Hollywood Sexism and Personal Preference

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  1. Avatar Damon
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    Guys like to date / be involved with younger, more attractive women, 10-20 years younger. That’s not surprising. Women know this too. A lot of women will date older guys, many who have started to go to seed, because they are more established, better paid, have more resources, status, etc. than the woman’s male peers.

    Read some dating profiles. You’ll see it.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Damon
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      There is a LF link in the queue.

      Men are dogs.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Damon
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      The research shows that it is not as common as people think it is but is not too uncommon either. At least when it comes to marriage. 7.2 percent is a noticeable number but it is not a large number.

      Also you are speaking in cliches. This sort of proves Cleek’s rule also applies to libertarians. Liberals think something is an issue. Libertarians seek to deny. There is nothing about discussing sexism in Hollywood that should suggest a liberal-libertarian divide and yet it seems to cause libertarians to get out and against liberals.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Saul Degraw
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        You and Damon are talking about two different things. Damon is referring to preferences, you are referring to outcomes. The 7.2% number would likely be higher if it weren’t for… well, the preferences of women. Or maybe not, if guys actually enter these relationships and realize that they’re not a good idea. Still, the fantasy is presently there.

        Saying that it’s “sexism” is while not wrong, rather incomplete. If it is the general preference of men to date down in age, and Hollywood is about wish-fulfillment, then… that’s something. There’s nothing inherently wrong with Hollywood engaging in wish fulfillment, but the “sexism” part is that they seem to be more in the business of engaging the wish fulfillment of men.

        Why is that? I see two reasons:

        First, the decision-makers are men. Second, because the producers must cater to male needs. There is literature suggesting that protagonists of youth fiction need to be boys because while female audiences will tolerate male leads, male audiences are less tolerant of female leads. I think that dynamic may be at play here. Along with the fact that the decision-makers are men and, contrary to what some believe, Hollywood is not the perfect capitalist machine and the preferences (and worldviews and demographics) of the producers influence the final product significantly.Report

        • Avatar Kim in reply to Will Truman
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          says:

          Women also prefer younger men…Report

          • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Kim
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            According to the above link, they are looking for a man just slightly older than they are, whereas men seem to see the .5x+7 as a target, rather than a boundary.Report

            • Avatar Kim in reply to Will Truman
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              Self-reports and dating aren’t exactly the most reliable sources.
              Luckily, we have the internet…Report

            • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Will Truman
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              I would split the difference and say that women are socially conditioned to want older men but when you get rid of the social conditioning, many women turn out to be just as youth crazy as their male counterparts.Report

            • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Will Truman
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              I went on a few dates a while ago with a lady whose age was right on .5x+7 relative to mine. (this was not a deliberate target thing – I didn’t know her age at first) She’s an awesome person, and we theoretically had a lot in common, but we were clearly not well matched. I think our ages were a big part of that.

              I think now if I were using a dating app or site, I would set my lower age limit a bit higher – maybe 0.6x +7 or so – and my upper age limit correspondingly at 1.6(x-7) rather than 2(x-7).Report

            • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman
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              @will-truman

              Using that formula, the age I get is 24. 24 seems pretty damn young to me. I don’t think I could date someone younger than 27-29.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Saul Degraw
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                says:

                It’s a lower bound, not a recommendation. But if you met a 25 year old who is a fuddy-duddy like we are, I’ll bet you would make an exception for her that you wouldn’t for someone 22 no matter how mature. At least, I suspect that would be the case for single me. But the further the difference (beyond a few years), the more mitigating the circumstances would need to be.Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman
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                says:

                @saul-degraw

                Maybe but probably not/ I’ve always kind of been attracted to slightly older women or dated women my own age. My tendency when doing on-line dating was to set an age range of plus or minus three to four years. My tendency in on-line dating was just to say next to women in the 22-25 range.

                The one thing that is pushing me to look younger now is that I am not financially ready for parenthood yet and an older woman might be interested in children. I am still neutral on whether I want children or not. I could see dating a slightly older woman if she was committed to being child-free though. So there is some truth to the fertility thing.

