find 100 people who agree with my vision of the world who have $50.

But what if I want to make a big feature film with name actors and special effects and stuff? Suddenly I don't need 100 people who each have $50. I need millions of dollars. Which means I either need a few extremely wealthy people who are excited about my vision to the tune of millions, or I need a big company that sees my vision as a profitable investment.

Once you start going to big companies, they're going to start thinking along Hollywood's lines. Because there's a lot of money on the line, and a lot of risk, and the goal now isn't to put my cool feminist vision out there for likeminded people, it's to make as much money as possible.

The only way to beat this is to change Hollywood, not for people like us to sit around writing neat-o feminist screenplays and feeling sad when they never turn into big Hollywood movies.
posted by Sara C. at 1:00 PM on April 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


(Also I find the assumption that people here AREN'T writing our own screenplays laughable.)
posted by Sara C. at 1:02 PM on April 24, 2013 [9 favorites]


"I understand that that's your hypothesis. I see it as the other way around. Since I see myself as a progenitor of culture and desire, I see my taste in art as a priori to the art itself."

Ah, since you believe an egotistical fiction, advertising must not exist (or can only exist after you're decided to desire the product).

It's an interesting thought experiment, but completely unbound from any norms of media experience.
posted by klangklangston at 1:17 PM on April 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


European cinema is generally not as bad as Hollywood when it comes to this kind of thing, but I remember watching the French film Tell No One a few years ago, in which the central characters are a middle-aged husband and wife who've been sweethearts since they were twelve. The husband has a POV flashback of being led through a flower-lined path by his then-adolescent wife. However, there's a fifteen year difference between the actors playing husband and wife, François Cluzet and Marie-Josée Croze—and he really does look 15-20 years older than her—so when I watch that POV shot, all I can think of is that if the camera panned in his direction you'd see him, a twenty-seven year-old man, holding hands romantically with twelve year old girl. Totally weird.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 1:26 PM on April 24, 2013


(Also I find the assumption that people here AREN'T writing our own screenplays laughable.)

I'm a pretty successful playwright with my own theater company. I try to be as sensitive as possible to these issues. But, man, I'd say my influence on all this is the equivalent of throwing an aspirin in the Grand Canyon.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:32 PM on April 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


All assertions that logic precedes emotion are not supported by any experience I have had. Do you reason about why someone is wonderful before you fall in love, or discover the logic to fit your emotions after?

The way you change desire is by sharing experience, never logic. Shared experience is transformative and this is the basis of advertising and flirting.

The failure is not a failure of censoring the rest of the world that inundates us with a discordant culture. It is a failure of the meek to sing their lives convincingly. There is a cultural war and the winners cannot be blamed for their pretty voices.

However, I believe that just as the arc of history bends towards justice, the arc of culture bends towards authenticity. In the long run, people consume what agrees with them best.

I wish you artists the best of luck with your screenplays.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 1:39 PM on April 24, 2013


Well, yeah, because unfortunately it's not the creatives who can really drive this change. Obviously having creatives who are more diverse, and who want to tell different kinds of stories, and who have more progressive values is a great thing.

But if there's a barrier to those creatives' projects being made, what you have to change is the gatekeepers of that barrier.

(I also think it's problematic that the vast majority of people who want to work for studios are safe corporate-minded types who don't critically evaluate the content their industry produces, which is probably how we got here. Very few people who want to run studios care whether the way studios do business is bad for women.)
posted by Sara C. at 1:40 PM on April 24, 2013


I'm just ready to boycott hollywood. I want to see movies where there are cute (by that I mean sweet) old people loving each other, little old ladies with wrinkles baking things and hugging people, old men smiling and having relationship, people with no makeup just being themselves, and film that portrays a huge range of human experience in it's most simple and exquisitely complicated forms.

If we could just take all the fashion out of movies for a while that would be great, it's just gotten gross and I think corrupted our vision of true beauty in humans. It doesn't even manifest happiness for the hollywood stars who are prone to addiction and failed relationships.

Humans are not meant to measured by their hip to waist ratio this way. We are so much more.

