So, I had this wondrously wicked rant planned on ageism in Hollywood. I mentioned the space-time continuum and wormholes and the very fabric of the universe. Heck, I even did a little math. I went all out. But then, well, then I actually did the research on the object of my rage and I had to scrap the whole damn thing. Pity really, I got off quite a ripper.
So, here is what got me so steamed, initially. News came out over the weekend that Olivia Wilde had signed on to play Justin Timberlake’s mother in an upcoming movie. Olivia’s age: 26. Justin’s age: 29. Um, I’m no math whiz but those numbers just don’t pencil out.
I had seen this news tidbit in headlines and in some harrumphy tweets the last few days. Hollywood’s ass-backwards view on aging! She is three years younger than him! What the fuckity fuck!?!
But then those pesky facts got in the way. Because, you see, Olivia is playing Justin’s mom in a futuristic thriller about a society where all aging stops at age 25. So, um, that whole crazy age conundrum where she could never, given the laws of physics and basic math, be his mother thing now actually works. But I still have all this anger? What will I do with it?
Of course, almost any anger at the entertainment industry’s obsession with youth – particularly female youth – is justified. Women are past their prime by 40 while men are still happily headlining into their 60s. And May-December romances are just part of the everyday lexicon. Try to think of five recent adult dramas where the male and female romantic leads were the same age. Or give me one where the woman was older and it wasn’t used as a gimmick. Keep thinking, I’ll go make a sandwich.
While Olivia’s age non-disparity with her supposed son makes sense within the confines of the story, this Oedipal Aging Complex is actually also nothing new. Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) was only six years older than dear, sweet Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) in “The Graduate.” And Alexander the Great (Colin Farrell) was a year older than his mama Queen Olympias (Angelina Jolie) in “Alexander.”
Though, if you really want to get into the serious math of the situation, Olivia’s newest as-yet-untitled project actually still follows in the same ageist footsteps as always – though on a slightly smaller scale. Now stay with me here: Olivia is three years younger than Justin, who is playing her son. Justin is five years older than Amanda Seyfried, who is playing his girlfriend. And Amanda is seven years younger than Vincent Kartheiser, who is playing her father. So a guy can have a mom that is three years younger than him and a girlfriend who is five years younger, but a gal still needs to have a guy be older than her to play her dad, if only by seven years. Whew, math.
OK, at this point you’ve probably glazed over what with the numbers and the physics and math. But my point, and I do have one, is that even if my meticulous rant didn’t work out in this instance, it wouldn’t kill Hollywood to have the math work out in the ladies favor for a change. Age is just a number, but numbers doesn’t lie. Well, that and everyone loves looking at pictures of Olivia Wilde, right? Right.