Enraging New Stats About The Age Gap Between Male & Female Romantic Leads

Touchstone Pictures
Last month, Maggie Gyllenhaal gave an interview with TheWrap in which she revealed that she was recently told she was “too old” to play the love interest of a 55-year-old man. “It made me feel bad, and then it made me feel angry, and then it made me laugh,” she said.

We’re glad she was able to find some humor in this insane declaration, but frankly, we’re still stuck in the rage phase: How is 37-year-old Maggie Gyllenhaal too old to play opposite a man who has nearly two decades on her?! Also, who is writing these willy-nilly expiration dates on a woman's viability as a romantic and sexual onscreen partner? Clearly there are absurdist shenanigans afoot.

Stephen Follows at Indiewire did a little more investigating on the subject at the behest of his confused readership. He looked at 422 rom-coms created between 1984 and 2014, and identified how much older male leads were in comparison to their female co-stars.

So, what did he uncover? First off, that there was not a single year in this filmography data set wherein the average female romantic lead’s age was higher than that of her male counterpart. On average, male romantic leads were 4.5 years older than their female co-stars; and, while women only directed 12% of the included films, the age gap was only slightly smaller on female-helmed productions.

Furthermore, Robert Redford, Dudley Moore, and Richard Gere had the widest age gaps with their female leads; while Debra Winger, Winona Ryder, and Julia Roberts were typically much younger than their male co-stars. (Fun fact: When Pretty Women came out in 1990, Roberts was 22. Gere was 40, a whole voting-age person older than her.)

There are more frustrating statistics in Follows' piece, including detailed information about a string of films produced in 1984 that featured older men dating some barely-legal ladies. Even Michael Caine got in on this particularly unsavory sort of action: In Blame It on Rio (yep, that is actually the name of this movie), he hooks up with the 18-year-old daughter of a work colleague. What more is there even to say about that? (Indiewire)
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