I was watching this old reading rainbow episode the other day with all these kids in their geeky 80's clothes, NO MAKEUP, being themselves and just contrasting that to iCarly or any and EVERY of these shows where these kids (girls) are covered in makeup female oriented fashion in order to be a lead of any kind. It's horrible. What are we teaching our young people with this shit?

Females don't exist to provide sexual entertainment. We erase them when they don't, so all the women scramble to do so, but if we deliberately STOPPED allowing our urge to see hotness dictate our choices we might make the space for normal human beings to share their stories and experiences and artistic creations in art and media- as themselves not covered in makeup or through the acting of people who fit a stereotype of appearance.
posted by xarnop at 1:42 PM on April 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Can I add "creatives," to the list of words I don't like? What does that make the rest of us, "destructives?"
posted by jonmc at 1:42 PM on April 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


jonmc: "What does that make the rest of us, "destructives?""

Critics, one would presume.
posted by Bugbread at 1:44 PM on April 24, 2013


Can I add "creatives," to the list of words I don't like?

No, it's just an industry term. I mean you can not like it but, it's just a word and a pretty common term, not pretension on anyone's part or some sort of in-group marker. I think taking it personally is a little strange.
posted by sweetkid at 1:46 PM on April 24, 2013


Since I see myself as a progenitor of culture and desire, I see my taste in art as a priori to the art itself.

What was your taste in art like before you knew anything about art?
posted by octobersurprise at 1:47 PM on April 24, 2013


No he can't add that to the list of words he doesn't like?
posted by ODiV at 1:48 PM on April 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


What was your taste in art like before you knew anything about art?

If an EP is released and no one visits your tumblr to listen to it, does it still sound derivative?
posted by griphus at 1:48 PM on April 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


esprit de l'escalier: “There is a cultural war and the winners cannot be blamed for their pretty voices.”

You think Michael Bay got where he got because he has a pretty voice?
posted by koeselitz at 1:49 PM on April 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


yeah, seriously. Also who exactly are the "meek?"
posted by sweetkid at 1:52 PM on April 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm the meek, because I haven't made an independent feminist film!

...even though I work in comics...!

Although seriously, this all feels super "bootstrappy" to me. Like, if I can't make myself heard as well as a Hollywood film can, then I'm the one who just didn't try hard enough or just didn't have a sufficiently compelling thing to say.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 1:56 PM on April 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


Being meek is responding to the torrent of culture by accommodating it. I chose the word because of the biblical admonition to be meek to one's own conscience despite temptation.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 1:57 PM on April 24, 2013


Can I add "creatives," to the list of words I don't like? What does that make the rest of us, "destructives?"

It's like using the term talent to describe people who appear in front of the camera for a living. Not all talent are talented and not all talented are talent.
posted by Room 641-A at 2:01 PM on April 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I do think that often stupid and silly and intellectually void media is easier on the psyche. All the people are pretty, everything is ultimately ok-- a lot of the popular media is that way because it's the easiest stuff available to watch.

Just because I like a little more intellect doesn't mean I like drama or misery in my media. I would like to be able to find silly, happy, sweet, and easy on the psyche that's not SO sexist, stupid, and literally anti-intellectual thought or reflection.

I have a hard life and lot of pain- I feel like indie media often asks me to look at more pain in order to grow like I haven't looked enough, I know all about pain. It's hard to find indie media that produces the same kind of gentle easy to digest entertainment that hollywood does so well.

I do believe that wha we cultivate as consumers can help it grow because I know there are plenty of small time producers who like making that kind of thing but don't have much of a shot as it is. Indie media tends to have to be emotionally compelling or extremely witty to make it to film festivals or larger public audiences in order to compete with hollywood. I think there could be room for some more gentle and lighthearted creations to become more popular.

Without the sexism and erasure of people with diverse appearances/ages from meaningful and lead roles.
posted by xarnop at 2:05 PM on April 24, 2013


If the meek are supposed to inherit the earth, there's going to be one hell of a probate dispute, is all I'm saying.
posted by The World Famous at 2:06 PM on April 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I wrote "creatives" because screenwriters/filmmakers/directors/producers is a lot to type over and over.

