Illustration by Emmalia Godshall for an article on Alexa Demie
Getting older in Hollywood isn't easy for women. (Illustration by Emmalia Godshall, Columbia University)

Alexa Demie and the Prevalence of Ageism Against Women in Hollywood

The uproar over the revelation that the ‘Euphoria’ star has perhaps hidden her real age has led to a much-needed conversation on society’s troublesome attitude regarding aging actresses.

Thoughts x
Illustration by Emmalia Godshall for an article on Alexa Demie

The uproar over the revelation that the ‘Euphoria’ star has perhaps hidden her real age has led to a much-needed conversation on society’s troublesome attitude regarding aging actresses.

Known as Maddy Perez in HBO’s hit series “Euphoria,” Alexa Demie is under public investigation after online sleuths alleged that she was lying about her real age. Fans of Demie were shocked to learn that her age could possibly be around 29 after presuming that she would be in the same age range as her “Euphoria” costars, who vary from 21 to 24 years old. Pointing to interviews held in 2010 in which interviewers referred to Demie as 20 years old and a 2008 high school yearbook that further validates the accusations, online sleuths have been committed to finding information that can verify her age.

Whilst a sort of minute difference of years, Demie’s age has become both a humorous meme and an object of scrutiny as her questionable film choices have been reexamined. This major uproar about the “Euphoria” star’s age has also elicited a perhaps much larger and much-needed dialogue on Hollywood’s and the public’s perception of aging women.

The controversy surrounding the age of Demie has not been completely serious. Many “Euphoria” fans have treated this revelation with humor by posting an abundance of memes imagining Demie as an immortal time traveler that can transcend time and space. Garnering hundreds upon thousands of retweets and likes, tweets that portrayed Demie as a contemporary of major historical figures were immensely popular. Tweets such as this one with Karl Marx, this one photoshopping her into the fall of the Berlin Wall and this one showcasing Demie in events placed thousands of years ago.

Trigger Warning: sexual assault, child abuse.

However, it is important to discuss why Demie’s scandal has also been treated with some seriousness. There are many fans who have openly stated their discomfort at the fact that Demie could be pushing 30 and still starring in films like “Mid90s,” in which she inappropriately interacts with a very young minor.

Set in Palms, Los Angeles, “Mid90s” centers around 13-year-old Stevie (who at the time was played by 11-year-old Sunny Suljic) and his ascent into manhood after befriending an older group of skateboarders. Demie’s character, Estee, is intended to be around 16 or 17 and becomes charmed by the 13-year-old with the justification that Stevie is “at that age before guys become dicks.” After some flirtation, Estee and Stevie have sex and are shown to be kissing. After this incident, his friends congratulate him on his supposed new sexual prowess.

Truthfully, this scene did seem to be very predatory, considering the age gap between the two characters would rightfully classify the encounter as statutory rape. Some have argued that the inappropriate actions in the film were purely fictional and films can take major liberties when portraying certain stories. Some even compared the scene to fight scenes, in which, they argued, that if one punches another in a movie, they are not actually doing something immoral.

Whether or not one believes that Demie herself should be criticized for participating in the scene or whether it constitutes an ethical violation, I would still add that the film’s frivolous treatment of the age gap could continue to normalize statutory rape against young men. Society already degrades victims of sexual assault by female perpetrators, and displaying scenes such as this can further stigmatize those who speak out and even push more young men into the hands of female groomers.

In a bid to explain her actions in the film, Demie said, “I had a lot of anxiety about that (at first) because obviously there’s somewhat of an age difference between Sunny and I. But he is just so cool, and it felt very comfortable and safe.”

Alexa Demie and Hollywood’s Ageism and Sexism

Whether Demie was 23 or 30, the criticism of her “Mid90s” scene would still be valid; it is not a surprise that her previous transgressions only caused a major uproar after the revelation of her possible age. Her previous proximity to her early 20s could have slowed the outrage whilst her “new” age was simply considered to be “too” old. However, this idea that Demie is “old” at 30 years old invites a new conversation on the factors that cause women to hide their age, and these factors’ connection to the pervasive ageism and sexism in Hollywood.

Concealing one’s age is not uncommon in the feminine world. Growing up, I was taught to never ask a woman her age, nor was I supposed to speak of my mother’s real age to anyone. The value of older women was centered around their proximity to youth rather than their own merit and accomplishments. This belief that there is an inherent value in appearing younger comes with actual economic benefit as women are significantly more likely to face gender-or age-based discrimination than men of all ages, which can affect career prospects and other economic pursuits.

This partly stems from the mass commercialization of youthful appearance by television shows, movies and commercials that disproportionally targeted (and still target) women. Companies created commercials and sponsored television shows and movies that fostered insecurity around the image of the aging woman and sold products to quell that carefully constructed self-doubt. The perfect woman was one who would never proudly wear a wrinkle, crows’ foot or fine line.

Thus, as this image of youthful beauty became popular, actresses in Hollywood became younger and their careers were cut short. After studying Hollywood’s gender gap, a Time magazine study concluded that female actresses reach their peak at age 30 while male actors see their careers reach their professional pinnacle at age 46. In speaking about ageism in Hollywood, Jane Fonda said, “It is okay for men to get older, because men become more desirable by being powerful. With women, it’s all about how we look. Men are very visual; they want young women. So, for us, it’s all about trying to stay young.”

Other famous actresses such as Jennifer Aniston, Dakota Johnson and Jamie Lee Curtis have all spoken out against ageism and have described their own personal experiences with age-related discrimination.

Therefore, it is not ignorant to suggest that Demie had a justified reason for hiding her true age and continuing to ignore the subject completely.

The revelation that she is possibly 29 highlighted society’s rampant ageism, showcasing once again why some women hide their real ages. The shock among “Euphoria” viewers centered around the idea that she was able to look so youthful despite her age; however, 30 years old is still relatively young and nowhere near middle age. The idea that a woman could still look incredibly youthful and even beautiful at age 30 seemed to be a shocking defiance of previous cultural norms.

Therefore, it is still valid to criticize Demie for her participation in inappropriate scenes with a minor, but her true age is irrelevant in this conversation. Whether she is 18, 23 or 30, her actions would still be considered wrong. The sudden uproar against her, deriving its justification from the revelation that she could be 29, just perpetuates the long-standing ageism and sexism in Hollywood.

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