Really Seventeen Years Old
Nick: When's your birthday?A character lies about their age or hides their real age in order to get around a social or legal boundary. The reasons the character does this vary. Sometimes they feel a sense of duty and are stopped by that age boundary. Sometimes they feel too limited by their age and wish to hide it. Maybe they feel that they are above the law. Either way, the interest of the situation comes either from the character trying to keep the secret until they almost inevitably get caught, or sometimes in Rule of Funny situations, it comes from The Reveal and consequences of that reveal. When it's about sex, the age boundary is virtually always 18 due to SoCalization, even though most of the USA allows it as young as 16. note Not to be confused with Younger Than They Look, where a character is much younger than they appear to be, but they aren't necessarily lying about it. Truth in Television for many different contexts. Contrast (but do not confuse with) Really 700 Years Old.
Underage Patron: [prepubescent squeak]
Underage Patron: [prepubescent squeak]
— Hot Fuzz
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Anime & Manga
- Firo lies about his age in both directions in later volumes of Baccano! (set in 2002) once he discovers the loophole in the "No false names" clause of immortalitynote . Physically he's just shy of nineteen (and chronologically ninety), but he claims twenty five to reap the benefits of the legal drinking and gambling age. Most people find it a bit hard to swallow, given that he has trouble passing for eighteen as it is.
- Late into Wandering Son Nitori begins working at a bar at age seventeen, though she told the owner she was eighteen.
- In "No Sex (In the Champagne Room)", Chris Rock says that "If a girl says she's 20, and looks 16, she's 12."
- Happens with a porn actress in the Ms Tree storyline "Runaway II" (which was probably inspired by the Traci Lords scandal that was unfolding at the time. See Real Life examples below).
- Occasionally happens with Captain Marvel, since he's an adult in superhero form, but a kid (usually pre-teen) in civilian form.
Films — Live-Action
- Plot point in Pitch Perfect, where a boy from a local high school lies about his age and schooling to be able to compete in a college acapella competition. He is found out and the Bellas are still able to compete in nationals
- In Animal House, one of the characters meets a girl and they have a fun romp which ends with them having sex in the middle of a football field. After all this is done, she reveals that she's thirteen. The guy is understandably horrified. This was a Censor Decoy that the censors somehow missed. The writers wanted them to "catch" this, then "allow" them to change it to sixteen as a compromise.
- Whip It: The protagonist says she's 22 in order to be allowed to join the Roller Derby League. She's 17.
- The Benchwarmers features one of the rival teams getting Carlos, a fifty-year-old Dominican man who claims he's twelve (using a piece of paper with his photo and the words "I am 12" written in crayon; the paper holds a dollar bill to bribe the umpire with). He even drinks alcohol and has a son.
- In Old School, the main character sleeps with a random girl at a party, and later learns that she is his boss' seventeen year old daughter.
- In Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead, the oldest of the kids lies on a résumé in order to get a better job than flipping burgers so they have money for the summer. She winds up as an executive assistant instead of the secretary position she was aiming for, and has to continually lie about her age (and experience) in order to keep getting away with it. She eventually confesses to being in high school at the climax of the movie, but she's done such a great job turning the company around that the investors (and her boss) don't care.
- One of the major subplots in Superbad involves the characters trying to pass as 21 (when they're still in high school) in order to buy alcohol. Hilarity Ensues.
- In Hot Fuzz, Nicholas throws a bunch of underage drinkers out of the bar, who lied about their real age to get in. This comes back later in a grim way when Nicholas discovers that the NWA killed all the teenagers he picked up for underage drinking to avoid kids with arrest records making the town look bad.
- Liar Liar: Fletcher is trying to defend his client, Mrs. Cole, in a divorce case; this is hampered by the fact that he knows she's in the wrong and is supernaturally compelled to tell the truth. He eventually wins by discovering a loophole, however: she was actually only seventeen when she and her (ex-)husband got married, but claimed to be a few months older. That means their original marriage contract and prenuptial agreement are void, but because they were together long enough to be considered common-law married, she still gets half his wealth.