In film, you have creatives, the people actually making the movies, and you have executives (which is also an imprecise term), the people who have the money and decide which movies to make.

To a large extent the actual movies that are released are the product of that duality.
posted by Sara C. at 2:07 PM on April 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


“The way you change desire is by sharing experience, never logic. Shared experience is transformative and this is the basis of advertising and flirting.”

You're claiming that desire always and only precedes what media a person consumes; you're claiming this because you want to say that the market is at fault, not media, when the media produces sexist things. And yet you say that desire is changed "by sharing experience."

How in the world is media not an experience?

“The failure is not a failure of censoring the rest of the world that inundates us with a discordant culture. It is a failure of the meek to sing their lives convincingly. There is a cultural war and the winners cannot be blamed for their pretty voices. However, I believe that just as the arc of history bends towards justice, the arc of culture bends towards authenticity. In the long run, people consume what agrees with them best. I wish you artists the best of luck with your screenplays.”

If this were true, then in our ten thousand years of culture we ought to have produced perfect commensurabilty with desire by this point, and we wouldn't even be having this debate. But desire ebbs and flows; people engage in this cycle, desiring, then having their desires shaped by media and experience, then having those desires quenched by media and experience.

I'll try to be direct and clear: human beings are not perfect, and they often want terrible things that are not good for them. It is easy for media – for artists and writers, for those who create – to satisfy this desire for terrible, unhealthy things. It is easy for them to shape it and mold it so that they can keep satisfying it in order to keep producing net income for themselves. It is also possible for artists and writers and those who create to bend their efforts toward helping people feel and desire what is good, what is healthy, what is true.

Art has moral value. It is not wrong for us to discuss whether art does or does not meet rational standards for moral worth. It is not wrong for us to say "this art is sexist" or "this art encourages sexist tropes." It is okay for us to discuss art and evaluate it.
posted by koeselitz at 2:09 PM on April 24, 2013


esprit de l'escalier: "Being meek is responding to the torrent of culture by accommodating it."

...Man, I'm confused. First, you were saying people shouldn't complain about media depictions, because the media is providing what people want, and now you're saying that people should complain about the media instead of accommodating it?
posted by Bugbread at 2:09 PM on April 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


If the meek are supposed to inherit the earth…

The meek that inherit the earth are "meek to their conscience" not meek towards others. And this is my point about culture. Be authentic and sing your life (any fool can think of words that rhyme) and you will inherit the earth.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 2:11 PM on April 24, 2013


...Man, I'm confused. First, you were saying people shouldn't complain about media depictions, because the media is providing what people want, and now you're saying that people should complain about the media instead of accommodating it?

and

Art has moral value. It is not wrong for us to discuss whether art does or does not meet rational standards for moral worth. It is not wrong for us to say "this art is sexist" or "this art encourages sexist tropes." It is okay for us to discuss art and evaluate it.

I'm saying that complaining is pointless censorship. Make your own art and sell it.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 2:12 PM on April 24, 2013


Complaining is censorship? So talking about art at all is forbidden, because it is censorship? Is it not possible to see the irony in this?
posted by koeselitz at 2:13 PM on April 24, 2013 [10 favorites]


esprit de l'escalier: "I'm saying that complaining is pointless censorship."

You don't like people to complain?

That is...you are complaining about us complaining?

Fortunately, I don't consider complaining to be censorship, or I'd be mighty offended that you're censoring me.
posted by Bugbread at 2:16 PM on April 24, 2013


Also I don't have any money at all to spend on film, so I can only support was is available for free or at the library or on my parents cable when I visit. Home and garden channel! It's hard to support diversity when you don't have money as a consumer to reward those who make good products. And it's hard to make art when you have zero dollars to produce it. Many people with compelling ideas just don't have access to the resources to produce on the scale that hollywood does.

I would say that being an authentic and ethical person often leads to financial and emotional ruin. It is not actually a thing that is innately rewarded in the real world. You have to be cunning, extremely skilled, and have good business sense to make money and career as an artist as well as have access to both SPARE TIME and money for supplies.

