If she tells you she's 26, and
looks 26, she's damn near forty!
— Chris Rock
, "No Sex (in the Champagne Room)" note
Sometimes characters look their age. But in this instance, they don't. Whether it was a deliberate artistic choice on the behalf of the creator (usually to make the character more attractive or to legally fulfill a fetish) or something much deeper and linked to their characterization and the plot, this character will be older than they look. Although still within the normal range of the human lifespan (for that setting, anyway), this character will look noticeably younger than their age. Sometimes even improbably younger; it's not unheard of for a seeming teenager to be over the hill chronologically.
This is an extremely common trope in Speculative Fiction
, where magic or Applied Phlebotinum
can be used to explain the characters appearance being at odds with their age.
When science fiction or fantasy takes this trope to its illogical extreme, it leads to Really 700 Years Old
, The Ageless
, or a Time Abyss
. See also Age Is Relative
and Improbable Age
. Not to be confused with Older Than They Think
. Contrast with Younger than They Look
. If they're just drawn in a way that makes them seem older, it's Artistic Age
. When a character is played by a much younger actor, it becomes Hollywood Old
unless the difference is justified
. When the actor
is older than the character they portray, it's Dawson Casting
(although the actor themselves may just fit this trope, justifying the Dawson Casting
Compare Mistaken Age
, Age-Inappropriate Dress
. Contrast Animation Anatomy Aging
Very Truth in Television
. In fact, some scientists believe that this is increasingly becoming the norm as people in North America, Europe, and certain parts of Asia are living longer lives (many people, especially if they are women, can now not only hope, but expect
to live to be 80 or older): the body is responding by slowing down the aging process to match the increased time span. Unfortunately, according to the theory this phenomenon also applies to mental and psychological maturity: the Psychopathic Manchild
is becoming a reality in certain individuals because the frontal lobe (the area of the brain that regulates social behavior), which used to fully mature in the teenage years, is now remaining undeveloped in some people until well into the twenties.
Remember, this trope only covers characters who aren't impossibly old, just much older than they look. For characters who are impossibly old, see Really 700 Years Old
and Time Abyss