celebrity

The age gap in Taylor Swift’s new film is making people uncomfortable. But it reflects real life.

2021 has been a big year for reflection in Hollywood.

So far, we've re-examined the horribly sexist, unfair treatment of young stars in the 2000s like Britney Spears, as well as the subdued reactions to online bullying from the likes of Chrissy Teigen. It seems the rest of the year will be spent examining Hollywood's propensity for age-gap relationships.

Specifically, age-gap relationships involving one famous person dating another famous person, who is still a teenager or freshly 20. 

Relationships like these that took off in the noughties include a 29-year-old Milo Ventimiglia dating a 17-year-old Hayden Panettiere, a 24-year-old Chad Michael Murray dating a 17-year-old Kenzie Dalton (and getting engaged when she was still a senior in high school), and a 24-year-old Joel Madden dating a 16-year-old Hilary Duff.

Weird, right? What's also weird is how little it was questioned at the time. Maybe people were whispering behind closed doors, but the public response to these kinds of relationships seemed to be more 'meh' than 'WTF?'.

Which brings me to Taylor Swift's All Too Well The Short Film.

On November 5, 2021, Swift released a teaser video for a short film to be released on November 12, based on her song 'All Too Well', to coincide with the release of her re-recorded album, Red (Taylor's Version).

Alongside herself, it stars Stranger Things' Sadie Sink and Teen Wolf's Dylan O'Brien.

Watch: The teaser trailer for All Too Well. Post continues below video.


Video via Taylor Swift.

For context, 'All Too Well' is widely considered by critics and fans to be Swift's career pinnacle. It was released on her fourth album Red in 2012 and has become one of the most defining songs of her career, despite never being a single.

Now, admittedly, I am very biased. 'All Too Well' is my favourite song of all time. Nothing will ever beat screaming "AND YOU CALL ME UP AGAIN JUST TO BREAK ME LIKE A PROMISE, SO CASUALLY CRUEL IN THE NAME OF BEING HONEST" at the top of your lungs. Nothing! It is just *chef's kiss*!

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The key point here, however, is that 'All Too Well' is about Jake Gyllenhaal (and her lost scarf).

Swift and Gyllenhaal dated in 2010, when she was 20, and he was 29.

(Another song on Red, 'The Moment I Knew', is about how Gyllenhaal did not turn up to Swift's 21st birthday party in December of that year, spelling the end of their relationship.)

Swift and Gyllenhaal, both pictured in October 2010. Image: Getty. 

The All Too Well film will feature the 10-minute version of the song, which fans have been asking to hear for nine years. It is effectively a gift to fans, and it stars Sink, 19, and O'Brien, 30, as lovers-turned-exes.

The murmurs began when Swift announced their names attached to the project. 

Even without any images, people pointed out that Sink very much looked like a teenager, whereas O'Brien and his beard do not. This only increased when the first image from the film was shared online.

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"It gives me the ick," one fan said. 

"Hey [Swift], quick question, what the actual f*** is wrong with you?" said another.

This is the point. It is ick to see a grown man dating a teenager. We can't ignore the fact that there are power and maturity imbalances in these relationships.

Watching a man with a full-on beard act like he is dating a baby-faced Sink is definitely uncomfortable, because it is meant to be. Their age difference is a point of contention in the film when, during a dinner with O'Brien's character's friends, Sink feels uncomfortable.

"They're all older than me," she yells in an argument. "I feel so out of place."

Sink and O'Brien. Image: Getty. 

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In the film, the actors also dress similarly to Swift and Gyllenhaal on their most infamous public outing, captured by paparazzi in upstate New York during Thanksgiving 2010.

Everything Swift does is deliberate, so these parallels are no accident. 

It's social commentary, and ironically, she's bearing the brunt of the criticism. Yes, Swift could have cast actors who are closer in age. Doing so would've been less controversial, but it also wouldn't have us here reflecting on Hollywood's casual attitude towards these large age-gaps.

Where was this energy for Gyllenhaal when they dated in 2010? Where was this energy for John Mayer, who was even older at 32 when he dated a 19-year-old Swift?

These age-gap relationships don't seem any less frequent now. In fact, there are men whose entire brand seems tied to dating much-younger women. There's the infamous Leonardo DiCaprio graph, which shows how his girlfriends never make it past 25, even as he edges towards 50. And there's Scott Disick, whose two most recent relationships have had 15-year and 18-year age-gaps.

Plus, history is already repeating itself with a new generation of young stars. Eighteen-year-old Olivia Rodrigo is dating 24-year-old producer Adam Faze. Billie Eilish is 19, and she is dating 29-year-old actor Matthew Tyler Vorce.

It's still a common phenomenon, which is not exclusive to Hollywood but sure seems normalised among the rich and famous. At the very least, these days, eyebrows are raised and we are having conversations about the implications of these relationships.

If you watch All Too Well The Short Film and wince - good. You are meant to.

In 2010's 'Dear John', Swift sung "don't you think 19 is too young?"'

Finally, we do.

Chelsea McLaughlin is Mamamia's Senior Entertainment Writer. For more pop culture takes, sarcasm and... cat content, you can follow her on Instagram.

Feature image: Getty.

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