Let's play a quick little question and answer game. Did you bat an eye when you saw Emma Stone matched with Edward Norton in Birdman? Or when Scarlett Johansson landed with Mark Ruffalo in [The Avengers: Age Of Ultron](tag:293035)? What about when Jennifer Lawrence was cast alongside Bradley Cooper multiple times?
I'll be honest: even if I objected to these pairings, the reason was rarely due to the sizable age differences between the stars. We've become extremely accustomed to our 20-something starlets getting romantically involved with much older men onscreen, so much so that we hardly even notice when it happens anymore.
In a fantastic article from Vulture, Kyle Buchanan breaks down the major age disparity that's affecting some of the biggest young actresses today and the rippling consequences that follow.
It wasn't that long ago that Emma Stone was known for her roles as high school student. Think back to when we fell in love with her as the girl worth getting arrested for in Superbad or that breakout performance in Easy A that left us all knowing that she was going to be a star.
In the span of only four years, Stone went from performing alongside guys her own age to being Colin Firth's tantalizing love interest in Woody Allen's Magic in the Moonlight. Sure, that sizable 28-year age difference is a talking point in the film, but individual plot points don't change the fact that this is a trend in Hollywood.
Only a year earlier, she was romantically matched with Sean Penn of all people, and there doesn't seem to be any end in sight to this phenomenon.
By the way, this doesn't only affect the women involved. Creating the older man-younger woman narrative is leading to fewer and fewer leading men in their 20s getting major roles, and if Vulture's chart on Emma Stone is any indicator, this a trend that's gotten increasingly common in recent years.
Jennifer Lawrence is one of the most sought after and versatile actresses working today, so it's no surprise that she's able to transform herself into characters across a wide age range.
David O. Russell, the director of Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, has a particular habit of casting Lawrence in parts originally scripted for older actresses. Of course she does an amazing job with the part (she won an Oscar for it, after all), but this means that she will more than likely get paired with some older co-stars.
Now, I want to reiterate that this isn't necessarily a detrimental factor on its own, but the fact that it's become so widespread and commonplace is the problem. While Jennifer Lawrence can scoop up all the choice parts for any role between 20 and 40-years-old, actresses like Maggie Gyllenhaal are told they are too old (at 37-years-old) to be the love interest for a 55-year-old male lead.
We're getting to a point where it's just more believable to see Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence together (despite their 16 year age difference) than to see him with someone his own age. And, the only time Lawrence IS with someone her own age, it's in a franchise marketed mostly to a young adult audience.
Scarlett Johansson has one of those faces that seems to defy age, and throw in her husky voice and you have the makings of the exact predicament we're in now. Johansson is a great example of a twenty-something actress working with middle aged actors so often that we tend to forget her true age.
While movies don't need to be entirely realistic, shouldn't there be a couple entries on Johansson's extensive résumé where she can flirt with someone less than four years older than her? Right now, that's simply not the case.
Perhaps the most important point to bring up regarding age disparity in Hollywood is that while young women are systematically paired with older men, the reverse is almost never true. Male actors have all the options in the world when it comes to leading ladies, but these days, the most popular onscreen women can't get with younger guys—or even guys their own age!
I'd be interested to see more charts like this with older actresses (Meryl Streep, Jessica Lange, etc.) to analyze if this trend has been an ongoing one throughout modern Hollywood's history. At this point, there's definitely more attention being paid to trends like this in the movie industry, but there's still a lot of work to be done.
Head on over to Vulture for more of their insights into the topic and further analysis of the data.