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Men Get Old, Women Get Replaced

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Old men are often seen as wise, experienced or powerful. Old women, on the other hand, tend to be treated as bitter, useless, and replaceable. As such, many works of fiction have a Double Standard where older male characters outnumber female ones or are far more active.

It seems that male characters age and either become Mentors, old versions of what they were or Old Masters, while female characters are either written out of it altogether in various ways or remain eternally young and beautiful. It goes hand-in-hand with Men Are Strong, Women Are Pretty, since the women either stay pretty, or they're out.

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Sub-Trope of Acceptable Feminine Goals and Traits and, more specifically, the Old Maid trope, with the assumption that women will eventually settle down away from activity and focus on family. Old men, however, are either trying to recapture their glory days or pass on their knowledge to younger pupils. Compare Beauty Is Never Tarnished, where it's violence which has no effect on beauty, rather than time. If a plot or backstory features a Time Skip and the women either disappear or retire while the men don't, that's this trope.

Also related to Men Act, Women Are, since men are assumed to have value for what they can do, thus even an old man wants to stay useful. A woman's value, however, is tied to her beauty, so if that's been lost with age, she's no longer useful. (Thus why the Vain Sorceress sets her priorities there, but the Wizard Classic doesn't.)

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See also the White-Dwarf Starlet, a formerly gorgeous and famous star who's been replaced with younger ones and can't accept it.

Compare and contrast I Was Quite a Looker, which may potentially subvert this. See also Death by Disfigurement.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Justified in Mnemosyne by almost all recurring female characters being (or becoming) immortal. The lead characters Rin and Mimi are immortals and remain at the same physical age throughout the series' 65-year span, while their nameless female informants are replaced with their own younger apprentices after every Time Skip. Meanwhile, guys like Tamotsu, Maeno, and Teruki are allowed to reach venerable ages on-screen. The only obvious exception is the Big Bad Apos but he is eventually revealed to be a hermaphrodite.
  • Bleach: Several captains in the current storyline were around during a flashback that takes place a thousand years ago. Captain-Commander Yamamoto and Lieutenant Sasakibe were both much younger and have aged into highly respected old men; Yamamoto is even regarded as the living embodiment of the Gotei 13's history. Children such as Kyouraku, Ukitake and Zaraki are now powerful, renowned captains that have entered middle age. Captain Unohana is the only individual aside from Yamamoto and Sasakibe to have been an adult in the flashback. Unlike any of the other characters, she has apparently not aged a day since then and is still called "pretty" by Kirinji.
  • In Naruto, this is both played straight and downplayed. Most kunoichi from older generations managed to somehow stay young, particularly Tsunade, whose youth is a spell, and she has never been seen on-camera in her withered old form. Mei Terumi is a kunoichi from an older era who is worried about getting married at her age, although she is still in her thirties and gorgeous. The only female Big Bad Kaguya, is an immortal, unkillable goddess. The single exception to this, Elder Chiyo, is used mostly as a Foil for her evil grandson, Sasori, and after he dies, she does too not long after (through Heroic Sacrifice).
  • Dragon Ball: Mostly averted for all human characters; the majority of ageless characters are gods, androids or aliens. The sole exception is Panchy, the mother of Bulma and eldest woman of the Briefs family; she is pushing seventy by the time of Dragon Ball Super and doesn't look a day over 30. This is given no explanation whatsoever and contrast the sagely-looking appearance of her husband, Dr. Briefs.

