May-December romances typically refer to a relationship between two individuals in which one person is significantly older than the other. The term is an allusion to the months of May and December and is often used in the context of a romantic relationship. More recently, these relationships have been depicted in the cinema, with several well-known filmmakers releasing feature-length films with this theme. May-December romances have featured prominently in some of Hollywood’s most beloved romantic comedies and dramas in the past few decades.
Romantic Movies Dispelling Stereotypes
In the past, these relationships were often portrayed in a patronizing light in the mainstream media, often stereotyping the younger partner as being naive or “golddigging”. In recent years, however, there has been a shift in this narrative, with several movies openly tackling this issue and dispelling any preconceived notions of unequal power dynamics in these types of relationships.
Popular May-December romance movies such as Roman Holiday (1953) and The Graduate (1967) portray inter-generational relationships in a positive light, subverting traditional patriarchal views of age-gap romances. In both films the characters form meaningful connections, showing that whether the parties are separated in age or not, love can still exist and flourish. Similarly, Call Me By Your Name (2017) is an LGBT-focused romance which follows two men separated by a considerable age-gap. Here, the age difference serves as a significant plot point, as the older man provides helpful guidance to the younger man regarding his newfound sexuality.
Cultural Stigmas Regarding age-gap Relationships
Despite movies subverting the stigmas of May-December relationships, these types of romances are still viewed with negativity in certain sectors of society. Part of this stems from cultural beliefs and practices, with some countries such as India refusing to accept such relationships as the norm. Additionally, even in Western culture, where there reaction is not as extreme, there is still a degree of unease and disapproval in certain circles.
Esra Caliguri, a Professor of Media Studies at the University of London, said: “In some cultures, age-gap relationships are seen as patriarchal. These relationships are still viewed as power structures which perpetuates inequality, rather than a positive and happy union.”
Therefore, the view of May-December relationships varies widely across different societies and cultures.
Celebrity May-December Romances
Another factor fuelling the stigma surrounding May-December relationships are the numerous celebrity couples who partake in them. There have been a number of famous couples that have caught media attention in recent years, highlighting the large number of people entering such a relationship.
Celebrities such as Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones and Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton, have all made headlines over the past few years, due to their age-gap relationships. This has allowed a certain degree of visibility to be brought to the issue, albeit a contentious one.
Julia Star, a Actor and Writer, observed: “Celebrity couples have become the face of May-December romances, in terms of public perception. In some ways, this could be seen as a positive thing because it allows for more people to be accepting of these kinds of relationships. However, this could also be viewed as detrimental, because the image of age-gap relationships in the eyes of the media often reflects superficial values, rather than the genuine emotion of the couple.”
Romantic Tropes in May-December Movies
Many movies featuring May-December romances follow the same tropes, in terms of the story-lines. In these movies, the younger individual is often depicted as the more dynamic, capable and confident character, with the older partner serving as a source of guidance and assistance to the other. This depiction of the older partner often serves to highlight the vulnerability and naivete of the younger character.
In some cases, this narrative structure is flipped, and it is the older partner that is depicted as the more naive and child-like character, often with the younger partner playing the role of being the wiser and more mature character in the relationship.
In either case, these romances are often built on sincere connection, based on shared experiences and emotions, rather than any other criteria.
Themes in May-December Romance Movies
May-December romance movies often explore strong themes of love, loyalty, empathy, understanding and personal growth. These themes often go hand in hand with each other, as the characters must overcome obstacles and challenge their own beliefs in order to reach a state of self-discovery.
Many of these movies focus on the importance of communication and understanding in relationships, with the characters being forced to learn to accept and empathise with each other’s perspectives.
It is this journey of self-discovery and growth that makes these May-December romance stories appealing to many movie-goers, as it is a relatable narrative which offers hope to viewers in their own (real-life) inter-generational relationships.
The Effect of Age-gap Movies
May-December romance movies have proven to be immensely popular amongst film viewers both young and old, providing a refreshing take on love, relationships and communication.
Studies have shown that viewers who watch these kinds of movies become increasingly open to the idea of age-gap relationships. This reveals the power of cinema in changing views, attitudes and even behaviours of people.