The idea that being meek will translate to good things happening to you in the real world is a horrific lie that no one should be told ever (in my personal experience.) Having a golden heart does not put food on the table or a roof over your head, damn it would be awesome if it did. I'm SO AUTHENTIC! Where is my recognition and money and funding to produce cool things I want to produce and sell??
posted by xarnop at 2:17 PM on April 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


just contrasting that to iCarly or any and EVERY of these shows where these kids (girls) are covered in makeup female oriented fashion in order to be a lead of any kind

I feel like maybe you've actually never seen iCarly if you are calling it out as some kind of makeup-smeared, teeny-beskirted Bratz analogue.
posted by elizardbits at 2:19 PM on April 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


No I think it's a good show, but yes they wear too much make up and it bothers me that every show involves the females in heavily gendered makeup and fashion and the guys in casual regular clothes.
posted by xarnop at 2:21 PM on April 24, 2013


Are we talking about the same show? With Sam who has twice so far worn anything other than cargo pants or jeans?
posted by elizardbits at 2:21 PM on April 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Complaining is censorship? So talking about art at all is forbidden, because it is censorship? Is it not possible to see the irony in this?

I assume this entire series of comments is in itself some sort of performance art, tbh.
posted by elizardbits at 2:22 PM on April 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


How long do you think it takes to do that kind of hair style she has? The fact that you find her character to be "low key" is exactly the point of how extensive the problem is.
posted by xarnop at 2:23 PM on April 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


(I'm not sure what term you would use in place of low key but really, she's wearing a lot of makeup and fashion compared to what the guys wear in the same show)
posted by xarnop at 2:24 PM on April 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I hate this derail and deeply regret ever initiating it.
posted by elizardbits at 2:25 PM on April 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Also, like, who says we're done innovating or testing what the dominant culture will accept? It's a gradual process. We used to have black people only as super offensive stereotypes in service roles in film, and that changed (mostly). We used to have white people in brownface saying "How!"and thinking that should read "Native Americans," and that changed (mostly). People used to tell me "no one wants to look at Indian people on TV, that's why they're not there, it's not what America finds attractive/interesting," which, yuck, but we have Aziz Ansari on Parks and Rec and Mindy Kaling has her own damn show.

Having these kinds of differences in play will make them more acceptable and absorbed in dominant culture, and therefore liked by people who readily absorb that culture, which is most of us.
posted by sweetkid at 2:26 PM on April 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


We're arguing about whether or not the lead character of iCarly can accurately be described as "low key" and whether that female television character wears a lot of makeup and fashion compared to what the guys wear in the same show. People. PEOPLE.
posted by The World Famous at 2:27 PM on April 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm just disappointed with the whole nick teen establishment because I would like a lot of shows if they would shake up how much make up and stereotypically attractive the casting works. I think we've gotten to wear we can't imagine watching a female not in make up, and not conventionally attractive being a lead, period. And that is gross. Teens are really vulnerable to learning how to get attention and what makes them valuable in the world and that's why the portrayals in teen media are especially hideous to me in how innocuously they portray ONLY attractive, slim females in make-up and hip clothes as leads.

iCarly exists within that spectrum but I agree the discussion is a derail and like the show otherwise.
posted by xarnop at 2:33 PM on April 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


This probably isn't helping, but I don't think this thread is complete without a mention of Marisa Tomei in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (a revelation, a full five years older than her leading man and hotter than hell)
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 2:35 PM on April 24, 2013


No I think it's a good show, but yes they wear too much make up and it bothers me that every show involves the females in heavily gendered makeup and fashion and the guys in casual regular clothes.

I see what you're saying, but I try to let other people's fashion choices be their own business. I mean, I dress like a preppy villain from an 80s frat comedy, so I'm not ready to have them turn their critical attention on me.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:37 PM on April 24, 2013


Yeah but that's way loaded bunnyultramod, these are not individuals fashion choices but the choices decided on by executives to sell a show.

And the entire enterprise features ONLY women with gender stereotypical wardrobes, visible make-up and selects for standards of appearance not average in the population. I don't care what individuals want to wear, I care that the media is portraying the only females worth looking at the lives of are females dressed up and conventionally attractive. The standard is not present for males in the same shows who are allowed to be casual and a broader range of appearances.
posted by xarnop at 2:40 PM on April 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah but that's way loaded bunnyultramod, these are not individuals fashion choices but the choices decided on by executives to sell a show.