- In The Matrix Revolutions, the Kid is well, a kid, but tries to pass himself off as an eighteen-year-old in order to fight the machines in the docks. Captain Mifune tells him he should have said sixteen, as that might be believable. When the Kid cops to it, Mifune points out he's too young to join the corps... until the Kid points out that the machines would kill him no matter his age, which convinces Mifune to let him help.
- In The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Edmund (who is only about fifteen) attempts to lie about his age in order to enlist in the British army and serve in WWII. He steals his aunt's (non-photo) ID and tries to pass off "Alberta" as "Albert A." The ruse falls apart when Lucy walks in and calls him by his real name, much to the amusement of the other raw recruits in line behind him.
- Miles Vorkosigan, in his "Admiral Naismith" persona, is reputed to look seventeen because of advanced rejuvenation techniques. He is, in fact, seventeen.
- In the Old Kingdom trilogy, when Sam starts flirting with Lirael, she discourages him by telling him that she's thirty-five years old (he's seventeen). When he expresses incredulity at this because she looks too young, she explains that she looks like she's only nineteen because she uses really effective youth-enhancing creams. He believes her. In fact, she looks nineteen because she is nineteen.
- In the Time Scout series, Margo Smith shows up on Time Terminal 86 claiming to be eighteen and determined to be the first female time scout. About halfway through the book, she reveals that she's just celebrated her seventeenth birthday. After a passionate rendezvous with a man twice her age.
- In Wild Magic, the first book of The Immortals quartet, thirteen-year-old Daine claims to be fifteen. The person she's lying to sees through it with her magic, but think she's a good liar and lets her come anyway.
- James Bond lied about his age in order to join the Navy at the age of seventeen during WWII.
- In The Catcher in the Rye, high school student Holden Caulfield is proud of the premature grey hair on half of his head, claiming that it allows him to pass as an adult. No one is actually fooled.
- In Monstrous Regiment, Sergeant Jackrum covers for Oliver's struggle to shave Lieutenant Blouse by saying he was too young to shave and had lied about his age to enlist. Jackrum himself regularly deducts a couple decades from his own age to stay in the army.
- In Arrested Development, Maeby gets a job as a producer where she constantly has to hide the fact that she's still in high school. She deflects any comments about her age by acting flattered and saying "marry me!". At one point, someone from the family asks about her job, she reflexively tries the same deflection technique but only gets a confused response.
- On Malcolm in the Middle, Malcolm beats up a bully, then gets in trouble when the bully turns out to be much younger than he looked. Hal then gets a visit from what appears to be the boy's father, and after he starts behaving abusively, Hal beats him up too. Turns out the "father" was actually a minor.
- Ron Howard plays a kid who lied to get into the Marines; Hawkeye catches him and sends him home.
Kid: I'll hate you for the rest of my life!
Hawkeye: Let's hope it's a long and happy hate.
- Col. Potter did the same thing back in WWI; apparently he was Older Than He Looked.
Potter: Had big thighs for a boy.
- Thing is, if he was only 15 in 1917, then at most he would have been 51 during the Korean War.
- Ron Howard plays a kid who lied to get into the Marines; Hawkeye catches him and sends him home.
- American Idol:
- In the first season, there was a guy who was a few years older than the maximum allowed; when they found out he was booted from the competition.
- In the first season of Idol in Norway, a 15-year old girl lied about being 16. She made it through the semifinals and was disqualified once they found out.
- A wannabe wrestler did this on Tough Enough (the WWE Reality TV show), when they found out he was kicked off the show but got hired by WWE anyway, becoming The Boogyman.
- An inversion, he was dropped for actually being older than the cut-off.(To clarify, Marty Wright, who was eventually hired to play the Boogeyman, said in his application for Tough Enough that he was somewhere between 36-37, when he was actually almost 41.)
- On Cold Case, one subplot involved a witness who was an army recruit who lied about his age and was almost discharged (for other reasons).
- Occasionally pops up in Law & Order, especially the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit spinoff.
- When Laura married Petrie in the The Dick Van Dyke Show, she lied about her age. She told her fiancé that she was nineteen when she was really seventeen and hence too young to get married.
- One of the major story arcs in Californication involves middle-aged Hank Moody being seduced by a girl who neglected to tell him she was only sixteen until the next day.
- One of Casey's dates in Greek turned out to be sixteen...and he had a fake ID good enough to fool Lizzi, the resident Party Patrol.
