The Competence Zone
gets intimate with the Rule of Perception
: The physical appearance (and sometimes emotional maturity) of the cast isn't determined as much by their age, but rather their characterization and relative position within the cast. This can seemingly place them outside the normal Competence Zone
, until you find out their true age.
In short, the more competent or mature you are, the older you look. And the inverse is true. A character in a position of leadership may look five to ten years older than they really are, while the youngest character will often look, and sometimes act
, like a kid. This is especially true with preteen and teenaged characters, for whom their level of maturity is often mirrored by their physical development.
A prime cause of Younger
/Older than They Look
. Compare Methuselah Syndrome
, Acceptable Targets
, Old Master
, and Vague Age
Anime and Manga
- X-Men: First Class does this in many ways with Mystique. She is about as old as Xavier. But as a shapeshifter, she chooses to look younger, and she prefers to stay with the teenage recruits. And according to Hank, her body ages slower. Then, Magneto dumps her, and states that maybe he will be willing to sleep with her in ten years.
- In The Godfather Part III Mary Corleone is technically in her mid to late twenties (she's actually older than Michael was at the beginning of the first film). However she is portrayed very much as an innocent, wide eyed teenager (being played by the then 18-year old Sophia Coppala is also a factor.)
- In the earlier Harry Potter books, when Ginny was outside the Competence Zone, she was described as "little" and in general made to sound like she was practically still sucking on a pacifier, despite being only one year younger than the trio. This ended after she Took a Level in Badass. Lampshaded when Harry tries to keep her out of the fifth book's adventure, only to be reminded she's older than he was when he fought Voldemort over the Philosopher's Stone.
- Noted by Trian in the first book of The Death Gate Cycle. "Wars and kingship age a man. Magic does not." Zigzagged in that while he appears quite young, he has the power to act on behalf of the king, but he ultimately has very little power in the broader scope the series takes.
- Zigzagged further with Alfred. He is often described as old and balding, but takes little initiative and displays far less power than the more youthful Haplo. He is specifically contrasted with Samah who displays far more power and who is in some ways older (they were both preserved in stasis for very long periods of time) but who is not described to be nearly as old in appearance. In truth, Alfred is the most powerful - magically speaking - of his people when he actually is able to bring himself to achieve his potential.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- A non-animated example of the emotional maturity part (obviously physical maturity is probably not going to be fudged this way in a live action show): At the end of this show, Dawn was the same age Buffy was at the start of the series. Dawn was treated as immature and whiny, while Buffy was treated as justified in her conflict with adults and generally as fairly mature in most matters.
- While Dawn was quite whiny and downright bratty in seasons 5 and 6, there was a shift in her maturity during season 7. She was certainly as mature as Buffy who shirked her responsibilities and lied to her Watcher, mom and friends so she could go make out.
- Desperate Housewives: In the later seasons, Bree started dating a younger man. The character was nominally in his mid to late 30's (like his actor Brian Austin Green) but in order to make the age gap seem a bigger issue he usually acted and dressed at least a decade younger, coming across as more like a twenty something Slacker.
- Revolution: Charlie and Danny Matheson seem to come across as little kids at times, but they are at least older teenagers and young adults at most. There is Nate Walker, who's treated like a kid, even though the actor playing him, JD Pardo, is actually 33 years old.
- It's been said that Presidents of the United States age in dog years while in office. Compare current photos of Barack Obama with those from the 2008 campaign.
- The OG Numbers in Super Robot Wars: Original Generation. Compare BFS-swinger Sanger Zonvolt to XO-slash-Captain Tetsuya. Both are the same age (27), but as Sanger is a battle-hardened veteran, he looks noticeably older than Tetsuya, who over the course of the series is just starting to grow into the role of a capable commander. Another example is fellow captain Lefina Enfield, who looks noticeably older than her 19 years would suggest.
- Tales of Symphonia presents the rare triple subversion. When the characters are introduced to Presea, she's clearly a child, but strikes the characters as remarkably mature and capable (among other things, being responsible for single-handedly maneuvering a giant log that two grown men can't handle). The characters find out later that she's less mature than numb, and once fixed, she seems slightly more childlike. As the game moves on, she's revealed to be twenty-eight, having been locked as a child for sixteen years, and presents herself as being both young and mature. Characters like Raine and Regal are played straight, however, as they seem rather older than their respective ages (mid-twenties, early thirties).
- In World of Warcraft, Thrall calls Garrosh Hellscream "boy" after he challenges him to a duel for the Warchief title. This fits with the roles of the two characters, with Thrall being the wise spiritual leader and Garrosh being the Hot-Blooded upstart warrior, however Fridge Logic dictates Garrosh is actually older than Thrall by at least a few years. Thrall was born on Azeroth after the end of the second war. Garrosh was born on Draenor, which means he must have been born or at least conceived before his father Grom Hellscream went through the Dark Portal at the start of the first war.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender has Sokka explicitly stating that he can't remember his mother without Katara's face, because she has been acting as such since their mother's death. She is his younger sister.