                FWIW I am also kind of into dating someone who is a bit taller than me.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Saul Degraw
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                You’re talking to yourself again, @saul-degraw . 🙂

                I understand what you’re saying about dating profiles, and I would probably act similarly. I might look as low as 25, but it would take a pretty great profile to get my attention. I mean, really great. And that’s only if I looked, which would only occur if I were in an environment where I had to widen the net.

                The fertility window would depend on the circumstances of my single-hood. If something had happened to Clancy after Lain was born, fertility would be less of an issue (and likewise, existing kids less of an impediment). In a Trumwill-never-married timeline, I would be looking for women younger than I am in hopes of finding someone within the fertility window.All of this depends on the requisite net-width, however. In the event I had two kids and was single, I would probably need to cast as wide a net as possible, as far as all of this goes, and would not worry about the fertility window in the slightest (or the existence of other kids) and would probably be looking, more or less, for a woman exactly my age within a few years in either direction but being as flexible as I needed to be.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Will Truman
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                All of that being something of a detour to the point that I was making, though. Which was more along the lines of this: If you met a girl at a book store, didn’t know her age, struck up a conversation, got along well, and found out she was 25, I don’t think you would worry about the age. At least, I wouldn’t. If I found out she was 22, however, I would go forward only after much deliberation.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Will Truman
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                If I were (god forbid) to find myself in the dating world again tomorrow, I would try to be specific: I want a 39-year old who majored in philosophy, studies cognitive science, thinks Sonnymoon is great, reads modernist poetry daily (and occasionally tweets it), and is convinced that Italo Svevo is the most underrated author ever.

                “Why Chris, you want to date yourself?”

                Dude, everything else is too much work.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Chris
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                On the general subject, when I was single, I was actually waaaaay too flexible. I don’t mean my standards were too low – sometimes they were too low, other times too high – but that I didn’t have a sufficiently clear idea of what I was looking for. I could have saved myself – and some ladies – a fair bit of time if I’d been more honest and direct with myself about what I was looking for.Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman
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                I suspect guys have a lot lower standards for what constitutes a good first date than women do.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw
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                @saul-degraw I suspect this is true to. My standard for a good first date is that there was a decent flow to the conversation, I found her interesting and/or attractive, and we both seemed to have fun. Most of the men I know have similar standards. Women seem to want more.Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Will Truman
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          I think there’s a Hunger for young female protagonists.Report

        • Avatar Mo in reply to Will Truman
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          Damon was also talking about women’s preferences. If, “a lot of women will date older guys, many who have started to go to seed, because they are more established, better paid, have more resources, status, etc. than the woman’s male peers,” was true, it wouldn’t be at 7.2%.Report

        • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to Will Truman
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          There is literature suggesting that protagonists of youth fiction need to be boys because while female audiences will tolerate male leads, male audiences are less tolerant of female leads.

          Which is a classic description of sexism in action. Most of the protagonists in media are male, so girls quickly adjust to being able to identify with both female and male characters. Less so for guys. Make more works with female leads that aren’t specifically targeted as just-for-girls, and you should see this change.

          Already, making more action movies with female leads seems to be starting to shift this, and show that guys will watch female-led movies; for example, the audience of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (the highest-grossing female-lead action movie yet) was 54% women, 46% men. That’s a lot more balanced than the male-female ratios for people watching most superhero movies.

          There’s absolutely an audience demand for more action movies starring women.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        @saul-degraw
        ” Damon is referring to preferences, you are referring to outcomes.”

        Bingo. Nothing I said had anything to do with sexism. And as a mid 40s guy, i’ve dated low 30s women. Most women’s profiles, that have a age range preference, tend to skew older.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Damon
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      And even if older men are more mature and established, that has nothing to do with a 37 year old woman being too old to be the love interest to a 55 year old man.

      I think most 55 year old men would fall to their knees and thank the stars if a 37 year old woman was interested in them romantically. It is not like most 37 year old guys are just sitting around and playing videogames. That might be true for teenage boys and guys in their early 20s but it is not true for guys in their 30s.Report

  2. Avatar Kim
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    says:

    Marriages are a singularly poor way to assess how many people have been in a relationship where there has been an age difference.

