Sunday, November 18, 2012

Hollywood's Age-Old Age Problem



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)
Taken 2:
Bryan Mills/Liam Neeson - 1952
Lenore/Famke Janssen - 1964
Here comes the Boom:
Scott Voss/Kevin James: 1965
Bella Flores/Salma Hayek: 1966 (I'm going off the commercials that these characters get involved)

Ted:
John Bennet/Mark Wahlberg - 1971
Lori Collins/Mila Kunis - 1983

Total Recall:
Douglas Quaid/Colin Farrell - 1976
Lori Quaid/Kate Beckinsale (aka the pretend wife) - 1973
Melina/Jessica Biel (the real love interest) - 1982
Savages:
O/Blake Lively - 1987
Chon/Taylor Kitsch - 1981
Ben/Aaron Johnson - 1990
Looper:
Joe/Joseph Gordon-Levitt - 1981
Sara/Emily Blunt - 1983
Suzie/Piper Perabo - 1976
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

Rock of Ages:
Sherrie Christian/Julianna Hough - 1988
Drew Boley/Diego Boneta - 1990
Mike Whitmore/Bryan Cranston - 1956
Patricia Whitmore/Catherine Zeta-Jones - 1969
Stacee Jaxx/Tom Cruise - 1962
Constance Sack/Malin Akerman - 1978
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

Results:
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.