A glaring age difference between actors and characters
This is something that is not new. To play teenagers in the cinema or in series, productions often rely on actors who have already passed the stage of 18 years. On the big screen for example, the heroes of Grease , Carrie or even Mean Girls , all supposed to be in high school, were already much older than their characters (24 years for John Travolta, 27 years for Sissy Spacek or 26 years for Rachel McAdams ).
In 2017, the Broadly site (now affiliated with Vice) conducted a study on the age differences between actors in teens series and their characters. Eight series have been studied, including Gossip Girl, Riverdale, Glee, Pretty Little Liars, Dawson and Buffy the vampire slayer. PRBK also calculated the age differences of series not included in this study including Elite and 13 Reasons Why.
Characters VS actors, age differences in popular teen series
A graph that shows to what extent some series rely on really older actors to play teenagers. For example in the case of Buffy the vampire slayer , Riverdale or Sex Education which all exceed the 8 years of differences between characters and actors. While most of the stars in each series are only in their twenties, some are pushing up the numbers. Like Ashleigh Murray (Josie in Riverdale ) who was 30 years old in season 1 while her character is 16 (or 14 years older!) Or Tanya Reynolds (Lily in Sex Education ) who is 28 years old or 12 years old. more than the one she interprets.
Surprise, Gossip Girl , it is however that of the observed series which has the smallest difference in age (a little less than four years), followed by Les Frères Scott (4.8 years) and Elite (4.9 years). .
Ashleigh Murray (left), 30, and Tanya Reynolds (right), 28, play 16-year-old teens in Riverdale and Sex Education
Obviously, we can note a few exceptions in this infamous fashion. Taylor Momsen was for example only 14 years old during season 1 of Gossip Girl (the same age as Jenny Humphrey), Sasha Pieterse, for her part, was only 13 years old during the shooting of the pilot of Pretty Little Liars where she played Alison DiLaurentis.
Why it's easier to hire adults
If the series hire older actors, it is above all for legal reasons. In the United States, where the law on the employment of minors in the film and television industry varies in each state, working with a person under the age of majority imposes many constraints. As for example a limited number of hours on the set, the inability to shoot at certain times, more breaks but also the organization of courses on the set. A minor actor must also be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Employing a minor is therefore not only more restrictive but also more expensive.
But that's not the only reason studios are opting for older actors. This choice is also aesthetic and less restrictive for the development of the characters' plots. Aesthetic because, as Rebecca Feasey, a media professor at the University of Bath Spa, UK, at Study Breaks, reminds us, “ puberty is not really the most pleasant to see on screen. ” This The latter also adds that changes occurring in adolescents such as growth or moulting in boys present a problem of ” continuity ” for the studios.
As for the development of intrigues? By recruiting actors over 18, studios are freer to include sex scenes or storylines related to more sensitive topics like drugs, alcohol or problematic relationships like with a student and his professor. In Pretty Little Liars , Aria was 16 when she dated her teacher, Ezra. But the actors are 3 years apart, which is less “scandalous” in the eyes of the public.
This standard is very far from the real bodies of adolescents
Even though we are used to being bombarded with perfect physique in the series, it can still have consequences for the way some people perceive their own bodies. Teenagers are among the most likely to be impacted by these beauty standards. ” In today's teenage shows, the actors don't physically look like teenagers. Now that perspective or standard is far removed from actual teenage bodies and the possibility of being unhappy with your body is increasing. ” explains Beth Daniel, a psychology professor at the University of Colorado, in Slate.
Barbara Greenberg, psychologist and specialist in adolescents and the family, told Teen Vogue: “ It may make it seem like teens are supposed to be gorgeous all the time. ” Indeed, a 20 year old will look older. consistent unlike a teenager. ” Sometimes they are thinner or bigger, they have pimples, their hair changes. And all this is normal ” recalls the psychologist who adds: ” It can lead to problems of image and comparison. ”