This character, or group of characters, is most definitely not underage. Nope, they are at least 18. That's what the narrative keeps pointing out, or what some character keeps claiming.
This can be used to add a sexual subtext to an otherwise non-sexual situation, since works with sexual content often use this trope as a disclaimer.
In some cases, but far from always, this trope comes across as a Suspiciously Specific Denial
of one kind or another. The trope is sometimes connected to tropes such as Jail Bait
and Jailbait Wait
for the character, or tropes such as Moral Guardians
and Getting Crap Past the Radar
for the work itself.
Note that in many countries and states, the age of consent for having
sex is fifteen or sixteen while the age when it becomes legal to be portrayed
as having sex is eighteen. Regardless of laws, many individuals draw a very sharp moral line at eighteen for all things sexual. Also note that while often directly or indirectly sexualized, the trope does not need to have any sexual context or subtext - the driving plot point can also be issues such as the right to vote or to get your driver's license.
Compare Older than They Look
and Really 700 Years Old
as well as Younger than They Look
and Really Seventeen Years Old
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- Passionately averted in Lucifer, with the female protagonist Elaine. At the beginning of the story she is twelve years old, and as she grow up her age is never mentioned again. She gradually and seamlessly transitions from childhood to becoming a Time Abyss.
- In one issue of Mats Jonsson, the protagonist is having a relationship with a girl who pretend to be 21. When it's revealed that she's studying at high school rather than the university, she change it to nineteen. When she later confess that she's actually sixteen and beg for forgiveness for her dishonesty, he break all contact with her and spend the rest of the episode angsting over having been with someone so young. The story takes place in Sweden, where the age of consent is fifteen - so his angst is purely emotional, without any Jail Bait issues.
- Played with in the season 1 finale of Children Of Time. Beth Lestrade is seventeen in "Dynamics of a Point" begins, but due to wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff, she's truly eighteen in "Every Good Fairytale" (when she does marry Sherlock Holmes. In the original transcript, she described herself as a seventeen-year-old during the honeymoon, and Sherlock pointed out that she was a fully mature adult as far as anyone was concerned. This was later altered when Beth's writer realized some convenient but no less real implications of Beth being a Temporal Paradox.
- In Brain Donors, at one point the trio is awakened suddenly, and the first thing out of Roland T. Flakfizer's mouth is "She looked eighteen, officer, I swear!"
- This is part of the reason why R. P. MacMurphy in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest is locked in a mental institution; he had sex with an underage girl who he thought was eighteen.
- It's a Wonderful Life, of all places. When Mary tells George she is 18, the implications weigh heavily on him.
George: Eighteen! Why, it was only last year you were seventeen!
- It is explicitly mentioned in Sucker Punch in regards to Baby Doll. She's 20 according to the script.
- The "barely legal" genre of porn, where the stars are between the ages of 18 and 21 and look even younger.
- Tangled could arguably be seen as a non-sexual variation—Rapunzel could be mistaken as younger than she is, but her eighteenth birthday is a plot point, presumably to avoid the issue of her finding her true love as a teenager.
- Not explicitly sexual, anyway, but the subtext / allegory is definitely there for those who care to look.
- Aladdin and The Little Mermaid also point out the princess' ages, though in those movies they're eighteen and sixteen respectively.
- Subverted in The Social Network:
Amy: (after discovering Sean, whom she just slept with, doesn't go to college) Seriously, you're not like 15 years old or anything, are you?
) No, I'm 22. (Beat
) *You're* not like 15 years old-
- Played straight later in the film, when the cops bust a party Sean is throwing. One of the girls at the party pretends she's 19, but when pressed, admits she's really 17.
- Inverted in Barbie In The Pink Shoes: While they make a point about Kristyn being only 17, it's because she's trying not to be Giselle. Albrecht and Hilarion don't realize that she considers herself too young for marriage.
- In the Slave World kingdom of England, you have to be at least eighteen before you can become a slave or own a slave. The first part is merely mentioned (especially in connection with those few slaves who are exactly eighteen - most are significantly older). Non-noble characters younger than eighteen simply doesn't exist in the story. The rule against underage slaveowners eventually does becomes a plot point, however. A prelude to this is given in the second book. It is mentioned that some teenage nobles are frustrated and annoyed over not being allowed to own slaves yet, and a few sixteen years old nobles fondle the protagonist while she happens to be helpless. Around the same time a young adult noblewoman is scolded for being immature and reckless, not taking proper care of her slaves. In the last few books, a young prince join the cast as the Love Interest of an enslaved journalist. He is sixteen, she is in her thirties, but because of the social power dynamic he's the one with all the power. The queen eventually punish him for covertly taking a slave before he's old enough... by sending him off to France... Where sixteen years old nobles are allowed to own slaves... And yes, he gets to bring the former journalist with him.
