In Movies: How Much of an Age Gap is Acceptable?

Turns out, I’ve never been so insipidly annoyed. Especially when I watched Sabrina.

For one thing, Audrey Hepburn is 30 years younger than Humphrey Bogart. Their characters are somewhat detached from one another, I have no idea why I felt that way. The pull of attraction is barely there. The newer version is not making me feel better either, for Harrison Ford is 27 years older than Julie Osmond. That got me thinking, does age gap not matter in film casting?

Kristen Stewart dropped from the movie Focus alongside Will Smith, after claiming that “the feeling that the age difference between the two would be too large a gap.”– that confirms some part of my thoughts. Somehow it has been overlooked that 44-year-old being paired to a romantic interest of a 23-year-old woman. Then again, most films casting do a great number of female character be younger than their male interest. Vulture did an analysis of leading men with their films, compared their ages at the time with their female counterparts, and the results are quite interesting.

Interesting because most film allows the male character to be older, while the aging part does not apply to female characters. It is like the unwritten rule of casting, that women are not to look older and wrinkly than a man. Staggeringly from the analysis Vulture did back in 2013, male characters age while their female love interest does not. Even more so, the oldest men on their list (Liam Neeson, Richard Gere, Harrison Ford all above the age of 60) have had few romantic pairings with a woman their own age or even one out of her mid-thirties.

Came up from the EveningStandard of November last year, regarding this issue,”Reese Witherspoon paid tribute to fellow actress Amy Schumer. Witherspoon said if a Schumer biopic is made she wants in. But there is one problem, Witherspoon, 39, told the audience at the Glamour Women of the Year awards: ‘Amy, I’m five years older than you, so I’ll probably have to play your grandmother in the movie, by Hollywood standards, and you’ll have to play your own mother.’” Even Maggie Gyllenhaal claimed herself to be too old to play alongside a 55-year-old man, though she is only 37 years old.

It is somewhat odd, that the perception has been too deep into the culture of film-making that it has set an unwritten standards among these women. Film producer Stephen Follows (quoted from EveningStandard) says: “The age gap matters because films are a major part of our culture and inform how we think about the world. Movies are so pervasive, it’s impossible that they don’t have an effect on what we consider an age-appropriate relationship. The first place that many children see relationships that aren’t between their parents is on screen.” It is a really pervasive medium indeed, very pervasive that somehow it has made itself okay with placing a 20-something year old woman being wooed by their counterpart of such a large gap of age.

Graphjoy did a superbly detailed statistics on age gaps in films, even compared it how much of an average age gap American couple has. Here I quote, “when the male actors are aged 0-34, they are frequently paired up on-screen with similarly-aged female actors. After the age of 35 years, though, the male actors are repeatedly paired up with significantly younger women: on average, ten years younger.” After comparing it to reality situation (with data you can access as well) they have stated that “the difference in the data distributions is big enough to confidently state that romantic character age gaps in Hollywood movies starring the leading male actors of the past 35 years do not reflect society.”

Then which society does Hollywood claimed to have represented when they do casting?

We can argue, and do analysis all day long. Age gap in films has always made an unlikely pair on screen, and we cannot do things to change it since we’re the film-goers. We watch movies to enjoy and escape, though there are some who watch it to think and analyze. But, has Hollywood sometimes compared two lead characters side-by-side and thought, “Wow, he’s old enough to be her father”?

Somehow, Hollywood defies that question and makes it work.


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