Ever notice that Hollywood movies almost never or rarely depict older women? Have you ever heard of the rule of seven? It’s the rule that says that if there is an age gap between two people, the max age gap should be at most seven. But, is this rule ever really followed? Many celebrity couples have age gaps over 10 years. Jay-Z and Beyonce (12 years), Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively (11 years), and George and Amal Clooney (17 years). In nearly all of these relationships, the man is older than the woman. The point of this article is not to shame those with age gaps, but to point out that these numbers are much higher than the average, as 77% of heterosexual couples in 2012 had ages within 5 years of each other. Why might this be? One theory is that older women are often not represented in media and therefore are less likely to marry someone who is famous. Another reason is that women feel more pressure to marry early, while men are not judged for the age at which they marry, and therefore wait longer before they do so.
Often, once women look over 40, they stop being cast for movies unless the role specifically asks for that age. The only way older women get cast is if they began their careers as young women. Take Jennifer Lopez. She continues to get cast in movies despite her age because she can appear to be 30 and has been a star for many years.
How come men become wise, all-knowing wizards but women become haggard old witches? According to a New York Times article, “It is, of course, the chronic coupling of older men with much younger women that most bestows on aging male actors the aura of invincibility.” When older male actors are coupled with young women, it is a sign of the man’s status and good looks, whereas when older women are portrayed with young men, it is typically the topic of the film or a running joke. The previously mentioned article also comments on the fact that women skip the “awkward” middle-age years and are chosen for much older characters. That means that a woman plays characters in their 20s until she is around 40, and then only a few years later is put in roles of grandmothers or parental figures and teachers. This reinforces the idea that once women begin to show signs of aging, they are not considered attractive or able to pursue new romantic relationships. That is unless that conversation alone is the topic of the film.
So, the next time you watch a movie or and award’s show, ask yourself: is the average man older than the average woman here? Why is that? If the women are older, how are they portrayed? Would old men be portrayed the same way?
By Noucheng Thao and Veronika Souzek