That's a good point.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:42 PM on April 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


And the entire enterprise features ONLY women with gender stereotypical wardrobes

You are incorrect, which was my entire point to begin with. Sam (not Carly/Miranda Cosgrove), the second female lead, is a tomboy. Her style on the show is very similar to Spencer's (Carly's older brother) style. You are literally making things up to prove a point that no one would argue with otherwise, presumably that there is no good reason for shows aimed at young preteen girls to have a makeup & typically girly fashion agenda.
posted by elizardbits at 2:45 PM on April 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh snap.
posted by The World Famous at 2:49 PM on April 24, 2013


I've been watching old episodes of Star Trek on Netflix in HD, and guys, let me tell you, we are NEVER going to be in a reality where people on TV are not wearing a lot of makeup.
posted by Sara C. at 2:52 PM on April 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I guess as a person who wears no make up and doesn't do my hair any specific way, maybe I see things differently than you, but I appreciate you have a different perspective and don't notice the absence of females without without makeup in hollywood or teen media as a problem. I think "making things up" is getting a bit loaded and reflective of an emotional reaction on your part as well, but we all have our own perception.
posted by xarnop at 2:57 PM on April 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


In general, while I wish we lived in some kind of utopia where people of all kinds were actors on TV, I'm pretty OK with the notion that most people on TV are good-looking, and that said people are likely to conform to traditional ideas about gendered clothing choices. That's not a hill I'm particularly interested in dying on.
posted by Sara C. at 2:58 PM on April 24, 2013


I mean, we can debate the upper level of how old you can be and still be "attractive" (and likewise how fat, how short/tall, how "ethnic", how "queer" etc). Those are metrics that are really worth thinking about and fighting for Hollywood to be inclusive and more reflective of the real world.

And we can fight to tell all kinds of stories. I'd love to see a show like iCarly, but with teens that are in various places on the gender-nonconforming spectrum.

But at the end of the day, I've made my peace with the idea that the chubby genderqueer Latino/a star of this hypothetical show is probably going to be really pretty, and they're probably going to have this person wear makeup for camera, and they're probably going to costume this person in the latest fashions for what people of that gender identity typically wear. Because while we can debate whether audiences want to see a show about a genderqueer Latin-American teen, we can't really debate whether audiences want to see pretty people surrounded by shiny things. Because we know that they do.
posted by Sara C. at 3:04 PM on April 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


In general, while I wish we lived in some kind of utopia where people of all kinds were actors on TV, I'm pretty OK with the notion that most people on TV are good-looking, and that said people are likely to conform to traditional ideas about gendered clothing choices. That's not a hill I'm particularly interested in dying on.

I think we could make an effort in North America to at least show as much variety in age/appearance as British TV. They have tons of commercially successful tv with more kinds than we do over here. I think it does help that they have a very powerful public broadcaster which sets a standard that the commercial broadcasters feel some pressure to compete against.
posted by jb at 3:08 PM on April 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have LONG felt that way.

Frankly, the reason Helen Mirren is around to win Oscars and be gorgeous is because of Prime Suspect, wherein she was styled as pretty much normal looking.

But that's kind of the thing. About the best we can really hope for is an honest and empowering TV show about a middle aged female cop who wears workplace appropriate clothing and dates men roughly her own age -- and, still, the star of that show is going to be attractive on par with Helen Mirren.
posted by Sara C. at 3:16 PM on April 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


For people who've never actually seen Prime Suspect,

a Google Image Search
posted by Sara C. at 3:18 PM on April 24, 2013


(It's also interesting if you've seen the whole series and can notice that she got progressively more glam as the 80's turned into the 2000's -- in the last series she's the smokin' hot Helen Mirren Americans are familiar with.)
posted by Sara C. at 3:20 PM on April 24, 2013


Because while we can debate whether audiences want to see a show about a genderqueer Latin-American teen, we can't really debate whether audiences want to see pretty people surrounded by shiny things. Because we know that they do.

