Dog Years: Why Movie Moms Are The Same Age As Their Sons


Yesterday The Carpetbagger pointed out a disturbing fact of Hollywood biology: actresses playing mom to actors no younger than they are.

The Carpetbagger references a Guardian article by Hadley Freeman, in which actress Hope Davis said she was “peeved” to be offered the role of Johnny Depp’s mom — she is actually a year younger than he is. Freeman comes up with the following upsetting comparison: in Hollywood, actress years are like dog years — one year for a woman equals seven years for her male co-star.

Even that math wouldn’t make some Hollywood mother-son pairings possible. Angelina Jolie would’ve had to birth onscreen son Colin Farrell (Alexander) while still in diapers, since she’s only a year older than he is. And Back to the Future‘s Lea Thompson must have been the world’s first combination mom-and-twin, since she and her “son” Michael J. Fox were the same age.

By way of explanation, Freeman offers the following analysis:

Quite why film directors are so averse to having middle-aged roles played by middle-aged women comes down to male insecurity and misogyny. In regards to the former, if the mother is played by, say, a thirtysomething, that would suggest that the male lead must be still a teenager. […] As for the more obvious issue of misogyny, the sense of disgust of older women is so deeply entrenched in Hollywood that even when the role is specifically for an older woman, no one wants to see an actual older woman on screen.

Freeman points out that such age politics play out offscreen as well. If being a year older makes a woman mom material, it follows that girlfriends and wives must be much, much younger — like Jack Nicholson’s onetime girlfriend Lara Flynn Boyle, 33 years his junior. “The question of whether the onscreen age gaps prompt and encourage the offscreen ones, or vice-versa,” she writes, “is a bit of a chicken-and-egg issue.”

We agree. But we’d also like to point out that we get used to things we see on the big screen. Much as magazine covers can creep into our heads and convince us that a woman should be as smooth as a bar of soap, movies can make us believe that a woman is over the hill at thirty-five. Maybe fewer people would talk about women aging faster than men, and about the supposed biological drive for men to date younger, if movies paired actors and actresses age-appropriately, rather than portraying a world where Johnny Depp’s prime is Hope Davis’s dotage.

In Hollywood, Men and Women Age at Different Speeds and Women Don’t Like It [Carpetbagger]
Oh, mother! [Guardian]

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