Dawson Casting and the age range (2024)

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KJMackley Since: Jan, 2001

#1: Nov 14th 2016 at 11:43:25 PM

I just had an interesting little counter-edit happen in the trivia page for Last Man Standing where I removed what I considered a bad example of Dawson Casting listing the (at the time) 28 year old Amanda Fuller playing the 23 year old Kristin Baxter, in addition to the 23 year old Alexandra Krosney playing 20 year old Kristin Baxter (She was Age Lift-ed and The Other Darrin in the second season). It got put back with the edit reason quoting the laconic definition "Characters are portrayed by actors quite a bit older than they are." and claiming other examples are similar. I removed it again quoting from the main description that the trope is about adults playing teenagers, typically high schoolers. Similarly, I recently removed an example placed in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays Thomas Wayne and is supposed to be younger than Ben Affleck's Bruce in the present day, while Morgan is still several years older than Affleck.

Anyway, I bring this up mostly curious about community feelings on the matter. I've actually spent some time on Dawson Casting over the years to keep it somewhat focused on the extreme age differences because A) someone not being the exact same age as their character is People Sit On Chairs and B) the trope attracts examples with an accusatory, even negative attitude to the trope itself. I didn't want to put down a hard and fast "margin of error" number for playing the proper age, but have suggested about 3 years (ie an 19 year old playing a 17 year old is not Dawson Casting).

For me personally, the examples listed (28 playing 23, 23 playing 20) are pretty much non-examples, actresses in their 20's playing characters in their 20's. The trope only really becomes noticeable with the extreme age gaps hovering around characters who are in high school or early college. A 14 year old character being playing by a 24 year old actor is significant because we can generally tell the difference between a child and an adult, whereas an adult and a slightly older adult is less obvious. In addition, we are kind of opening the floodgates to an already rather narrowly defined trope. Is there anything notable about a 42 year old playing a 37 year old? Tom Cruise is in his 50's but his characters are presumed to be significantly younger.

Maybe there is a Missing Supertrope Syndrome here, but I think any genuine example outside of teenagers is covered by Age Lift and Playing Gertrude. I have thought about proposing a trope where one actor plays a character outside their age range specifically with the use of certain make-up effects, which would fit the BVS example I mentioned better (Thomas Wayne was in his 30's, Morgan had darker hair and well groomed to look younger).

edited 14th Nov '16 11:44:52 PM by KJMackley

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#2: Nov 15th 2016 at 6:27:44 AM

I feel that you are correct. There's nothing obviously "off" about a 24 year old playing a 20 year old, or a 40 year old playing a 30 year old, unless you know (and care about) the actor's age. The trope, as written, is about adult actors portraying teenagers.

Of course, I detest the title of Dawson Casting because it's another of those grandfathered Trope Namer Syndrome articles that we would never allow to pass Trope Launch Pad. How many tropers are familiar with Dawson's Creek these days?

edited 15th Nov '16 6:31:18 AM by Fighteer

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AnotherDuck No, the other one. from Stockholm Since: Jul, 2012 Relationship Status: Mu

No, the other one.

#3: Nov 15th 2016 at 8:00:12 AM

Show's kind of fallen below the radar. Only thing I've seen recently is the meme pic of Dawson crying.

Anyway, I've always seen the actual age difference as differing depending on the age. Three or less isn't significant unless it's about small children. If the character's twenty, a five year older actor might not be significant, although it's probably on the limit. Older than that, and the age difference grows a lot more. But as mentioned, that's outside the trope's description.

Age Lift is slightly different, though. It's about actually changing or glossing over the character's age, rather than pretending it really is something that differs a lot from the actor. Same "problem", but a different solution.

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Hodor2 Since: Jan, 2015

#4: Nov 15th 2016 at 8:50:17 AM

Saw this thread and wondered about an example I've been thinking about adding. So on Poldark, one of the characters Caroline Penvenen is supposed to be this spirited but kind of naive/sheltered aristocrat and there's a big emphasis on her being "of age" in the near future, at which time she'll have access to her inheritance, which until then is being managed by her Uncle of whom she's his ward.

So as I understand it, that means that Caroline is supposed to be 17 turning 18. She's played on the show by Gabriella Wilde, who is 27, and seems somewhat too old to fit the character's characterization/backstory.

This is an example of Dawson Casting, right?

AnotherDuck No, the other one. from Stockholm Since: Jul, 2012 Relationship Status: Mu

No, the other one.

#5: Nov 15th 2016 at 9:32:30 AM

Sounds like a legit example, yes. Roughly ten years difference between actor and character for a teenaged character is a lot.

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Memers Since: Aug, 2013

#6: Nov 15th 2016 at 9:48:43 AM

10 years while playing a teanaged character? Yeah that would be legit. I would even say like 3-4 years would be good enough, the speed of development makes a huge difference, once in their mid 20s age ranges start expanding as people are done developing.