In my experience, the genderqueer Latin American teen is a fan of the show about pretty people surrounded by shiny things. Although, TV being what it is these days, the main networks will matter less and less and eventually they'll be a show for every microdemographic in the world. I'll still be searching for reruns of Car 54 Where Are You?, no matter what.
posted by jonmc at 4:38 PM on April 24, 2013


jonmc: "Although, TV being what it is these days, the main networks will matter less and less and eventually they'll be a show for every microdemographic in the world."

I wish. Back in the day, they rolled out television networks which specialized in only science fiction, or only history, or only science. It was a brand new day of niche marketing. Have you seen what they show on Syfy, the History Channel, Discovery, etc. nowadays?
posted by Bugbread at 4:59 PM on April 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Have you seen what they show on Syfy, the History Channel, Discovery, etc. nowadays?

I told you, I'm to busy looking for Car 54 Where are you?
posted by jonmc at 5:15 PM on April 24, 2013


jonmc: "I told you, I'm to busy looking for Car 54 Where are you?"

See, there you go. Used to be as easy as turning on Nick at Nite, but I'm guessing that's gone, too?
posted by Bugbread at 5:20 PM on April 24, 2013


I told you, I'm to busy looking for Car 54 Where are you?

I've noticed there are a few new-ish independent channels that seem to be targeting boomers and Gen-Xers with nothing but re-runs, from Father Knows Best and Dennis the Menace to Adam-12 and Good Times. I propose "Friday Night Engine Block" with Car 54 Where Are You?, My Mother The Car, Speed Racer and Knight Rider.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:02 PM on April 24, 2013


I'll still be searching for reruns of Car 54 Where Are You?, no matter what.

Now I want to see a show called Where Are You Car 54 Where Are You?
posted by octobersurprise at 6:28 PM on April 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


But at the end of the day, I've made my peace with the idea that the chubby genderqueer Latino/a star of this hypothetical show is probably going to be really pretty, and they're probably going to have this person wear makeup for camera, and they're probably going to costume this person in the latest fashions for what people of that gender identity typically wear. Because while we can debate whether audiences want to see a show about a genderqueer Latin-American teen, we can't really debate whether audiences want to see pretty people surrounded by shiny things. Because we know that they do.

The cis but definitely gender-bending character Kurt Hummel on Glee is extremely popular - and he didn't start off as attractive (what with looking 12), and his clothes, while high fashion, are certainly not popular fashion for anyone (and he's had some real duds, especially the Sunset Boulevard/Yasser Arafat ensemble). Sometimes being different is a strength - it makes a character more memorable.

I think that if you give people good writing, interesting plots and compelling characters and acting, they will follow you. Roseanne Barr was never conventionally attractive, neither is John Goodman - and both anchored a sitcom that lasted years - and it lasted because it was smarter and better acted than most sitcoms out at the time.

But maybe I'm weird. I always liked the British mode better than the American. Torchwood: Miracle Day even subtly made fun of how American TV dresses and presents women - all of the American characters were in ridiculous heels, even when they were supposed to be working, on their feet all day, etc (like an ER doctor in 3 inch heels? crazy). And the British character complains as soon as she's put in them.
posted by jb at 6:54 PM on April 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


xarnop, I've spent entirely too much time in focus groups with the iCarly demographic and believe it or not tween girls overwhelmingly want to see done up fashion forward versions of themselves. The most repeated sentiment is that they can see other girls in hoodies and jeans at school or by looking in the mirror. They don't want Miley Cyrus, they want Hannah Montana. I'm not implying that they're shallow or stupid or not open to tomboy sidekicks - it's just that when they watch these exact types of series they're searching for a fantasy that's basically obtainable by spending an afternoon in Forever 21 or with a straightening iron.

I don't know why. Maybe for the same reason my grandparents liked to watch polka on Lawrence Welk. Something you can't see on the street corner. Unless you live on a weird-ass street.
posted by last night a dj saved my life at 7:09 PM on April 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


and he didn't start off as attractive (what with looking 12), and his clothes, while high fashion, are certainly not popular fashion for anyone (and he's had some real duds, especially the Sunset Boulevard/Yasser Arafat ensemble)

I don't think you understand what I mean when I say that popular media will always be dominated by pretty people and shiny things.
posted by Sara C. at 7:16 PM on April 24, 2013


"I told you, I'm to busy looking for Car 54 Where are you?"