    Comic Books 
  • In Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, Catwoman has gotten old and fat by the time Batman comes out of retirement. Almost all of the male heroes, including Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Green Arrow and The Atom, and even villains like The Joker and Lex Luthor, have gotten older but are still capable of fighting. The only active superheroines in the story are younger replacements, with the exception of Wonder Woman, who is immortal.
  • Justice Society of America:
    • The original members of the Justice Society included Wonder Woman and Black Canary, but when the group reformed decades later, it included the daughters of both as replacements. (Wonder Woman was retroactively stated to be Diana's mother, Hippolyta.) Many of the men returned despite having aged (such as Jay Garrick, the original Flash). Some, like Alan Scott (Green Lantern) and Carter Hall (Hawkman) had either de-aged or were immortal.
    • Their counterparts, the All-Star Squadron, had Liberty Belle, who was later replaced by her daughter, Jesse Quick.
  • Kingdom Come: While many of the male heroes come out of retirement after Superman does, most of the female superheroes stay retired and have been replaced in this distant future. Examples include Supergirl, Black Canary, Catwoman, Starfire, and Zatanna. A handful of exceptions include Wonder Woman, Power Woman, and Jade, and only the latter has aged all that much, since it's established that Wonder Woman is immortal and Kryptonians like Power Girl not only age at a reduced rate, but get Stronger with Age.
  • In Watchmen, there were originally two female members of the Minutemen team which existed in the 1940s: Silhouette and Silk Spectre. When the Crimebusters formed as their replacements, there were two veterans of the Minutemen: Captain Metropolis and The Comedian. Silhouette was killed after being outed as a lesbian and Silk Spectre was replaced by her younger daughter.
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    Film 
  • In the X-Men Film Series, the only female character from the X-Men: First Class era that returns is the immortal Shapeshifter, Mystique. Other female characters, like Angel Salvadore and Emma Frost, are never seen again. Both are said to have died in X-Men: Days of Future Past.
  • Played with in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
    • Heroes like Captain America and the Winter Soldier are still around from the World War II era, but have been preserved by cryostasis. No female character from the same era is still active, with the aged Peggy Carter being replaced by her niece, Agent 13.
    • Hank Pym is retired, but actively training his successor. Janet Pym, however, has died and her young daughter, Hope, wants to replace her.
  • Watchmen: Just as in the comic book, neither Silhouette nor the original Silk Spectre help form "The Watchmen" (the movie's version of the Crimebusters), but Captain Metropolis isn't part of that team, which means The Comedian is the only returning Minuteman.
  • The Mummy's Tomb: In this sequel, set 30 years after the events of The Mummy's Hand, Steve Banning and 'Babe' Jenson return as major characters (played by the original actors in old age makeup); however, Marta Solvani is mentioned to have passed away some time during her marriage to Steve.
  • TRON: Legacy and its related timeline. Bridges? Check. Boxleitner? Wouldn't be a TRON entry without him. Morgan? Uh... oops. Disney shoves her human character (Lora Baines-Bradley) on a bus to Washington, D.C., and her Program (Yori) doesn't even warrant a mention in the Expanded Universe. The other sequel played it sideways by having the actress voicing Benevolent A.I. Ma3a, while killing off Lora. However, that turned out to be a subversion as Ma3a turned out to be what was left of Lora due to Brain Uploading.

    Literature 
  • The Belgariad: Aldur's disciples are sorcerers who are mostly thousands of years old. While the male sorcerers have aged into elderly-looking men who aren't physically quite as elderly as their appearances suggest, the only known female disciple, Polgara, looks like a young woman who has had multiple suitors throughout the centuries (including an obsessed, insane God) because of her great beauty. The discrepancy is observed by the characters, who theorise that white hair and beards give men a distinguished air and help convey an aura of wisdom while an aged woman would be dismissed as an ugly crone not fit to respect. The gender inequality involved in this theory is acknowledged by the characters. Polgara's mother, Poledra, is a hidden disciple of Aldur who has been forced by the Prophecy of Light to fake her death for thousands of years. Born as a wolf, it took her a thousand years just to learn how to shapeshift into a human woman and win Belgarath's affection. Like Polgara, she looks youthful instead of old.

    Live-Action TV 

    Multiple Media 
  • Star Wars: In the first Star Wars movie, there is only one active female character, and she is 19 years old at the time. We are given pieces of backstory that transpired before the film, but all of the returning veterans from that time are male. When we are introduced to women in the prequel movies, most of them either fail to survive or do not return (aside from Expanded Universe works). The notable exceptions are Mon Mothma and Aunt Beru (retroactively) and Leia herself, who returns in the sequel trilogy.

