The Problem With Hollywood and the Age Gap

With the release of Spectre, the new James Bond movie, around the corner, Daniel Craig has been doing a lot of press to promote the film. In one of his recent interviews, he was asked about his opinions about Bond “succumbing to the charms of an older woman” – the “older woman” being Monica Bellucci – who is only four years older than him. Craig replied “I think you mean the charms of a woman his own age,” highlighting a major problem in the 007 movies: the large age gap between Bond and his female counterparts.

And the thing is – James Bond movies aren’t the only Hollywood films in which the age gap is apparent. The large disparity between the ages of lead actors and actresses romantically involved with one another has been blatant for decades, from movies like Pretty Woman, which featured an 18 year difference between Julia Roberts (23) and Richard Gere (41) to even more recent movies such Silver Linings Playbook, which displayed a 16 year age gap between Bradley Cooper (39) and Jennifer Lawrence (23).

So why is the age gap such a big problem, anyways?  For one, it’s just plain creepy and tends to solidify the idea of male dominance because the leading men are often so much older than their female counterparts. It is also ageist, because it falsely insinuates that women older than a certain age (usually around 35 to 40 in Hollywood) are no longer “acceptable” partners for their male counterparts. Recurringly throughout the history of  films, the ages of leading men have grown while their love interests stay the same age or become younger. It also perpetuates the idea that it’s totally okay for older men to make advances on women 10, 20, or even 30 years younger than them.

Take a look at these graphs from vulture.com depicting the filmography of actors, and the age of their counterparts in comparison:

At one point, Johnny Depp had a love interest 24 years (half his age) younger than him. And although the graph depicts his age up until 49, it should be noted that the oldest his love interest has ever been was 36, which is an example of the idea that women above 40 are often seen as “too old” to be a love interest in Hollywood.

In both Harrison Ford and Johnny Depp’s graph, it is clear that as their age steadily increases across the graph, their female counterparts’ ages fluctuate up and down rather than increasing parallel to theirs.

Now compare the age disparity between Jennifer Lawrence and Scarlett Johansson and their counterparts throughout their careers thus far:

More than once, Jennifer Lawrence has starred opposite Bradley Cooper, who is 15 years older than her. In American Hustle, a David O. Russell film, her counterpart was 16 years older. 

You can see in the graph above that Scarlett Johansson has been one half of some pretty disturbing relationships – at the age of sixteen, she had a 46-year-old counterpart, and at the age of 18, a love interest the age of 52. That’s crazy and, to be honest, downright gross.

This article isn’t really meant to single out certain actors or actresses in Hollywood and entirely place the blame on them – partially because they are just a few examples of a whole – nor is it meant to be condescending about relationships in which there is an age gap. But when something so impactful becomes a norm throughout a powerful field such as Hollywood, it should be addressed. Some of the contributing factors to the prominence of relationships with large age gaps probably include the people who work behind the screen: producers, casting directors, and directors of the film, who are more often than not middle-aged to older men, like David O. Russell and Woody Allen. And obviously, these graphs don’t represent every actor or actress’ complete filmography, but they are a pretty good representation of the abundance in which age gaps are so prevalent in Hollywood films.