Even a high schooler playing a middle schooler is an extreme difference.

edited 15th Nov '16 9:50:23 AM by Memers

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#7: Nov 15th 2016 at 12:36:15 PM

Um, the description actually says the trope is about adults playing teenagers. (Which is exactly what I always thought it was.) Laconics are notoriously unreliable, so that's irrelevant. The description even explains the various reasons this is done, in the case of adults playing teenagers.

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KJMackley Since: Jan, 2001

#8: Nov 15th 2016 at 4:52:32 PM

I'm looking more for community opinion rather than the specifics of the description because A) they are not peer reviewed and can easily have been altered over time into something it shouldn't be and B) I'm actually the one who wrote the current description as several years ago it was a mess of wandering ideas. It's currently about 1/3 the length it was before I worked on it, the Analysis page was a straight cut and paste of interesting but unnecessary information and you can see how long that page is by itself.

As for the name, I believe at the time the page was created jokes about Dawson's Creek having an older cast was rather prominent, because it is one of the earlier tv dramas focusing exclusively on teenage characters but played by adult actors. Prior shows would be more family dramas or half hour sitcoms with actors of the right age.

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Lost in Space

#9: Nov 15th 2016 at 5:48:14 PM

I see no problem with the description. Misuse should be cleaned. If there is a serious discrepancy between the description and the examples, then TRS might be indicated, but the first step should always be to clean the examples.

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powerstaark Since: May, 2015

#10: Jun 25th 2023 at 1:28:18 AM

Do you think anybody would notice if an actress is playing a character 7 years younger than her? Still a fully grown adult character but much younger than the actress' actual age. 7 years isn't a huge age gap but it's not an insignificant one either.

MorganWick (Elder Troper)

#11: Jun 25th 2023 at 2:54:22 AM

Looking at the oldest version of the page in the Internet Archive, I note two things: a) all the contextualized examples list only the actor's age, not the character's (making them PCEs by modern standards no matter what)... and b) the age gaps in the Trope Namer are only 5-6 years. The age gaps listed in the next archive are even smaller: apparently, at the time of the pilot's filming two key actors were still in their teens and playing characters only three or four years younger than they were. Regardless of which definition is used, it's entirely possible the Trope Namer is not actually an example. (This assumes the cited ages are accurate; what's listed on the page now is closer to what was originally claimed.)

Regardless, these archives show that the trope has always been about adults playing teenagers. The oldest archived version of the laconic is the more accurate, but possibly not particularly useful, "that 15 year old is really 25". In 2013 REV 6 Pilot changed it from "Highschoolers are portrayed by those that most definitely aren't in high school" to what's quoted in the OP, which interestingly, continued to be edited for some time afterwards, so it hasn't said what was cited to the OP since 2016. I get the sense the laconic has had some back and forth about how important it is that the characters be teenage (or younger) specifically, and this may point to a potential cause of inaccurate laconics: people with a poor sense of what the trope is continuing to change the laconic of even mature tropes, potentially for the worse.

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#12: Jun 25th 2023 at 6:32:36 AM

This is why I stay out of Laconic/.

To the meaning of the trope, it does seem to have originally been about adults playing teenagers, and that is what the current description says. However, making that the explicit definition is going to invite examples along the lines of "$character, age 17, is played by the 18-year-old $actor". Which would be technically correct, since it's an adult actor playing a teenage character, but really isn't what the trope is about. At the very least, there needs to be some sort of close-in-age exemption.

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EmeraldSource Since: Jan, 2021

#13: Jun 25th 2023 at 11:29:31 AM

Dawson Casting has long been overwhelmed with a lot of misuse, some are easy to spot while others are just on that edge to make it complicated. The name and description has always been primarily about teenagers being played by actors 4-5 years older, but the image of "adult trying to look and behave younger than they really are" broadened the trope by tightening that gap to ridiculous levels. It doesn't help that aversions of the trope are considered notable as well, because it indicates a conscious effort to match the age of the character and actor.

I would say there are three core types of misuse:

  • Adult playing slightly younger adult. These are examples where "you do the math and the character should be 38 but the actor was 52." This goes against the core adult playing a teenager definition.
  • One scene flashback. A 28 year old actor has a flashback to their high school days and with a wig, make-up and clothing to appear younger. This goes against the idea that they were cast to play a teenager rather than just providing performance continuity. There may also be a missing trope of "Age Shifted Actor," a counterpart to Time-Shifted Actor that would cover instances like this.
  • Indecisive information. The actor was 19 but the character could have been anywhere from 15-18. There are some examples that base everything on the grade the characters are in and the actor is just three years older than the assumed age.

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nrjxll Since: Nov, 2010 Relationship Status: Not war

#14: Jun 25th 2023 at 4:30:20 PM

Holy mother of necroposts!

FWIW, I personally agree with Memers that this really is pretty much only noteworthy when it comes to teenager characters, because that's when age makes the most dramatic changes. A thirtysomething actor playing a twentysomething character could easily be visually unnoticeable.