    Video Games 
  • In the original release of Overwatch, all of the female characters who are former members or veterans have somehow remained young. For example, Mei was cryogenically frozen and Tracer is stuck outside of time. Other female characters, like Zarya and Pharah, are newer recruits. Mercy's lack of aging is never explained, but is lampshaded in conversation with Mei. All of these characters contrast the male veterans, like Torbjorn, Solder: 76, Reaper, and Reinhardt, who are all still around and significantly older. The first DLC character, Ana Amari, is Pharah's mother, the only female member of the original team. This would subvert the trope, except that all of the male characters have still been active since their heyday. Ana only recently returned, and only to protect her daughter. Also, Word of God went out of their way to go on a forum and state that Tracer does age—which left a lot of players with even more questions.
  • The plot of Phantasy Star III spans a few generations of a royal family. Each time a son becomes the protagonist in place of his father (after a 20 or so year gap), he can meet his parents at some point. While the father has become visibly older and grown mustache, the mother looks completely the same. With the game's animesque drawing style, everyone looks pretty ageless anyway though.
  • Played with in Tekken. The third game skipped ahead 20 years, and most of the cast was replaced with their children or younger counterparts. However, Anna and Nina Williams were put into cryostasis and thus remained unaged while Heihachi Mishima, Paul Phoenix, and Lei Wulong all significantly aged. Michelle Chang was replaced by her daughter Julia, Jun Kazama was replaced by her son Jin, and two games later by her niece, Asuka. Lee and Marshall Law returned in Tekken 4 and had significantly aged, but the returning Kazuya had not. Baek Doo-san returned in the fifth game and had significantly aged, Bruce and Ganryu had not, and Marshall Law and Lee appeared to look much younger. In short, the series was playing this trope straight at some point, but then decided to rewind time back to somewhere near the second game. Absolutely NONE of the female characters show any signs of aging while several male characters either once did or still do.
  • Played with in Metal Gear. The franchise switches between two eras: the Cold War era, and the Patriot era. All of the characters who have lived through both aged appropriately, including Eva/Big Mama. However, other female characters of the Cold War era all either died or disappeared by the time the Patriot era starts. The Boss is another exception, as she came from an even older era and aged appropriately. But, she dies in the same game introduced her, and even Big Mama dies not long after she resurfaces.
  • Mass Effect:
    • The asari are a long-lived race of Blue-Skinned Space Babes and can live for thousands of years with almost no signs of aging (three "Matriarch"-aged asari we meet are all gorgeous and resemble a middle-aged human). The only species that lives the same amount of time as they do, the Krogan, do not age as gracefully (mostly because they are warriors) and have visible scars and wrinkles, in addition to not exactly being attractive by human standards to begin with.
    • In the tie-in novels, the co-protagonists David Anderson and Kahlee Sanders are compared and contrasted for how they've aged. In the decades since the first novel until the third game, Kahlee is stated to have barely shown any signs of age. For reference, despite being only two years his junior, Sanders looks like this, while Anderson looks like this.
  • In Soulcalibur V, while most of the male characters were kept for the seventeen-year Time Skip, many of the females from previous titles (including Ensemble Dark Horse characters) ended up with Suspiciously Similar Substitutes, be they relatives or students. And, with the exception of Hilde (and Viola, if one follows the clues hinting that she's an amnesiac Amy), the few female characters that were kept were Handwaved as not aging, usually due to Soul Edge's influence. That said, nearly all of the men who were retained for V are also ageless or have had their aging process greatly slowed down because of similar factors (or were already immortal to begin with; meanwhile, Cervantes managed to outright cheat death by pulling a Grand Theft Me between games), while the versions of Astaroth and Yoshimitsu present are actually successors to the originals from the preceding four installments, as is Nightmare due to Soul Edge having a new host body to inhabit.
  • In The Witcher universe, most beings who can use magic (such as sorcerers, sorceresses, vampires, and other such creatures) are immortal. Yet, the majority of male characters with such power tend to appear to be in their late middle age and the majority of female characters are young and beautiful and tend to wear very little... if they wear anything at all.

    Web Video 
  • Discussed in Feminist Frequency, specifically focusing on Overwatch as an example, acknowledging that the introduction of Ana is a good start... but only a start.

    Western Animation 
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