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Recently a friend and I were discussing films, most specifically the age difference between men and women actors whose characters are romantically/sexually interested in one another (so hetero pairings). My friend, who watches a lot of old, old films, espoused the opinion that modern films are egalitarian in their casting. I disagreed.
So, out of curiosity, I conduced a very nonscientific* experiment where I consulted a smattering of films released in 2012 via IMDB,com and consulted the ages of the players I knew to be romantically/sexually linked in the films. Emphasis is noted on an age difference of more than 5 years.
Skyfall: James Bond/Daniel Craig - 1968 Eve Moneypenny/Naomie Harris (sexual tension) - 1976 Severine/Berenice Marlohe (sex in the shower w/ Bond) - 1979
Flight: [note: didn't include the ex-wife, but it wouldn't have helped the case; she's much younger too] Whip Whitaker/Denzel Washington - 1945 Katerina Marquez/Nadine Velaquez (sex partner in film's opening scene) - 1978 Nicole/Kelly Reilly (Love interest and sex partner later in the film) - 1977
Argo: Tony Mendez/Ben Affleck - 1972 Christine Mendez/Taylor Schilling - 1984 (only seen in one scene, at the end)
The Amazing Spider Man: Peter Parker/Andrew Garfield - 1983 Gwen Stacy/Emma Stone - 1988
The Avengers: [note: Even though there is technically no hanky-panky, I wanted to include The Avengers to show the broad age range (and quantity) of the male characters as compared to the female, and the again, highlight age differentials] Iron Man/Robert Downey Jr - 1965 Capt America/Chris Evans - 1981 The Hulk/Mark Ruffalo - 1967 Thor/Chris Hemsworth - 1983 Black Widow/Scarlett Johansson - 1984 Hawkeye/Jeremy Renner - 1971 Agent Maria Hill/Cobie Smulders (just to throw another woman in) - 1982
Silver Linings Playbook: Pat/Bradley Cooper - 1975 Tiffany/Jennifer Lawrence - 1990
The Five-Year Engagement: Tom Solomon/Jason Segel - 1980 Violet Barnes/Emily Blunt - 1983
The Vow: Paige/Rachel McAdams - 1978 Leo/Channing Tatum - 1980
This Means War: Laren/Reese Witherspoon - 1976 FDR Foster/Chris Pine - 1980 Tuck/Chris Hardy - 1977
Arbitrage: Robert Miller/Richard Gere - 1949 Ellen Miller/Susan Sarandon - 1946
This is 40: Pete/Paul Rudd - 1969 Debbie/Leslie Mann - 1972
Hope Springs: Kay/Meryl Streep - 1949 Arnold/Tommy Lee Jones - 1946
Playing for Keeps: Stacie/Jessica Biel (the estranged wife, son's mother) - 1982 George/Gerard Butler - 1969 Denise/Catherine Zeta-Jones (the femme fatale) - 1969
The Odd Life of Timothy Green: Cindy Green/Jennifer Garner - 1972 Jim Green/Joel Edgerton - 1974
21 films, 40 different couplings.
20 of those couplings/matches have actors within 5 years or less of each other
20 of the male/female actor pairs are 6 years or more apart in age (woo-hoo basic math)
8.325 = average year/age differential of all 40 pairs.
14.4 = average of those with a 6-plus year gap..
While my sample is far too small and limited, I'd be interested to analyze age statistics in regards to the film's target audience (both age and gender), because I suspect there is a bell curve sort of thing happening. In other words, I theorize that films with young male protagonists (20s) and/or those with older female protagonists (50s+) will have actors more closely aligned in age. Those in the middle, where character age is more elastic, will have greater discrepancies between their male and female actors, with females overwhemingly being the younger of the pair.
I have no idea if contemporary films are more egalitarian than older films, but I'm not sure that matters. The pertinent question is whether an 8+ or almost 15 year age gap between sexual/romantic partners is an accurate reflection of our society. If it's not (which it isn't), we should ascertain the reasons why Hollywood continues to perpetuate this myth, and what it says about our values regarding gender, beauty standards, and profit.
*Not only is this unscientific for the obvious reasons, it's also because I don't have intimate knowledge of EVERY film released in 2012 so I couldn't include everything.
Cristy at Living Donor 101 dot com