The increasing representation of May-December relationships in the media reflects changing societal norms, with the trend expected to continue into the future.
Mainstream Representation of Age-gap Relationships
More and more movies are being made around the theme of May-December romances, with several major Hollywood studios producing films in this genre. Examples include the remake of Arthur (2011) starring Russell Brand as the older partner. This has been further echoed by the success of critically-acclaimed films such as My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) and Somebody Like You (2002).
The mainstream representation of age-gap relationships serves as an impetus for pushing societal boundaries and encouraging the acceptance of these relationship dynamics in the general public. This results in more couples being able to express themselves openly, without fear of judgment or ridicule.
The Diverse Range of May-December Movies
The current range of May-December movies covers a wide spectrum of genre, from lighthearted dramedies to dark psychological thrillers. This creates a great opportunity for movie-goers to choose from a plethora of films, with differing themes and tones.
Modern May-December romance films often focus on how ageism affects the protagonists in different ways. Some of these movies feature comedic elements, while others veer away from the typical approaches to the genre by exploring the dynamics of age-gap relationships in a more mature manner.
Films such as Richard Curtis’s About Time (2013) and Mike Lori’s The One I Love (2014) explore the theme of relationships between characters of varied ages in different timelines. These movies aim to showcase mature and nuanced portrayals of age-gap relationships, while providing an alternative view on the subject.
Social Premises Surrounding Age-Gap Relationships
Many May-December movies seek to challenge the stigmas surrounding age-gap relationships, aiming to tackle prejudicial beliefs and social premises held by the general public.
These include stereotypes such as the belief that one side is merely using the other for their own gain, and that age-gap relationships will never succeed. Through the exploration of this theme, movies have sought to dispel these myths, paving the way for more acceptance of age-gap relationships in society.
Films such as The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015) and The Age of Adaline (2015) present age-gap relationships in a more mature light, displaying the characters as equals throughout the story and challenging viewer’s preconceived notions of these types of relationships.
Increasing Popularity of May-December Romances
May-December romance films continue to be popular amongst movie-goers, with the genre quite often being operated in mainstream films and shown in multiplexes across the world.
The increasing prevalence of age-gap movies serves to indicate the growing popularity of these films. Movie-goers are responding positively to these films, as they present a refreshing take on traditionally-held views on this subject.
Studios seem to have taken note of audiences’ reactions, with certain films going on to win awards, such as My Summer Of Love (2004).
The Different Representations of May-December Romances
In modern cinema, May-December films are featured in all genres, from family films to romantic comedies. This results in an extremely diverse range of films, in terms of portrayals and character personalities, making these films more accessible to viewers from all walks of life.
For example, films such as Love and Friendship (2016) presented a humorous take on the genre, while films such as Little Women (2019) presented a more realistic and mature view on the matter.
These films not only challenge traditional views on the subject of age-gap relationships, but also provide an entertaining viewing experience to audiences.
The Inevitable Reality of Age-Gap Relationships
May-December romance films have an enduring appeal, in part due to the inevitability of age-gap relationships. As people age, they become attracted to individuals of different ages, and a romantic connection is formed.
This is accurately depicted in films such as The Yank (2009), which follows the story of a 60 year old man, who falls in love with a much younger woman. Another example is The King of Staten Island (2020), which follows a failed stand-up Comedian, who is attracted to a much older woman.
By exploring this theme of inevitability, these films create a sense of relatability to viewers.
Legacy of May-December Movies
May-December romance films have seen an increasing presence in the mainstream, with the genre being featured in multiplexes across the world.
These films have also become more diverse in terms of themes and characters. This has allowed for greater representation for these kinds of relationships in media, with more respectfulness towards these kinds of relationships.
These films have also proven to be immensely popular, dated back to earlier films such as Roman Holiday (1953).
May-December romance films have become increasingly popular in recent years, offering entertaining and thought-provoking takes on age-gap relationships. By tackling this theme in an honest and respectful manner, these films are able to convey the emotional trials and tribulations of these types of relationships.
Furthermore, these films have presented some fresh perspectives on the theme of age-gap relationships, while providing viewers with an entertaining viewing experience.