I've think I've noticed that decades ago, Hollywood seemed to be more okay casting actors in their 30s as teenagers.

In Grease, for example, Stockard Channing was 34, Jamie Donnelly was 31, Michael Tucci was 32 (looked like 42), Dennis Steward was 31, Annette Charles was 30, Olivia Newton-John was 30. They were all playing characters who were 17 or 18 years old.

Was this discrepancy in actor/character age more typical in decades past than now? If so, why?

  • 1
    – user7812
    Commented Nov 22, 2015 at 16:24
  • 3
    Still seems pretty prevalent now
    – user7812
    Commented Nov 22, 2015 at 16:31
  • @Richard Another example is Pretty little liar, the actors/actresses who are supposed to be 17 or 18 actual ages are (31-29-29-25-28-25-25-25-27-25-26). Source
    – madmada
    Commented Nov 22, 2015 at 17:26
  • 1
    I think using only one film as a basis for a theory isn't strong enough.
    – DA.
    Commented Nov 22, 2015 at 19:19
  • After some consideration, I've voted to close as "too broad". The term 'Hollywood' film encompasses over a thousand films a year (going back nearly a century) in a huge range of genres. You've also not defined what you'd consider a suitable answer (e.g. a complex regression analysis / A quote from a prominent casting Director, etc).
    – user7812
    Commented Nov 22, 2015 at 19:42

2 Answers 2


In some cases it's just plain old economics. Teenagers under 18 are under a completely different set of union rules than adult actors. They have many more restrictions including the necessity of on set tutors and far less working hours/overtime options. All in all, if producers can get away with not actually casting teenagers, they do.


The role of teenagers in popular culture before the 90's was almost non-existent. They were not directly marketed to, nor where they prominent figures in 'grown-up' Hollywood features - meaning something that didn't involve a campy, or angst filled romp, usually involving a summer camp, or a popular hobby like roller skating, skateboarding, etc.

The advent of children's television stations, as opposed to just shows, were an invention of the mid-late 80's, and it just steamrolled from there. I graduated high school (in the USA) in 1989, and it was totally normal for adults to portray teenagers, especially in films that dealt with adult themes, such as sex, drugs, alcohol, etc. - for example, Jodie Foster's character as a prostitute in 'Taxi Driver' was not the norm.

The entire culture for those under 21 changed drastically once teens were seen as an audience with not only buying power, but also when technology advanced and they grew up with computers in school. It was simply becoming a younger, more progressive world, and as art does, it imitated life. Now, it's almost gone the other way - it's almost unheard of to see an actual person of appropriate age be in an American film - ie: in real life you would never find a police detective in their 20's, nor a high ranking government official under the age of 40.

The culture, mainly in North America, is very youth obsessed. But, again, with the advent of the internet, it has given an easier platform for pornography - which is typically a young person's domain for starring in - and, rampant consumerism, which preys upon people's normal aging as something that needs to be fixed by spending money on, the culture will continue to remain more youth-oriented, than not.

  • 2
    This rant does nothing to answer the question.
    – cde
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 4:26
  • I tried to fix it a little. It does indeed provide an attempt at explaining the reasons that the question asks for.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Sep 1, 2016 at 13:37

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