While it’s nothing new to acknowledge that the entertainment industry is extraordinarily dedicated to making discriminatory casting decisions, this latest headliner has everyone scratching their heads. Emmy Rossum, who is 35 years old, has been cast to play Tom Holland’s mother. Tom Holland is 25.
There are so many layers as to why this is unsettling, the most obvious being that a decade between the two actors is hardly going to be a realistic suspension of disbelief on-screen. But let’s dig a little deeper than that, shall we? Why on earth wouldn’t they cast an actress over the age of, oh, say 40? 45? 50? Or are all of those women too busy choosing urns and mausoleum plots? Because in Hollywood, can women over A Certain Age (that age being, like, 26) really play any role outside of “wisened crone?”
The project starring Emmy Rossum and Tom Holland is called The Crowded Room, which will be an anthology series on Apple+. It’s loosely based on The Minds of Billy Milligan — Daniel Keyes’ biography of the first person acquitted of a crime because of what is now known as dissociative identity disorder.
Though people on Twitter have pointed out that Rossum may be playing Holland’s mother in flashbacks to the character’s childhood, it’s actually unclear if that’s true based on the available details for the series. No one working on the show has confirmed whether her role is relegated to flashbacks, either.
Going on what information we do know, Emmy Rossum has been cast in the role of a mother to a fellow actor who was born when she was 10 years old. Why? Just…why?
This is Hollywood ageism in its finest form because there are two different types of ageism at play here. Rossum could not have biologically mothered the person she is supposed to have mothered in this series, and she’s been cast in a role that ages her—if not literally (which is still unclear), then certainly figuratively. This is gendered ageism, and the entertainment industry is rife with it when it comes to women. Especially women who are mothers, or play the role of a mother.
On the flip side, denying this role to an actor who is age-appropriate is just run-of-the-mill ageism. Full stop.
While this is hardly the first time we’ve seen this kind of ageism at play in movies and television, it’s certainly one of the most startlingly obvious instances. (Though perhaps nothing tops the fact that Angelina Jolie was just 28 when she played Colin Farrel’s mother in Alexander. Colin Farrel was also 28.)
While Emmy Rossum is an absolutely fabulous actress who can play any role and excel at it, Laura Dern was right there. (And she’s 52!)