Live Action TV
- Discussed in Californication when Hank Moody discovers the attractive socialite that seduced him at a book store (while reading his book no less) is actually 16... and the daughter of his ex-girlfriend's current partner. The mistake is a major plot point for the rest of the series as the girl in question keeps the threat of blackmail pointed at Hank.
- Of course, in real life a girl who lied about her age and seduced him would not have much legal ground to stand on. A point which is raised when the thing actually does become public. This makes a lot of the panic of the earlier seasons seem a bit redundant.
- Law & Order: SVU sometimes treats the fact that a certain character is over 18 as an annoying technicality that make it harder to arrest people for having sex with them.
- In one episode, the sex is consensual acts between two adults who love each other and are both fully mature in every mental, emotional and legal way. It's just that she happen to have a medical condition that make her look like she's ten. The detectives consider her chronological, mental and emotional maturity to be an annoying technicality, one that they try to find ways around so they'll be able to lock up her current lover and any lover she may get in the future. Instead of taking the actual person into account, they put all their focus on how grossed out they personally were over imagining anyone being turned on by her. So they basically wanted to follow this adult woman around for the rest of her life to harass her and anyone she might fall in love with, simply because of her looks.
- In another episode, a girl is raped at gunpoint. She looks very young, and throughout the episode she is is consistently portrayed as a teenager who is not yet fully adult - neither intellectually nor emotionally. This is not held against her, instead it simply underscores how vulnerable she is. However, she happens to be 19, so the prosecution must prove that she didn't consent. And of course, the defense has Blatant Lies about the gun as one of their top priorities.
- Meta-example in That 70s Show. When she first auditioned for the part of Jacky, Mila Kunis was fourteen. When the producers asked how old she was, she answered "I'll be eighteen on my birthday," and they failed to ask which birthday. Thankfully, the job didn't require her to do anything that would be illegal for a minor, so she dodged most of the problems that come up in this situation.
- On Friends, Monica shaves a few years off her age (dropping her into the early 20's) then finds that the man she just made love to was a high school senior, not a college senior as he told her. When he defends himself from her anger by saying she lied too, her response was "Well, my lie didn't make one of us a felon in 48 states!"
- In World of Warcraft, the spring festival Noble Garden includes an achievcement where you are supposed to put bunny ears on one female character of each race, and it has to be a character that is at least level 18.
- Some complaints about this achievement made it into the newspapers - some female player who felt like it was sexual harassment - other achievements about putting hats or whatever on other characters was not a problem, but the "level 18" requirement made this one sexualized in her eyes. The actual reason it was added was to prevent players from trivializing the achievement by making level 1 alts, as some had done with an earlier event (that it was 18 specifically was probably just Rule of Funny).
- The game Bear Gunner is technically about hunting bears. However, the protagonist is a 8-years old girl armed with a machine gun, and the bears she's gunning down are all the pedobear logotype and busy chasing little girls (including you). When you kill one, he sometimes moan some dying words, such as "Argh!", "I see a bright light", "why me?", "I'm just a guy in a suit" or "I swear she was eighteen".
- Fate/stay night has a splash page at the beginning noting that all characters in sex scenes are of legal age. Due to half those characters being in high school, there is some debate over whether this is Blatant Lies or just taking advantage of Japan's slightly more complicated age of consent laws.
- All of the professionally translated Eroge sold in the US features characters that are at least 18, no matter how young they look. The Sagara Family, in particular, features four 18 to 22-year-old sisters from the same youngish mother.
- On Literotica it's considered wise policy to specify that any characters engaging in sex are over 18.
- This is mocked by Zack Parson of Something Awful when he did his Hentai game reviews, some of those games claiming someone who in his eyes is obviously a minor is in fact 18.
- Similarly, due to a crackdown on Tumblr blogs containing underage/bestiality hentai, many artists have begun writing a disclaimer that "all characters depicted are at least 18 years old or otherwise above the age of consent", regardless of whether it's actually true in the source material's canon.
- Those who have very recently turned eighteen (or their country, state, or province's age of majority) will often be very eager to point it out as well as take advantage of the new privileges and rights they have. It's justified because since their becoming of the age of majority, people around them will most likely see them as "just a kid" and they therefore have to do some work to actually remake their images into those of adults. Meanwhile, any establishment that has an age requirement for its patrons tends to make it a policy to card anyone who doesn't look 30, just to be sure.