Really Seventeen Years Old
"If a woman tells you she's 20, and looks 16, she's 12. If she tells you she's 26, and looks 26, she is damn near 40!"
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
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 Really 700 Years Old
open/close all folders
Anime and 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 immortality*. 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.
- 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).
- This trope is the premise of a The Avengers fic "Age Play" by Layla Binx. Tony and the others discover some shocking news regarding their Captain, much to readers' amusement.
- Skids and Mudflap are implied to be this in Things We Don't Tell Humans.
- 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.
- Liar Liar: Fletcher discovers that Mrs. Cole lied about her age when she got married, rendering the prenuptial and the original marriage contract void, but leaving her still entitled to half her (ex-)husband's wealth, as they had lived together long enough to be considered common-law married anyways.
- 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: 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, though.
- 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.
Live Action Television
- 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 played a kid who lied to get into the Marines on MASH; Hawkeye caught him and sent him home.
Kid: I'll hate you for the rest of my life!
Potter: Had big thighs for a boy.
- In the first season of American Idol 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 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?
- It's 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.
- 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.
- Least I Could Do has a storyline where the main character meets a girl in a bar who turns out to be a minor.
- Something Positive: Helen (a crossover character from Penny and Aggie) tries to get a job at Nerdrotica despite being underage. Nancy catches her out because of her crappy fake ID.
- Parodied in The Simpsons: Grampa Simpson says that he fought in World War One — "of course, I had to lie about my age to get in". In the ensuing Flashback, he's five.
- In "Simpsons Roasting On an Open Fire", Bart tells a tattoo artist that he's 21. He buys it without question.
- Cotton Hill states he was about sixteen when he joined the Army, lying about his age.
- On 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 had mustaches and googly eyes, their names were "Lady Mabelton" and "Lord Dippingsauce," and they were trying to pass as 21 and 45, respectively.
- The Chinese gymnastics team was accused of doing this in the 2008 Olympics and in other international gymnastic tournaments.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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, way above 17 years old, but she still constantly refer herself as "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.