‘Leo’s Law’: a symptom of Hollywood’s sexism problem

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What was once a funny theory on the internet has now turned into a fully-fledged phenomenon. That is, Leonardo DiCaprio’s stringent aversion to all eligible women over the age of 25 — or ‘Leo’s Law’, if you prefer a catchy, alliterative alternative. 

His undeniable charm along with the exceptional staying-power of his boyish, Titanic-era heartthrob image has left him with the unique ability to consistently date women merely years into their adult lives, despite now being in his late 40s. While the Twitter memes are hilarious, on a fundamental level we must admit that there is something concerning about possessing such an unwavering preference for women under 25. Women — I might add — whose brains are still ever so slightly underdeveloped. Women who haven’t quite finished learning about themselves.  

I feel that the name ‘Leo’s Law’ inaccurately paints one man as an inaugurator

Camila Morrone, who last month became the latest woman to fall victim to ‘Leo’s Law’, hinted during her relationship with the Hollywood A-lister that she found such concerns somewhat exasperating. “I just think anyone should be able to date who they want”, she explained in an interview for the Los Angeles Times. She then went on to argue, very accurately, that significant age-gaps aren’t exactly a rarity in Hollywood. A fact which, in itself, is indicative of how normalised a very specific kind of sexism has become among the rich and famous. 

DiCaprio and Morrone were included in a 2020 article by Harper’s Bazaar listing 40 different Hollywood couples with age gaps of at least 10 years. Of those featured, 36 were heterosexual couples. The female partner was the junior in 32 of them, and I refuse to dismiss this as mere coincidence. I feel that the name ‘Leo’s Law’ inaccurately paints one man as an inaugurator, when the graphs mapping out DiCaprio’s dating history currently doing the rounds on social media exist as visual representations of a type of misogyny we know has existed since long before he was born: Hollywood’s contempt for the aging woman. 

The older a woman gets, the more Hollywood tries to quieten her

Many critically acclaimed, Academy Award-winning films throughout history have featured significant age gaps between men and women. Winning the Oscar for Best Picture in 1951, An American in Paris featured a 19-year age gap between love interests Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron. A year later Kelly, now 40, went on to star in the much-loved classic Singin’ in the Rain opposite a 19-year-old Debbie Reynolds. The 1999 film Entrapment, despite lacking any recognition from the Academy, is now infamous for its display of a staggering 39-year age difference between its two romantic leads, Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones. 

The older a woman gets, the more Hollywood tries to quieten her, and we’ve had the evidence at our disposal for years already. A Polygraph study from 2016 showed how 20% of all female dialogue among a sample of 2,000 different screenplays went to actresses between the ages of 42-65, while actors in the same age bracket received 39% of all male dialogue. Among younger age brackets the gender imbalance is still very much there. Historically, the bottom line has been that Hollywood would rather hear what men have to say — especially as opposed to women who have (God forbid) decades of life experience at their disposal. If we’re going to listen to a woman’s voice, the least we can do is make sure the mouth shaping her words is young and pretty and kissable.  

If we’re going to listen to a woman’s voice, the least we can do is make sure the mouth shaping her words is young and pretty and kissable

There must be a reason why DiCaprio has repeatedly treated the Victoria’s Secret runway like a speed-dating event, with him having been linked to no less than eleven Angels over the years. The perfect red-carpet accessories for Hollywood’s leading men, sadly much more famous for being seen than heard. Those that dismiss Leonardo DiCaprio’s dating habits as a simple matter of personal preference should realise that this preference is one that has been intensely influenced by the industry he has worked in his entire adult life, and one that his exceptional status within that industry has allowed him to realise to its fullest extent. There is, however, a glimmer of hope: rumours are circulating that DiCaprio was recently seen with Gigi Hadid, a woman one journalist described as “geriatric” at 27 years of age. 

‘Leo’s Law’ is a symptom of a much wider social issue which, thanks to the film industry, is much more entrenched than it ever needed to be. The kind of sexist ageism that forbids women from celebrating birthdays isn’t one I want to see continuing for long.

Even I had moments on my 20th birthday where I felt like my own time was beginning to run short — which it really, seriously isn’t.

Image credits: Daniel Semenov via Pexels

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