- This also happened on Happy Endings to Dave in the pilot-he meets a girl with a club and, still devastated over his fiance Alex leaving him, sleeps with her. He then invites her to Penny's birthday party, to make Alex jealous, and its then revealed she's still in high school, although apparently of legal age. Cue Spit Take.
- In an episode of Friends, Monica dates a younger guy who appears to be in his early twenties and claims to be a senior in school. After they sleep together, he admits that he's that he's not a college senior...
- Inverted on How I Met Your Mother, when Lily and Robin, both pushing 30, try to get into a high school prom (to listen to the band) by pretending to be 17. The guard isn't fooled for a second. They do manage to go as the dates of of two nerds.
- The final season of New York Undercover featured a Fair Cop claiming to be 26. Her lieutenant confronts her with proof that she is in fact 22, meaning that she was underage when she took the exam for entry into the police force.
- Mock the Week did this once on one of their Scenes We'd Like To See.
"Amy is sixteen. At least she said she was. How much trouble are you in?"
- Its Always Sunny In Philadelphia: In one episode, Charlie starts dating a Korean girl who turns out to be 12.
- Bomb Girls: New factory worker Reggie lies about her age to get her job. Her coworker tries to use it against her when she finds out, but their supervisor turns a blind eye.
- Played with in one CSI: Miami episode. The victim is a pornographic actress who is determined to have been eighteen at the time of her death... but she has been in porn for a couple of years already, and the management of her company was aware.
- On one episode of Everybody Hates Chris, Chris makes a fake ID with the name "Gene Simmons" on it in order to get into a concert.
- On Thirty Rock, Liz claims to be 29, and goes on a date with a guy who claims to be 25. Halfway through the date, she confesses to being 37, and he admits that he's only 20.
- The Teaser of the very first Cheers episode has a teenage kid coming in and ordering a beer. When Sam asks for his ID, it shows him as being a sergeant in the U.S. Army and born in 1944.
Sam: That makes you thirty-eight. (sarcastically) You must've fought in Vietnam.
Kid: Oh, yeah.
Sam: What was it like?
Kid: (shuddering) Gross!
Sam: Yeah, that's what they say: "War is gross."
- In "Parents Just Don't Understand" by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, the age of the girl the narrator picks up is never stated, but he is quite shocked when he later finds out she's only 12.
- Referenced in "No Sex in the Champagne Room" by Chris Rock: "If a woman tells you she's 20 and looks 16, she's 12."
- ECW's infamous "Mass Transit incident". In 1996, Erich Kulas, a 17-year-old, 350-pound kid from New England with no in-ring ability, lied about his age, his wrestling experience and his schooling background (claiming to have been trained by Killer Kowalski) in order to get into the ring. He was given the gimmick "Mass Transit", a Ralph Kramden-like wrestling bus driver, and thrown into a tag-team hardcore match (filling in for Axl Rotten) alongside D-Von Dudley against New Jack and Mustapha Seed. It ended about as well as you would expect — Kulas left the match lying in a pool of his own blood after a botched bladejob, New Jack was arrested and later sued (he was let off after it was revealed how Kulas had lied to the bookers), and ECW's first pay-per-view, Barely Legal, was almost canceled, and wound up getting pushed back by four months.
- The Simpsons:
- King of the Hill: Cotton Hill states he was about sixteen when he joined the Army, lying about his age.
- Gravity Falls:
- Twelve-year-old Dipper claims that he and his twin sister Mabel are thirteen ("and thus technically teenagers!") so they can hang out with his Precocious Crush, Wendy, and her friends.
- In another episode they use fake IDs to get into a bar to investigate a crime. The IDs were clearly made by Mabel — both of them have mustaches and googly eyes, their names are "Lady Mabelton" and "Lord Dippingsauce," and they are trying to pass as 21 and 45, respectively.
- An episode of The Flintstones has the family traveling into the far future. A man tries to pass his son off as twelve years old to get children's fare. The worker immediately pulls out a device and slips it over the boy's wrist to confirm his age as fourteen, forcing the dad to pay regular adult fare.
- G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero: Shipwreck, while being interrogated by Cobra, reveals he joined the Navy at age 16, having lied about his age (the minimum age to enter the US Navy is 17).