    A 16 (or 20 year old) with a 12 year old is rarely going to lead to marriage, after all…Report

  3. Avatar Murali
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    says:

    Is a 7 year age gap considered a big age difference? I feel that 5-7 years is more of a moderate age gap rather than a large age gap. I thought 7 years was a large age difference until I met the woman who is now my fiancée….Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Murali
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      says:

      yes, it is a large age gap.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Murali
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      It depends on how old you are.

      When Maribou and I got married, we had a 4 1/2 year age gap. This was considered scandalous among some of our acquaintances that we got criticized for it. (“You guys have no shared cultural experiences!” and the like.)

      We are now at the age where a 4 1/2 age gap is not particularly notable.

      I hope we make it to “you guys are practically the same age” before we die.

      Edit: For the record, we still have a 4 1/2 year age gap.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird
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        “We used to have a 4 1/2 year age gap. We still do, but we used to, too.” (It was funnier before he killed himself with age gaps.)Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Jaybird
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        I would say that the socialized medicine gap is a lot more important than the four and half year age gap. ;).

        A four and half year age gap isn’t terribly large. If both people grew up in the same culture or country, its small enough that they would have similar shared childhood experiences when it came to media. The real big age gaps occur when one person is experiencing puberty or is grown to adulthood when the other person is still a kid. Not all May-December romances are treated equally. Sometimes the December is lambasted as predatory and other times a May-December romance is treated as true and loving.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Murali
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      I think the 7 year gap is interesting.

      I would say that there is a big difference between a 30 year old and a 23 year old. The 23 year old could just be out of college and just on the job market for the first time. A 30 year old will have a lot more life experience. There are also physical differences. 23 year old me was able to stay up until 4 AM and wake up without a hangover. 30 year old me was not able to do this. 30 year old me did not really like staying up until 4 AM either.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        Just wait and see what the 40-year-old you is going to prefer.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw
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        Yes, this. The 37 year old and a 30 year old seem more alike than a 30 year old and a 23 year old even though it is still the same seven year age gap. Part of this is because our society deems your twenties to still be in your youth even though there are plenty of people in their twenties who are married with kids and paying mortgages and taxes. The dominate media narrative is that twenty-three year olds are still in school or in the early stages of their career but are otherwise having a good time. That is why 30-23 seems a lot sketchier of an age differences than a 37-30 year old. In the former, one age is seen as being closer to childhood than in the latter.Report

        • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to LeeEsq
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          I personally think there is something to that, that isn’t just social construction.

          7 years is a pretty big fraction of the total life experience of the 23 year old – a partner who has done that much more living is likely to have a significantly different outlook. It’s a much smaller piece of the life experience of a 33 or 43 year old.Report

    • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Murali
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      It depends on the absolute values involved, I’d say. The age gap between 19 and 25 is large, the age gap between 49 and 55 is pretty insignificant.Report

  4. Avatar j r
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    Census suggests that about 7.2 percent of male-female relationships in the United States involves an age-gap.

    Is this sentence missing something? The way it reads now suggests that 92.8 percent of male-female relationships occur between people of the same age.

    Also,

    A friend of mine is a single mom. She told me that when she was in her 30s, she would frequently be hit on by 50 and 60 year old guys at work. These were well to-do professionals with solid incomes and careers. She found this sketchy, gross, and kind of pathetic. Yet there is something about many members of my gender that allows them to think that they are God’s gift to women even when they are well past their prime.

    This is the perfect example of aesthetic and personal preferences masquerading as ethics. What exactly does “sketchy, gross and kind of pathetic” mean? Is it anything other than an attempt to police people’s personal preferences by means of shaming.

    And more importantly, would you ever say the same thing about “well past their prime” women who were expressing an interest in younger men? Would you say it about a gay person expressing interest in a straight person or an obese person chatting up a fit person?

    What are your underlying ethical principles? Show me your work.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to j r
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      I’d assume that sketchy and gross referred to stalking a woman who was obviously not interested.
      Stalking is no good regardless of gender.Report

    • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to j r
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      The study defines “age-gap relationship” as one reflecting a substantial age difference.

      I guess it’s not surprising that the closest anyone gets to the explanation is Saul’s throwaway line, “This is probably some kind of evolutionary throwback which made sense tens of thousands of years ago but not as much today.”