It's on MeTV, which is where I get my Rockford Files fix.
posted by klangklangston at 7:17 PM on April 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think that if you give people good writing, interesting plots and compelling characters and acting, they will follow you.

Unfortunately, TV shows are hardly given a chance to succeed anymore by gaining a following. TV shows used to get a full season -- 13 episodes -- to gain traction. Now they are sometimes cancelled after one or two episodes! They also used to have the opportunity to capture audiences from a successful lead-in. It's doubtful Seinfeld would have ever survived without the Cheers audience sticking around. Throw in time-shifting and it becomes very difficult to have a successful series.

Luckily there are a few networks like AMC and F/X who are willing to stand by quality programming, but it's still a rough slog. After four critically-acclaimed (and Emmy-winning) seasons I still don't know anyone who watches Justified, yet it has been picked up for a fifth season. As The Americans wraps it's first season I have a sense that it may become a break-out, but either way there will be a second season. But for every Breaking Bad or Walking Dead there are a ton of great shows that won't make it.

As a sidenote, not only is The Americans a fantastic show, it has smart, powerful, and extremely complex female characters.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:28 PM on April 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Roseanne Barr was never conventionally attractive, neither is John Goodman

Roseanne is cute, and funny as hell (which most men find attractive) and many women I know find John Goodman attractive both for his style and looks.
posted by jonmc at 7:58 PM on April 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I think it's worth noting that even the "unattractive" people on TV are, well, pretty attractive.

And they wear makeup.

And wear clothes chosen and tailored to flatter them.

This is not something that is realistically going away.
posted by Sara C. at 8:22 PM on April 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've added to mountmccabe's chart of leading female actors compared to their male leads:

- Susan Sarandon, on average only 1 year younger than her co-stars
- Michelle Pfeiffer, 11 years younger than her co-stars
posted by crossoverman at 4:47 AM on April 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Rebecca Watson at Skepchick has also put some charts together for leading female actors.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 10:04 AM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


For what it's worth, I like that they sort of addressed the age discrepancy on White Collar; The somewhat weathered Tim Dekay is paired up with the still lovely Tiffani Thiessen, who is 10 years his junior. In the pilot, there's a scene where Peter looks at an old photo of them together and sighs "Oh Liz.. I got old and you didn't."

Beyond that, it doesn't come up that much on the show, and if it does, it's usually a joke at Peter's expense, or him seeking reassurance that he's not 'too old' for her.

Then again, the show's main star is Matt Bomer, who makes everyone around him look old and ugly with his weaponized pretty.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:18 AM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


The charts for females are really interesting. I wonder, though, how the number of actresses with careers long enough to chart in this manner compares with the number of actors in the same boat.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:50 AM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, but you had to go back 25 years to find an example?

Michelle Pfeiffer could still rock the catsuit at 54, if she wanted to.

She still has it in Chéri (2009) and she still had it in Dark Shadows (2012).

(Here's a fun idea for Tim Burton -- Catwoman Rises, where Selina Kyle (Pfeiffer) returns to Gotham to set off a one-woman crime-wave in retribution for Bruce Wayne's unpaid child-support! Make it the prequel for a Huntress franchise.)
posted by vhsiv at 3:30 PM on April 25, 2013


If you want real faces on TV, why aren't you watching reality TV? Not, say, the Real Housewives franchise, because those aren't real faces. But shows like Duck Dynasty and its ilk are immensely popular.
posted by gadge emeritus at 10:26 PM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


You can't really see their faces, all you can see is their beards. If I could see their faces clearly I don't think I would recognize any of them.
posted by XMLicious at 10:51 PM on April 26, 2013


One more:
Charade (1963)
Audrey Hepburn (34), Cary Grant (59)


To be fair, the movie pokes fun at the age difference.
posted by bardophile at 1:13 AM on April 27, 2013


« Older BLACK: My journey to yo-yo mastery.   |   Not safe for faces Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments