Time passes differently through the screen, or so it seems.
Take a quick look through all the movies in your Netflix queue. Male lead? Anywhere between ages 20 and 50. Female lead? Anywhere between… 20 and 35. Message? Ladies, you’re only wanted in that 15-year gap. Once you pass it, you’re through.
And screen distortion doesn’t stop there. Why poison only the women? Let’s attack the girls, too.
Some of our favorite teen drama stars present terribly unrealistic images to our teen girls. Gossip Girl star Blake Lively was 20 during the launch of her role as a high school junior. Pretty Little Liars star Troian Bellisario was 24 while playing a 16-year-old. The Vampire Diaries’ Nina Dobrev was 27, playing an 18-year-old. The media tells girls that they should look like they’re in their twenties when they’ve hardly gone through puberty, so it’s no surprise that eleven-year-olds are asking their mothers for makeup and straightening their hair.
I’ll start with the venom that these images deposit in our minds. They tell us Tom Cruise ages from 20 to 50, and that his most recent love interest on-screen is 33 because an actress older than that just wouldn’t look good on the screen. They tell us if you’re a high school junior, you should be a size-zero model, sculpted for the runway every morning, prioritizing your weight and waist size over anything else. The bruises you’ll get under your eyes from staying up late to finish schoolwork are just holding you back from looking picture-perfect, so what’s the point? Skip it.
Relationships on TV between females, or between a female and a male, become the ideal for the young girls watching. But TV tends to tell our girls that they should date the boys that are mean to them; that they should value social image over emotional wellbeing in a relationship. Being smart is comic relief, and it looks like big hair and big glasses and a perpetual clueless expression, telling girls they’ll be laughed out of the room if they work hard and focus on their education.
We turn girls against girls. Girls that wear makeup are immediately labeled dumb, girls that are smart are antisocial and nerdy. Cliques form as early as middle school. Twelve-year-old girls leave for school with their personality planned to a T and their outfits carefully picked out so they don’t become the target of the day.
We can’t tell our girls to grow up that fast and reprimand them when they listen.
We can’t tell our women to keep from aging and expect them to halt time.
Tell your girls to grow up at their own pace. Tell them it’s okay to make a mistake and learn from it, to put their whole heart into their friendships, to love themselves as much as they love the idea of being perfect. Tell your women to grow up at their own pace. Tell them the older they are, the wiser they get, the stronger they become, and that they’re capable of anything whenever they put their minds to it.
Time always works differently through the screen, anyway.