Male Privilege and the Movies

dJoR88Right now the top movie at the U.S. box office is the film Oblivion.  A drone repairman assigned to work on Earth makes a reality-altering discovery. It looks great.

Oblivion stars Tom Cruise, all of 50 years old. He’s of course the male lead. The female lead? 32 year old Ukrainian actress Olga Kurylenko. Who, you ask? Right. It’s as if Universal, the producer, said to the casting folks: “We need a gorgeous, up-and-coming, cheap actress to play opposite Tom. Oh, and make sure she’s young.”

18 years younger to be precise.

The other day I came across this article, from vulture.com. It’s an interesting study on gender, age and Hollywood. And the results of the study are clear:

As leading men age, their love interests stay the same, and even the oldest men on our list have had few romantic pairings with a woman their own age (or even one out of her mid-thirties). If our actor was sharing the screen with an A-lister of commensurate star power like Julia Roberts or Angelina Jolie, the age difference would drop somewhat, but in movies that relied solely on our guy’s big name, the lesser-known love interests would nearly always be decades younger.

Evidently, for Hollywood, men age well and women, well, they just age.

At the risk of over-doing it, one more sample. This is the article’s verdict on Johnny Depp, now a spry 49:

Johnny Depp likes ’em young: Nearly all of his notable love interests have been 25 or under, and a few of them — including Winona Ryder, Juliette Lewis, Christina Ricci, and Keira Knightley (who shared a kiss with Depp in the second Pirates film) — would have been carded at the time they swapped spit with the star. In fact, the cradle-robbing Depp has only had two notable love interests in their mid-thirties, and all Juliette Binoche and Angelina Jolie had to do to make that cut is win an Oscar beforehand. Easy!

On one hand, it’s almost comical.

But on the other hand, there’s nothing funny about it. Because millions will watch Oblivion. And in and among all of the other messages that they’ll receive is this one:

It’s the male’s privilege to age well and to have his pick of beautiful, younger women.

And, it’s the women’s problem to age out into obsolescence and/or invest piles of cash in the attempt to look younger and fitter, all in a quest to remain the coveted object of an older man’s desire.

About the media in general and Hollywood in particular, it’s been said that “whoever tells the stories defines the culture.”

It’s time for this particular story to be finished.

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One response to “Male Privilege and the Movies”

  1. Caroline Reid says :

    What does this mean? Marketing a youngster girlie to 18 – 35yr old men (primary audience for this kind of film) is easier than marketing a mid 40s woman.
    Follow the money.
    I’m reading a really interesting book on being an introvert in an society geared towards extraverts. One point the author makes at the outset is that US culture has been moving from a Culture of Character through the 1800s to a Culture of Personality that became most noticeable through the need for a sales force to drive the manufacturing world.
    I’m seeing evidence in this Culture of Personality abounding in our movie industry.

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