- In the Undergrads episode "Drunks", Nitz convinces Gimpy to make fake IDs for everyone at the dorm so they can get into bars. Rocko has one that is just a piece of cardboard with his photo and "I am 21 so drinking is yes". None of them get caught.
- In Young Justice, the Justice League are largely annoyed when they discover that Billy Batson (see above) was actually a ten-year-old with an Older Alter Ego. He defends himself by saying that he never actually claimed to be older (which Wonder Woman writes off as a "lie of omission"). It's also implied that the Justice League didn't technically have an age restriction before this came up. They vote whether or not to expel Billy from the League but let him stay.
- The Chinese gymnastics team was accused of doing this in the 2008 Olympics and in other international gymnastic tournaments, and had been caught at it for the 2000 Olympics, resulting in their losing a medal 10 years after the fact.
- 2001 Little League World Series pitcher Danny Almonte's father forged his birth certificate, saying he was 12 (eligible to play) instead of 14 (ineligible). Unsurprisingly, his team was disqualified.
- A common tactic employed by young men eager to join the army, especially in World War One...
- Also reversed. Men older than the 40 year old cutoff age often claimed to be in their late 30s so that they could serve.
- Allegedly, some boys would put a scrap of paper with the correct number (16 or 17) written on it in their boot, so they could say they were "over 17" without it technically being a lie. This trick may have helped some of the boys who tried it. When you're lying, especially when it's on the spot, you tend to hesitate when you're speaking because it takes longer to think up a lie than it does to just think of the true information. When you lie, you're speaking faster than you can think. As well, there are also some body language cues that a well-trained person can use to infer that the person is lying. It being technically true that they were over a certain number may have helped these boys not give themselves away through these cues, especially if they looked the part as well.
- Laurence Fishburne lied to the producers of Apocalypse Now to get a role in the movie. He said he was 18 when he was really 14. Coincidentally, his character was seventeen years old. And the film took so long to complete that by the end of the shooting he actually was 17.
- Traci Lords became a porn star at the age of 16, using a fake ID. Authorities discovered this two years later, and almost all of her films were removed from distribution. To this day her early films are illegal to even look at (much less distribute), because they became retroactively classed as child porn. Her lie resulted in several hoodwinked men being sent to prison and shook the industry to its core. The result of the Lords scandal is that the porn industry is now extremely thorough in their background checks (they make DAMN sure all their actors are at least 18). A similar incident occurred involving performer Brent Corrigan, who is now in his twenties.
- Similarly, The Guy Game was pulled from shelves across America when it was learned that one of the actresses featured in the risque full motion video sections wasn't 18 at the time of filming.
- Mila Kunis was 14 when she auditioned for the role of Jackie on That '70s Show. She told the casting directors she'd be 18 on her birthday, but didn't say which one. This made her the actor on the show closest to her character's age.
- Edgar Allan Poe married his 13-year-old cousin, Virginia Clemm. To get around the age issue to get the marriage license, they had some papers forged that gave her age as 21.
- The Rubygate scandal has this in spades. Browse The Other Wiki for details.
- Gillian Anderson was twenty-four when she auditioned for The X-Files, but she knew Scully was a doctor so she said she was twenty-seven.
- Inverted by Kikuko Inoue as her Running Gag. She's already a married woman, but she still constantly refers to herself as only being "17 years old".
- Zahia Dehar, a French prostitute who slept with several high profile footballers (among others), have done so under the age of 18. Her clients deny that they were ever informed, which she has confirmed several times.
- Audie Murphy, in a literal example. He was seventeen when he joined the US Army after his sister altered his birth certificate. His tombstone in Arlington National Cemetary states his false date of birth, however.
- Walt Disney lied about his age to get into the Red Cross early in his life. His mother didn't approve but allowed it to happen.
- Inverted by teenaged prostitutes, who often tell the johns that they're younger than they actually are. Apparently, that makes them seem more attractive.
- In the non-fiction book Outcasts United, about an Atlanta youth soccer team made up of refugees, the team is accused of this trope by other teams because many of the team members birthdays were listed as "January 1". The unfortunate truth was that many of the refugees didn't know their actual birthdate and so were given "January 1" as a birthday.