      Sexual allure, especially in relation to fantasy objects of desire, will tend to be generated pre- or unconsciously, which is not to say at all that the determination is irrational,only that it may be rational according to calculations of which many of us will not be aware or will not allow ourselves to be aware. Put differently, the determinants of value in the sexual marketplace combine multiple biological and social inheritances that may not adjust in the course only of a few generations to wishful notions about what people “should” desire in the utopia populated by egalitarian rationalist libertines exclusively.

      In the world as it exists, including the fantasies formed and operative in that world, Emma Watson will, on average, for the mass (market), signify distinct advantages both as love and as identification object over Maggie Gyllenhaal, even if you might find both of them, if the same age, equally physically attractive in a narrow and superficial sense.

      The factors that have traditionally established successful older men as good alternative love/identification object (powerful, connected, fertile into middle age) compared to promising young men are a bit more complex, but not hard to identify, starting with the different points at which “biological clocks” begin ticking (around 25 for women, around 40 for men), but extending, in the way these things do, well beyond narrowly instrumental considerations.

      A narrowly instrumental consideration might be, for example, “mathematical likelihood that Emma, rather than Maggie, will produce children on a convenient schedule” – which latter would have been perceived a more pressing consideration for our foreparents than for us. We could also suggest that Emma will likely remain highly sexually alluring – of value in the market, so a good “trophy” – for many more years, but this is actually a somewhat circular judgment, since it already refers to the same bases for determination of sexual “value” realized in the prior calculation.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to CK MacLeod
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        The preconscious allure leads to older women being attracted to the boyish charms of the young (and the young boys being attracted to those with … ample bosoms), and older men being attracted to the lean and lankiness of maidens*, whilst those maidens develop crushes on more mature (less childish) men.

        *check the age range on that word, it used to be more specific.

        Mama Nature’s rather kinky.Report

  5. Avatar Jaybird
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    If you’ve never seen the movie “Blood Work” (2002) (don’t feel like you have to), know that it’s a particularly egregious example of this.

    Clint Eastwood (72, at the time) is a cop who was chasing a serial killer (in a story doomed from the start by character economy) and, along the way, has a fling with a 44 year old Wanda de Jesus.I suppose that 28 years isn’t *THAT* much once you hit your forties…

    But, still, I remember thinking “dang, that’s kinda gratuitous”.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird
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      There’s also “A View To A Kill”. (Roger Moore decided to quit playing James Bond after that one, when he realized he was older than his co-star’s mother.)Report

  6. Avatar j r
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    says:

    By the way, I stand by my comments in the original discussion that Gyllenhaal’s anecdote alone tells us nothing. This was one part of a longer interview, presumably on a number of other topics, that was plucked out and spread across the interwebs by the usual suspects. We have no idea what the role was or what the plot is. We have no idea about what the producer/casting director/whomever actually said to Gyllenhaal. In the absence of some background about how old the character in question is, this is all just clickbait.

    This raises some of the same issues at work in Chris’ post about the falsified paper that ran in Nature. When you see some piece of anectdata that just happens to perfectly encapsulate everything you’re likely to believe about some phenomena, it’s good practice to approach it skeptically. In other words, it’s good practice to do what most internet typists don’t do.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to j r
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      I would agree with this if her comments didn’t coincide with data regarding male and female leads.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Will Truman
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        With which part are you disagreeing?

        There’s two things for me. One, is whether there is some meaningful ethical issue in casting younger women against older men in romantic roles. And two is whether we have enough information about Gyllenhaal’s story to say if it is the perfect encapsulation of the former.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman in reply to j r
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          I’m saying that even if she’s wrong about this particular part this part is a part of a larger pattern.

          And the larger pattern lends credence to the notion she might not be wrong. What she’s describing seems to happen.Report

          • Avatar j r in reply to Will Truman
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            This is beginning to look like a bit of a shell game. On the one hand, this Gyllenhaal story is important, because it is emblematic of a larger problem. On the other, it is an especially egregious example of that so-called problem, which helps contextualize why it is a problem in the first place. That doesn’t really hold, so I go back to my original question.

