Brown: Hollywood has an older-man problem
I was watching He’s Just Not That Into You, one of my favorite rom-coms, the other day. As I watched Bradley Cooper heatedly rip Scarlett Johansson’s dress straps off her shoulders and lay her down on his office desk, I found myself asking: Isn’t he a little old? After a quick Google search I discovered that at the time he was 34-years-old, and Johansson, sprawled on the desk, was 24-years-old.
While this is not the largest age gap the world of fictional relationships has ever seen, it did bring me to ask whether it was the only one, and why we as viewers didn’t really recognize it or turn our noses up at it.
It’s because Hollywood as a whole, has an older-man problem.
A study done by Vulture put three big-time actresses’ film careers in an infographic, displaying the various age gaps between them and their male counterparts in romantic roles. Some, like Jennifer Lawrence’s, show smaller age gaps by only a few years. Others, like Emma Stone’s, show age gaps of sometimes upwards of 30 years (Gangster Squad with Sean Penn, 54; Stone was 24).
This just points out something that the film industry has been doing for years: Implementing the sexualization of young women in movies to represent young, vivacious and “sexy” women in romantic roles that in real life we would all cock our heads at, and maybe ask ourselves, “hmm… is this a healthy relationship?”
While it goes without saying that adults have every right to do what they so wish in consenting sexual relationships, there is another aspect that comes into play when you think about how these sexual relationships are being used for profit, and how competitive the acting industry is. If you were a 16-year-old fresh-faced actress trying to get your big break, would you really turn down a role just because you had to make out with a 46 year old?
Not when a big check is involved. You’d probably just suck it up and continue to go about your career while the film industry subtly exploits your sexuality to an audience of older men and continue to cultivate a culture of hyper-sexualizing young women for the male gaze.
This trend also affects the availability of romantic leading roles for women who are past that golden stage of desirability. At the first sight of a forehead wrinkle, your resume has a much higher chance at being quietly moved from the pile of potential leading, sexy heartthrobs to the pile for secondary actresses playing roles like the mother or the boss lady. While these are still exceptional roles, the narrative changes.
These three actresses highlighted in the infographics are just a few examples of the bigger problem in Hollywood. Women like Johansson are subjected to being the sexy actress to the male gaze early on in their careers as they pull off their thin red dress straps and walk away with the big check later.
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