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Why The Leading Man Never Ages

The film industry is a dim place for women, particularly because they tend to age (as normal people do)...

Hollywood & Bollywood are youth-obsessed in general, but this is extra hard for female actresses who tend to reach the pinnacle of their career in their 20’s.

Once they approach middle age, their careers start to slow down, the number of available roles dry up, and they start to see themselves replaced by younger actresses.

But why is this so?

The film industry doesn’t seem to know what to do with women in their 30s or 40s, the actor Liv Tyler complained. “When you’re in your teens or 20s, there is an abundance of fun parts which are exciting to play. “But at [my age], you’re usually the wife or the girlfriend — a sort of second-class citizen.”

It seems like time and time again, male movie stars are allowed to age well into their 40’s, 50’s & 60’s, while the female love interests remain youthfully stuck in their 20’s.

Let’s take the career of Shah Rukh Khan for example. Often, he is credited for launching the careers of many A-List actresses, but nobody stops to ask – isn’t the age difference a bit weird?

Om Shanti Om (Deepika Padukone: 21 years / SRK: 41 years)

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (Anushka Sharma: 20 years / SRK: 42 years)

Raees (Mahira Khan: 32 years / SRK 52 years)

Dil Se… (Preity Zinta: 23 years / SRK: 32 years)

Once we stop to think – it’s a bit ageist and sexist that such differences are allowed to persist in the film industry.

Why do men continue to receive roles? While women are shunned and replaced for having wrinkles or not being “sexy” enough.

Other really problematic pairings I can think of are Will Smith with Margot Robie & Bradley Cooper with Jennifer Lawrence.

Each of them are wonderful actors in their own respects – but why MUST they be paired as romantic interests of people totally different to their age.

This is because, for male actors, 40 represents the midpoint of their career. Whereas for women, 40 is a retiring year. When a female actor reaches 40, she loses access to many opportunities and consequently, viewer patronage.

It’s not the audiences’ or the actresses’ fault she becomes undesirable – it’s the film producers - who continuously perpetuate the notion that women can’t age.

It’s the financiers, the directors and the casting agents who only hand out opportunities to young girls who are too naïve to realize their exploitation – while older women, who are in control of the screen and themselves, are discarded as “untouchables.”

This is one of the many ways in which women are held inferior to men – and as a film viewer – I, for one, will no longer tolerate this!

Let the boycotts begin.

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This was a really interesting read, which brought to light one of the most prevalent double standards in the industry. If roles reversed, and it was the woman who was fifty-something, and her love interest that was in his twenties, all of a sudden, audiences would be appalled, and the protagonist would be accused of robbing the cradle, being a cougar, etc, when age gaps frequent some of the most popular franchises, like that of James Bond, and even in Disney movies like "Another Cinderella Story," where Selena Gomez was a minor (15) in romantic scenes with someone in his mid-twenties.


Women are treated as these objects with a shelf life instead of human beings both in media and in real life.


Amen! This has always annoyed me to no end.


Eman Rashid
Eman Rashid
Dec 13, 2020

are u telling me,,, srk was twice deepikas age in om shanti om???


Neha Ramchand
Neha Ramchand
Dec 12, 2020

I love that you talked about this!! When a female actress gets old (relatively older) she is made to play roles of a mother or an aunt, rather than the lead, and the male lead is the same guy they probably played a love interest with. Is there any career where women aren’t marginalised against?

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