            What is the ethical principle in violation here?Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to j r
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      @j-r, we have a lot of data to show that Gyllenhaal could very well be telling the truth. Egregious age differences have always occurred in Hollywood and to a lesser extent other commercial movies. When Audrey Hepburn was a young star and in her twenties or early thirties, she was more often than not paired with men in their late thirties to late fifties like Fred Astaire, Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant, William Holden, Mel Ferrer, Gregory Peck, and Rex Harrison. The number of times she seemed to have been paired with a man about her own age or younger was in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the movie where she played Albert Finney’s wife, and Robert and Miriam and maybe a couple of others. Debbie Reynolds was another young actress frequently paired with much older actors.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to LeeEsq
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        This isn’t about her telling the truth or not. It’s about the context that we don’t have. If the character in question is supposed to be 25, then yes, she may be too old for the role.Report

        • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to j r
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          I would argue that there is enough evidence of this sort of sexism that there should be a reasonable presumption to tell the truth. Even if Gyllenhaal’s character was supposed to be twenty-five, Gyllehaal could still make her claim of sexism without too much problem. Older actors playing much younger characters is a long tradition in Hollywood. Audrey Hepburn was in her thirties when she played Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Holly is supposed to be about eighteen. Eliza Dolittle in My Fair Lady was also at least a decade or more younger than Audrey Hepburn. A 37 year old can be cast to play a 25 year old. The idea of a twenty-five year old being with a fifty-five year old is squeaky to.Report

        • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to j r
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          “There are things that are really disappointing about being an actress in Hollywood that surprise me all the time,” she said during an interview for an upcoming issue of TheWrap Magazine. “I’m 37 and I was told recently I was too old to play the lover of a man who was 55. It was astonishing to me. It made me feel bad, and then it made me feel angry, and then it made me laugh.”

          Would Gyllenhaal ‘first feel bad, then feel angry, then laugh’ if she wasn’t cast as someone the script required to be 25? Would she bring it up in an interview specifically as an example of ‘things that are really disappointing about being an actress in Hollywood’? Do you know of any indication at all that Maggie Gyllenhaal is that delusional?

          But, I guess we’ll just have to wait for the next issue of TheWrap to know for sure whether Sharon Waxman decided to randomly incinerate her own professional credibility by withholding the fact that the movie in question was a gender-reversed Harold and Maude.Report

          • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to dragonfrog
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            Not inconceivable that whoever was rejecting her thought she was being let down easy – told she was being rejected for her age rather than on an assessment of her overall attractiveness.Report

            • Avatar Kim in reply to CK MacLeod
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              You can tell a gal “Too old” and you can tell a gal “Too young”, but heaven help you if you tell her “too manly”Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to CK MacLeod
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              We all saw Crazy Heart, right?

              Overall attractiveness is more than found in headshots.

              I mean, I disagree with pretty much everything she’s ever said in any given interview (sometimes to the point where I’m thinking that I have no reason to see her in anything ever again) but, dang, in the movies? In any given scene, she can come across as wry, intelligent, tough, gentle, and other “hurr stampa stampa Tex Avery wolf-whistle” adjectives.

              Without getting all male gaze, I mean.Report

            • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to CK MacLeod
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              @ck-macleod

              I find Maggie Gyllenhaal to be extremely attractive and even if she is not a person’s type, I don’t know how anyone can consider her otherwise. She is not exactly unconventional looking by any definition of the word.Report

          • Avatar j r in reply to dragonfrog
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            @dragonfrog

            Your argument pretty much comes down to it must be the way we think it is, because no one would say misleading things on the internet, which is exactly the reason I choose to remain skeptical.

            And once again, just for shits and giggles, all of this is being reported and echoed without context. This could very easily be a case of Gyllenhaal telling a story about how she is upset that Hollywood keeps making movies about men in romantic situations with much younger women. And if that is an issue, then fine. Just tell me exactly what the issue is.Report

            • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to j r
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              Well, yeah, that would be a big part of the issue, wouldn’t it? I mean, even if the script doesn’t specify the ages of the characters, the actors cast in the roles pretty much define the characters.

              And substantially every female character in the movies is remarkably, unrealistically, young. The female love interest acting across from a late-middle-aged man isn’t even early-middle-aged. The experienced female doctor would have to have a back story like Dougie Howser MD. the experienced female police chief is young for a sergeant, the mother is only 8 years older than her son, etc. etc.

