Here's Looking At Us - Kid!
In the last several months there have been a number of stories in Salon, the Boston Globe, and Alternet which point out that Woody Allen has frequently cast leading ladies who are much younger than he, and that the gap has increased as he has aged (but the actresses have not). These articles stress a “creepiness” and “validate” their opinion with a seemingly quantitative approach. (He may be creepy (and his marriage to a woman he helped raise as a stepchild amplifies the impression), but the articles are interesting as they used this data to “authenticate” that his cinematic choices were unusual.)
Of course, we know Hollywood is a reflection of our society. Our society and Hollywood likes movies with younger women and older men. We think of Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh (12 years difference); Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman (16 years); Humphrey Bogart and his wife and co-star, Lauren Bacall (25 years); William Powell and Myrna Loy (13 years); and, of course, many more examples.
In 2013, Kyle Buchanan at vulture.com showed more recent examples where popular actors’ leading ladies have stayed young as the men themselves age. He looked at the work of Harrison Ford, Denzel Washington, Johnny Depp, Tom Cruise, George Clooney, Richard Gere, Steve Carrell, Brad Pitt, Liam Neeson, and Tom Hanks. In a series of graphs contrasting the age of the actor and his movie “love interest” over time, we see a consistent pattern. (See Harrison Ford graph as an example.)
More interestingly, when we combine the experience from all 10 actors, the pattern of aging actors and increasingly younger leading ladies is even more apparent. So, the issue is not about Woody Allen, nor about any of these particular actors.
Instead, we see men, the makers and shakers in society and Hollywood, maintaining their fantasy – that they are perennially desirable. On the other hand, women’s desirable age-span seems to be just about a single decade (1-11), spanning an age range from 22-44.
Neither “creepiness” in the eyes of young women, nor the inequity of age discrimination for all women is addressed by focusing on Woody Allen. We need to shine more light on the discriminatory decisions of all makers and shakers.
Some Woody Allen Movies