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Why We Should Care About The Massive Age Gaps Between A-List Actors And Their Love Interests

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Last week, Vulture confirmed what we already knew: as male actors age, their on-screen female love interests do not. While stars like Johnny Depp, Denzel Washington, Liam Neeson and George Clooney climb through their 40s, 50s and 60s, they keep being paired with female co-stars under 35.

Kyle Buchanan of Vulture explained the results of their data analysis:

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.

So essentially, while actresses like 45-year-old Julia Roberts are relegated to making TV movies and playing Wicked Queens terrified of aging, her male contemporaries like John Cusack and Jamie Foxx are still paired opposite Malin Ackerman, 34 and Kerry Washington, 36.

I agree with Jezebel's Lindy West that these observations don't mean we should be criticizing every on-screen pairing that includes an older man and younger woman (or looking down on those sort of relationships in real life). That's absolutely not the point. But it is upsetting that actresses (with some notable exceptions like Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, Diane Keaton and Susan Sarandon) seem to have a pretty clear-cut "expiration date," while male actors their age don't. After all, if conventionally beautiful women like Julia Roberts have aged-out of being able to be seen as sexy romantic leads by 40, what does that say about the rest of us -- most of whom never looked like Julia Roberts to begin with. If movies are idealized versions of real life, why does the ideal have to make women over 40 persona non grata?

Imagine if 46-year-old John Cusack was wooing 46-year-old Halle Berry in "The Numbers Station" instead of 34-year-old Malin Ackerman, or if 50-year-old Tom Cruise was playing opposite 50-year-old Demi Moore instead of 33-year-old Olga Kurylenko in "Oblivion." Neither of those pairings seems particularly odd, but unfortunately in Hollywood, they're rare.

It would benefit everyone to create more opportunities for women over 30 to play attractive, seductive, desired characters on screen -- and for men their age to be interested in them.

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