Leonardo DiCaprio’s divorce?
Leonardo DiCaprio’s divorce, Demi Lovato’s ’29,’ and relationship age gap research
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When news broke this week that Leonardo DiCaprio, 47, had called it quits with girlfriend Camila Morrone, 25, the internet reacted angrily to the actor known for appearing in some of Hollywood’s best films over the previous three decades – and for only dating women born after his career started.
“‘Titanic’ reaches 25 this year, and I imagine Leonardo DiCaprio will no longer want to be in it,” one Twitter user said. “Three things in life are certain: death, taxes, and Leonardo DiCaprio breaking up with his girlfriend before her pre-frontal brain has completely formed,” another joked.
The discussion surrounding DiCaprio’s split is emblematic of a larger recent trend of re-examining celebrity relationships with large age gaps: Demi Lovato and Taylor Swift have both used songs to call out their significantly older exes for dating them when they were in their late teens and early twenties.
Fans, in turn, have exploited DiCaprio, Lovato, and Swift’s circumstances to highlight gender and power disparities in relationships.
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“We’ve reached a tipping point,” says Andrea McDonnell, associate professor of communication at Providence College, noting the #MeToo movement, recent movies exposing renowned men’s misbehaviour and abuse, and the repeal of Roe v. Wade.
Previous article Leonardo DiCaprio’s girlfriend Camila Morrone speaks out about their 22-year age difference.
“There’s a feeling that the existing quo for women isn’t working,” McDonnell continues, referring to the dating environment and beyond.
“As a result, on social media and in public debate, you’re seeing the Leo split as one example where people can call out and ridicule his conduct as a form of pushing back.”
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Taylor Swift, Demi Lovato, and the history of younger women dating older guys
Famous couples with significant age disparities have a long history in Hollywood, including Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Boggart (a 25-year gap) and Marilyn Monroe and Joe Dimaggio (12-year gap).
Even more recently, Kylie Jenner and Tyga (who met when Jenner was 14 and Tyga was 21), Florence Pugh and Zach Braff (a 21-year age difference), and numerous of Scott Disick’s partnerships have raised questions.
It’s a story as ancient as the silver screen, due to viewers’ obsession with the concept of two co-stars falling in love on set – and it was and still is “usual for older leading males to be put alongside much younger romantic female protagonists,” McDonnell observes.
“Casting in films, like much of the media, both reflects and influences society,” McDonnell says. “It reflects a culture in which women are highly valued for their youth and beauty, whereas older men are associated with knowledge, strength, and power, typically via riches.”
Relationship age disparities are widespread regardless of the couple’s gender, as shown with Olivia Wilde and Harry Styles, Holland Taylor and Sarah Paulson, and Elton John and David Furnish, however they are more typically highlighted in situations involving older men and younger women.
After feeling taken advantage of, some are now calling out their former relationships. Take, for example, Demi Lovato’s new tune “29,” which has been used by a slew of TikTok producers to lament their own former romances.
“Finally 29 / Funny, just like you were at the time / Thought it was a teenage dream, just a daydream / But was it yours or was it mine? 17, 29,” Lovato sings in “29,” which has been linked to ex Wilmer Valderrama, now 42.
In a 2015 interview with Ryan Seacrest, Lovato said that the two initially met when she was 17, and that Valderrama told her she was too young for him. Seacrest warned Lovato, then 22, that they were still too young to date Valderrama, then 35.
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Taylor Swift, 32, revised her breakup song “All Too Well,” supposedly about actor Jake Gyllenhaal (who is nine years her older), when she re-released her 2012 album “Red” last October.
Swift sings, “And I was never good at cracking jokes, but the punchline goes / ‘I’ll grow older, but your boyfriends remain my age.” She also mentions her ex skipping her 21st birthday party earlier in the song.
Swift dated musician John Mayer when she was 19 and he was 32 (“Don’t you think 19 is too young / To be played by your dark twisted games, when I loved you so?” she sings in 2010’s “Dear John”). In the aftermath of Swift’s re-recorded albums, both men have been chastised on social media for dating younger women.
What can we gain from these connections?
These partnerships are legal as long as both parties are above the age of 18, so what’s the problem? Power disparities, which may occur in partnerships between older men and younger women, are cited by developmental and relationship specialists as a warning that a relationship may not be suitable.
“When it comes to dating, date within an age range where you feel secure and comfortable,” Rori Sassoon, a relationship expert and matchmaker, advises singles, pushing them to select a mate with comparable “levels of life experience and relationship objectives.”
Meghan Gillen, an associate professor of psychology at Penn State Abington who specialises in developmental psychology and body image, advises people in comparable situations to assess the issue for themselves:
“Do you think it’s appropriate? Is it at all comfortable? Do you believe you can connect to the individual… or that the person has control over you?”
Couples with an age difference may achieve prestige whether they are famous or not. However, younger partners, in particular, must be aware of the gender, social, and power dynamics at work.
“From the public’s image alone, significant age difference couples take more effort than the ordinary relationship,” Sassoon argues.
“Beware if you’re merely there to satisfy your ego.”