              Male actors can have a decades-spanning career where they grow with their roles; movies usually cast someone with the background necessary to convincingly portray the part.

              But somehow female actors are verging on “washed up” just when men are really maturing into more complex roles; movies way too often cast someone who’s too young and inexperienced, despite highly experienced actors being available.

              It’s bad for female actors, it’s bad for the quality of the movies, and it’s bad for the cultural expectations of women in the real world.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to dragonfrog
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                @dragonfrog Young casting has long been a pet peeve of mine, even apart from the sexual double-standard aspect to it. It is especially notable when it comes to women, where it occurs with much more predictability, but it ends up involving male casting too sometimes as well. It’s right up there with “Let’s just all pretend this character is overweight” (also extremely disproportionate to women – Tracy Gold the most tragic example) where I want to say “Oh, come on!”

                I’d add that it’s not only the case that it gives male actors a longer shelf-life, but also allows male acting careers to actually get started when they’re in their thirties (Ed O’Neill being an example that immediately springs to mind).Report

              • Avatar j r in reply to dragonfrog
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                I’m not just being contrary here, but is young casting really a thing? I thought it was the opposite. Remember Andrea from Beverly Hills 90210? She was 30, playing a 16 yo.

                I would be curious to see numbers on actors and actresses and the age differences between them and their characters.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to j r
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                Oh, high schoolers and teenagers are very often cast with older actors for a variety of reasons. What I’m referring to here isn’t the age of the actors vis-a-vis the characters they’re playing as much as the age of the characters themselves with respect to how many people that age do actually occupy those jobs. (Half of the detectives in Cold Case being under 35, as an example off the top of my head).

                Unless they can’t, TV and movies tend to be quiet about character ages for the most part.Report

  7. Avatar LeeEsq
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    The entertainment industry in general and Hollywood in particular seem to get away with sexism that would result in a serious legal stomping if done in another industry. The entire casting business, where leading women are romantically paired with men old enough to be their father or older male relative, is an example of this.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to LeeEsq
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      Hollywood (and I use that term loosely, to mean not just film, but things like pop music and modeling/ad work as well), though, is a bit of a special case; in that their job, specifically, is to sell fantasy, image and illusion.

      In very few other industries can you basically tell a job applicant that they can’t have a job because they are fat/ugly/old.

      But in Hollywood, where part of what they are selling is “beauty” (defined, of course, circularly; both as what DOES sell, and what “Hollywood” chooses to sell) that is a perfectly acceptable reason to deny an applicant the job. If I am a great actor, but I look like Steve Buscemi, I’m not ever going to play Bond. Them’s just the facts.Report

  8. Avatar Tod Kelly
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    says:

    I think a lot of these conversations lose the forest for the trees.

    Usually when I see this topic bandied about, it’s a bunch of men arguing why certain things are the way they are — when in fact they really aren’t that way at all. That women aren’t attracted to young, fit, hot men the way men are attracted to young, fit, hot women is a conceit that men tend to hang onto with dear life despite the fact that I’ve never known a (straight) woman who isn’t attracted to young, fit, hot men.

    The real issue is that when we men think of movies, we think of the ones that we go see. And usually, in these movies the male characters are the drivers of the plot and the female exist simply to reflect the male’s masculinity. All the superheroes in the various superhero movies, for example, are a diverse menagerie of complicated motivations, backstories, and mores. All the women are basically interchangeable, and exist for no other reason than to show the audience that there is a sexual reward to being that particular protagonist.

    But that’s just the moves we men tend to think of. Look at the movies made for women, and you’ll notice a whole lot of Ryan Goslings and precious few Megan Foxes.

    The sexism in Hollywood isn’t that they only hire young hot women to play most of the starring roles. The sexism in Hollywood is that most of the starring roles for females require you to be nothing but.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Tod Kelly
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      says:

      I don’t quite grok your last paragraph, @tod-kelly . If you’re saying that in a movie marketed to men, or to a “general audience” (meaning men), the female roles pretty much are all filled by young, hot women, then I get that. Which is both forest and tree to the Maggie Gyllenhaal thing.

