I recently started watching the NBC summer crime drama Aquarius. It's admittedly not the best show in the world, but I'm a big David Duchovny fan and it's definitely entertaining enough to binge watch on Hulu on a lazy summer Sunday.
While watching, I started to notice Michaela McManus, the beautiful, emerald-eyed actress who plays David Duchovny's love interest (without giving too much away, the pair were madly in love in their teens, things fell apart, and now, twenty years later, she's married to another man and has a 16-year-old daughter). Based on the show's chronology, she and Duchovny's characters could be anywhere from 40 to 50-years-old (but are probably closer to 50).
"Wow," I thought as I watched. "This woman is stunningly well-preserved." I mean, she's playing David Duchovny's age-appropriate love interest, so she must be doing something right! WRONG. A quick IMDB search revealed that Ms. McManus is 32-years-olds.
Hold the phone. Another quick IMDB search told me that Duchovny is 54. What!? They're playing characters who are supposed to be the same age??
Now it would be one thing (though still not great) if the main character's love interest was a totally age-inappropriate younger woman and we were all aware of it. As much as I loathe it, it happens in just about every [insert Michael Douglass, Sean Connery, Harrison Ford, Tom Cruise, Will Smith, George Clooney] movie I've ever seen. At least we can all roll our eyes together knowing full well it's ridiculous.
But Aquarius isn't just giving their male lead a younger female costar; they are giving the role of a woman who is supposed to be approaching 50 to a woman in her early 30s.
No wonder botox rates for women in their 20s are on the rise. No wonder the anti-aging and cosmetics business is a multi-billion dollar industry. No wonder so many women have complexes about the natural and healthy aging process. As a culture, we are now apparently supposed to expect 50-year-old women to look like 32-year-olds. This is why so many people feel like they're somehow not measuring up even when they look exactly like they're supposed to.
And no disrespect to Ms. McManus--she's just an actress trying to make it in an infamously sexist industry. But her casting in this role definitely reinforces the fact that Hollywood still has a very long way to go. And until then, I'll be in my room moisturizing compulsively while quietly crying (I am 28 after all--or just a hair too old to play Ben Kingsley's girlfriend as its known in the industry).