Created By: Statalyzer on August 8, 2011 Last Edited By: Statalyzer on April 20, 2012

Improbably Old Military

Old Army

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A military unit that historically ought to be composed primarily of young men in the 18-24 year range, is played by a bunch of actors who are at least a decade older than the part should require. It's not required the the actors literally be in their mid-30s, but that's the most common as it generally avoids Character Aged with the Actor territory, and if the group is still in their 20s, even they are historically a little too old, it's not worth noting due to the subjectivity of how old someone looks. But a group of soldiers, sailors, or fliers who all, even the veteran captain/major/whatever, all look like they could be high school or college students is definitely an aversion.

Works that fit this trope include:

  • Kelly's Heroes - a company composed mostly of privates, corporals, and sergeants, in the middle of World War II, seem to have an average age of somewhere in their mid thirties.
  • In Gettysburg the use of reinactors for many of the the extras created something of a bias in favor of older middle age men, vs the younger 18-21 range that would have actually made up the bulk of the private soldiers.
  • John Wayne in the Vietnam-era misstep The Green Berets - except he personally was more like a member of a late-fifties military unit. This in a movie set during a conflict where most of the men were only barely college-age, and the officers were decidedly unlikely to be all that much older.
  • Many of the more accurate depictions of the WWII-era Red Army. Most of its personnel was from wartime drafts, and Russia threw just about every able-bodied male (and plenty of females too) they had into battle, hence their average soldier was older than a typical peacetime conscript.
Community Feedback Replies: 19
  • August 9, 2011
    AriHasNoLife
    Do you mean this as in the characters themselves are older, or it's a bad case of Dawson Casting all around?
  • August 9, 2011
    Auxdarastrix
    I can see this being a trope, but for The Great Escape, one should consider that what was depicted was not actually a military unit, but a group of officers (who are going to be, on average, older than the common soldier) who were put together by the Nazis because they were the most effective trouble makers and escape artists. It isn't suprising that such a group should be more experienced, and therefor older than the average makeup of a real unit.

    Compare to the movie Gettysburg where the use of reinactors for many of the the extras created something of a bias in favor of older middle age men, vs the younger 18-21 range that would make up the bulk of the private soldiers.
  • August 9, 2011
    Fanra
    The United States Congress after Pearl Harbor passed a new Selective Service Act which removed restrictions and extended the draft to men aged 18-38 years of age (briefly to 45 years).

    That's not counting enlisted men and officers who were already in the military when the war began and could be any age up to 55 or so if not a general, and there is no set retirement age for generals.

    In 2006 the active duty Army changed the mandatory retirement/separation age for active duty soldiers from age 55 to age 62. Again, this limit does not apply to General officers.

    All of which means that in some cases the "too old" soldiers could very well be Reality Is Unrealistic. Not every real life soldier is 18 to 24 years of age.
  • August 29, 2011
    Statalyzer
    "Do you mean this as in the characters themselves are older, or it's a bad case of Dawson Casting all around?"

    Both? It's more like a failure to realize (or a lack of caring about) the fact that a certain military unit ought to be made up of younger guys. The characters ages might not be directly stated. Compare Memphis Belle, where correctly most of the guys look in the 18-22 range and even the oldest crew member, the pilot, doesn't look to have reached 30 yet.

    Gettysburg would be a great example (yeah, The Great Escape probably wasn't).
  • August 29, 2011
    Statalyzer
    "Do you mean this as in the characters themselves are older, or it's a bad case of Dawson Casting all around?"

    Both? It's more like a failure to realize (or a lack of caring about) the fact that a certain military unit ought to be made up of younger guys. The characters ages might not be directly stated. Compare Memphis Belle, where correctly most of the guys look in the 18-22 range and even the oldest crew member, the pilot, doesn't look to have reached 30 yet.

    {{Gettysburg}%
  • August 30, 2011
    ZombieAladdin
    I think the title should be fixed. I Thought It Meant a military unit dressed and armed as if they were in the 1930s.
  • August 30, 2011
    laila
    • John Wayne in the Vietnam-era misstep The Green Berets - except he personally was more like a member of a late-fifties military unit. This in a movie set during a conflict where most of the men were only barely college-age, and the officers were decidedly unlikely to be all that much older.
  • October 8, 2011
    Statalyzer
    Good point on the ambiguous title. But I can't come up with anything better.
  • October 8, 2011
    Statalyzer
    Good point on the ambiguous title. But I can't come up with anything better.
  • November 11, 2011
    aurora369
    Many of the more accurate depictions of the WWII-era Red Army. Most of its personnel was from wartime drafts, hence older than a typical peacetime conscript.
  • April 13, 2012
    lu127
    Spammer.
  • April 13, 2012
    lu127
    Spammer.
  • April 13, 2012
    lu127
    Spammer.
  • April 15, 2012
    aurora369
    Who's the spammer?
  • April 15, 2012
    SKJAM
  • April 15, 2012
    elwoz
    I had the same problem as Zombie Aladdin.
  • April 20, 2012
    Statalyzer
    I like SKJAM's general idea. Improbably Old Military (since it isn't just soldiers)? How's that.

    Addressing fanra's point, yes, there were older guys around, but a front-line combat outfit of low-ranking soldiers in WW 1 or WW 2 who are all over the age of 30 just isn't realistic in most cases.
  • April 20, 2012
    Tuckerscreator
    I thought the same thing as Zombie Aladdin. Improbably Old Soldiers works better.
  • April 20, 2012
    Statalyzer
    I like SKJAM's general idea. Improbably Old Military (since it isn't just soldiers)? How's that.
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