      But if you’re saying that in a movie marketed to women (and there are plenty of them, as far as I can tell), the female roles are going to be awarded to hot young women? And if so, is that supposed to be, I don’t know, aspirational?Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        No, that’s not what I meant.

        I was saying that most female characters in Hollywood are written to be little more than eye candy, and that so long as that’s the case there is never going to be a market for older female actresses the way there is for older actors.Report

    • Avatar j r in reply to Tod Kelly
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      says:

      That women aren’t attracted to young, fit, hot men the way men are attracted to young, fit, hot women is a conceit that men tend to hang onto with dear life despite the fact that I’ve never known a (straight) woman who isn’t attracted to young, fit, hot men.

      This is a more complicated story. First, the idea that men are shallow is true, except that me tend to be price takers in the sexual marketplace, so their ability to be shallow is almost always severely constrained. Second, yes women can absolutely be every bit as shallow as men and are, in certain situations. Third, people’s preferences shift a great deal whether we’re talking about looking for Mr/Mrs Right or Mr/Miss Right Now.

      The overall picture is that men are likely to prioritize looks and fertility more than women are, probably because women have historically looked to men as a means of support and social uplift. As more and more women enter the workforce on equal footing with men, a good deal of this difference is likely to be eroded. Also, in hook up situations women get pretty close to men in terms of shallowness.

      Beyond that, I agree with your comment. Talking about this as sexism misses so much of the point, which is that Hollywood can be absolutely terrible at telling realistic stories. And more to the point, terrible in a way that skews remarkably straight, white and male. In other words, Hollywood is in America.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        I think we’re pretty much on the same page, actually.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        jr,
        “men are likely to prioritize looks and fertility more than women are, probably because women have historically looked to men as a means of support and social uplift.”

        Shallow men do that, because it is easy enough to look nice and be horrid with makeup.
        Women may marry for support, but that says absolutely nothing about their sexual preferences (which are a good deal weirder than people want to admit), because cheating is a historical norm, not an exception. [shouldn’t surprise,with arranged marriages]Report

        • Avatar j r in reply to Kim
          Ignored
          says:

          Women may marry for support, but that says absolutely nothing about their sexual preferences…

          Sure it does. Women’s preferences tend to cluster more so than mens’ do. In the parlance of marksmanship, men spray and pray, while women tend to be sharpshooters. Show me a cohort where people are casually dating and casually hooking up and you’ll likely find a situation where the hook ups involve a fewer number of men.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Tod Kelly
      Ignored
      says:

      Maybe I watch radically different movies than most but the movies I watch usually demand serious acting talent from the men and the women. Maggie Gyllenhaal generally seems to pick projects that are about the role whether a big blockbuster like the Dark Knight or an arty BBC drama like the Honorable Women.

      Ryan Gosling is very good looking but he also gets serious dramatic roles mainly including tough guys like in Drive. Interestingly he is married to a woman who is 9 years his senior.Report

    • Avatar rexknobus in reply to Tod Kelly
      Ignored
      says:

      One of the difficulties in talking about this subject is the lack of differentiation. When we discuss where to go out to eat we don’t just say “restaurants” and adopt an all inclusive description that contains everything from McDonalds to Exclusive French Place. We don’t really compare or equate McD’s to Chez Snoot. Same with cars: we don’t really refer to the Ford Focus and the Rolls Silver Ghost in the same breath.

      But “Hollywood” comes to mean everything that shows up in the local cineplex. You’ve got your $200 million budget, explosive action extravaganza that tends to try to make its nut by dint of Big Advertising, Big Stars, Big Event salesmanship. And far, far less visible in that little screening room past the second popcorn stand is the Small Important Film that no one has ever heard of and may very well star Maggie G.

      Without any attempt to research numbers, I’m betting that the problem of Old Action Star/Young Ingenue is far more prevalent in films that don’t have a part written for Diane Keaton, but does contain many automatic weapons. And less prevalent in the lower budget indies.

      The apples/oranges thing gets in the way. All the money in “Hollywood” flows toward those big spectacles where the Big Male Star teamed up with the Hot Young Lady is gonna look better on the poster, in the previews, and at the box office. But there really are quite a few indies being made and released these days. How do the sexism numbers work in those?