BlackMage43 Since: Jun, 2014 Relationship Status: Armed with the Power of Love

#15: Jun 25th 2023 at 5:51:02 PM

Dawson Casting and the age range (21) Agreed, this trope should only really apply to kid and teenager characters.

MorganWick (Elder Troper)

#16: Jun 26th 2023 at 3:05:20 AM

Dawson Casting and the age range (23)Dawson Casting and the age range (24)I didn't even notice that the thread was seven years old. That would explain why the OP cites a laconic that isn't there anymore... :p

Nen_desharu Nintendo Fanatic Extraordinaire from Greater Smash Bros. Universe or Toronto Since: Aug, 2020 Relationship Status: Who needs love when you have waffles?

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#17: Jun 26th 2023 at 5:57:44 PM

Dawson Casting should be brought to TRS, where we could redefine the trope.

However, we would need a wick check first.

I recommend restricting the trope to child and teen characters.

Edited by Nen_desharu on Jun 26th 2023 at 8:58:31 AM

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harryhenry It's either real or it's a dream Since: Jan, 2012

It's either real or it's a dream

#18: Jul 6th 2023 at 7:54:51 AM

Another problem with this trope now is the phenomenon discussed in thisDawson Casting and the age range (27) video by Vsauce, where thanks to a number of factors (better nutrition, less drinking/smoking, changing tastes in fashion) we're actually looking younger for a longer period of time, so more recent examples of Dawson Casting don't jump out as much. Unless it's playing into that "hot young adults playing teens" aesthetic on purpose (like Riverdale) a 20-something playing a teenager isn't gonna be as jarring as it once was during the time of... well, Dawson's Creek.

SharkToast Since: Mar, 2013

#19: Jul 6th 2023 at 3:15:04 PM

I do think that it's noteworthy when adults play underaged characters because it allows the show to get away with situations that would be inappropriate or creepy if the actor was a minor.

WarriorsGate Since: Jan, 2012

#20: Jul 9th 2023 at 3:09:55 PM

On the page for One Piece (2023), there was — I sh*t you not — an example saying "35 year old playing 37 year old". Which is the most non-noteworthy thing I've ever heard (and also the wrong direction, age-wise, for this trope).


Synchronicity (4 Score & 7 Years Ago)

#21: Jul 9th 2023 at 3:29:45 PM

I know dat feel, I brought Playing Gertrude to TRS because it was attracting exactly that kind of "40 year old plays 45 year old" kind of nitpicking. (How to tell tropers that casting agents ask for age ranges or "can play $age" because people age differently and they'd really be limiting themselves if they only cast people born within the age of the character?)

If Dawson Casting's not already so stringently defined as "adult playing teen" (I thought it was tbh) then it should be. (I agree with [1] that these examples would be misuse).

But I think the focus on actor-character age subtraction drives the nitpicking. It goes a bit beyond "cast of 20somethings plays high school sophom*ores", it's also that the characters look and act older as a result of this discrepancy. And is something of a "trivia in aggregate": an example would be "healthier", I think, if it described the casting trend rather than focusing on subtraction. On the other hand, a babyfaced 21-year-old actor who is dressed down and styled like a 17-year-old of the day doesn't feel like it is the same in spirit.

I also think any voice acting examples should be torched on sight. It's about visual perception!!!

(Also, if anyone was curious — offsite usage emphasizes teen characters: AVClubDawson Casting and the age range (33) ScreenhubDawson Casting and the age range (34) WikipediaDawson Casting and the age range (35) ViceDawson Casting and the age range (36))

Edited by Synchronicity on Jul 9th 2023 at 5:40:16 AM

EmeraldSource Since: Jan, 2021

#22: Jul 9th 2023 at 5:35:05 PM

We have generally agreed that the description is mostly on point, we are just wondering how to clean it up. I personally would say:

  • If the character isn't under the age of 20-ish (maybe as high as 22) then it isn't an example, period.
  • If the actor is also a minor or within three years of the age of the character, then it isn't a straight example.
  • No such thing as straight examples for voice acting or anything that masks physical appearance, in-universe and aversions are okay.
  • Examples should have good information, if the character in the novel is 12 but there is an implied Age Lift for the movie you stick with actual markers and not assume the biggest gap possiblenote.

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WarriorsGate Since: Jan, 2012

#23: Jul 11th 2023 at 3:17:01 AM

I think the simplest thing to do would be to emphasize why this is even a thing.

A character is underage, but is played by an adult simply because the producers don't want to deal with child labor laws.

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#24: Jul 12th 2023 at 6:51:41 PM

Dawson Casting and the age range (40)Dawson Casting and the age range (41) Can an averted example really be allowed? Since this is trivia, it can't be played with.


WarriorsGate Since: Jan, 2012

#25: Jul 12th 2023 at 9:34:42 PM

Dawson Casting and the age range (43) Yes, because this isn't an audience reaction. It's an intentional creative choice.


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