      This not an attempt to justify the sexism, or forgive it, or even turn a blind eye to it. But isn’t there a difference between “we gotta do everything we can to sell tickets and make our millions back” and “hey, just get the youngest, prettiest lady available to cast opposite Jack Wrinkles”?

      One more comment at the risk of tl;dr…

      Back in the Olden Days, “A” pictures were serious, dramatic, and starred people. “B” pictures were the action pieces. “A” picture: Bette Davis. “B” picture: Randolph Scott. Well, everything flipped once “Jaws” and “Star Wars” hit. Now our “A” pictures are guns, explosions, and CGI. Our “B” pictures are Parker Posey, Catherine Keener, trees in Tuscany. The dynamic is off. Randolph Scott is now the money-maker instead of Bette Davis. Kinda sad. (And this from a nerd who pays good money to see every comic book silliness made…)Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to rexknobus
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        says:

        @rexknobus

        Hmmm Catherine Keener and Trees in Tuscany sounds like a good romantic vacation, er idea for a movie….

        There is also probably plenty of racism and sexism in small indie movie casting but I don’t often see those movies at Big Cineplexes. In SF, the Sundance Kabuki is the only theatre that has a mix of major blockbusters and smaller movies. Most indie movies end up at small theatres or chains like Landmark.

        People focus a lot on Hollywood because that is what gets the big bucks and where change would have the biggest societal value. The Marigold Hotel movies feature age appropriate romantic relationships among older people. So did Away From Her but very few people see those movies.Report

        • Avatar rexknobus in reply to Saul Degraw
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          says:

          I guess it’s my question (or perhaps my point…I’m not sure) that it’s the very dollars that Hollywood spends on its huge somewhat brainless films that draws all of our attention…and our disgust when sexism/racism raises its ugly head. But are we just not paying enough attention to the dirt-poor cousins off playing at Sundance or the Nuart or someplace.

          Right now my local AMC cineplex is playing the requisite big-budget “Furious Max: Avenging Tomorrowland,” but it is also playing “Pitch Perfect 2,” “Woman in Gold,” and “Age of Adaline.” 10-to-1 male to female ratios in the action flicks. What are the ratios in those other three?

          Is “Furious 7” more a product of this largely mythical “Hollywood” than is “Woman of Gold?” And if so, is it just because the money involved draws our eyes as opposed to the films themselves?Report

          • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to rexknobus
            Ignored
            says:

            @rexknobus

            Pitch Perfect 2 is a Hollywood movie and kind of a feminist subversion-sleeper hit. The film beat Mad Max at the Box Office but is not a CGI extravaganza and contains women outside of the traditional Hollywood standards of beauty.

            Women in Gold stars Helen Mirren (one of the few women to beat age expectations) and is based on a true story about art stolen from Jews by the Nazis and the lawyer who sued to get the art returned to the survivor’s in the families.

            Age of Adaline is a largely sentimental piece of magical realism about a woman who does not age and might be essentially immortal. So she looks 27 but is really in her 70s or older. So there is a semi-interesting subversion here because some of her past lovers got older but she did not. So on the one hand you see Harrison Ford next to a much younger woman but she is a much older woman in reality and he is the one who aged.Report

  9. Avatar Kim
    Ignored
    says:

    I find both sexes would rather not admit to being sexually interested in folks under the age of sixteen. It’s not proper, you see.Report

    • Avatar j r in reply to dragonfrog
      Ignored
      says:

      That’s clever. Those two male filmmakers though, who ostensibly care about the lack of womens’ roles in movies and who seem to have an actress with whom they are working, wouldn’t it make more sense to make their own movie and give the actress a meaningful role instead of just using her a prop to comment on other filmmakers?Report

  10. Avatar KatherineMW
    Ignored
    says:

    There’s absolutely discrimination against older actresses in Hollywood (and against women in general – the ACLU is bringing a gender-discrimination suit, and they’ve collected a lot of evidence in support of it: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/05/12/movies/document-13filmwomen.html ).

    It’s sexist to say that older women can’t be cast in romantic relationships the same way that older men are (and Maggie Gyllenhall isn’t even middle-aged!) and to refrain from casting them in most other roles as well.Report

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