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Men Get Old, Women Get Replaced

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"I am absolutely convinced that the plan was to have Cassandra return in Soulcalibur VI without having aged a day so she could continue to be playable since she'd be under the 40-year threshold that forces women to retire in Namco fighting games."
The4thSnake, on Soulcalibur V

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

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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 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. This can also be due to adding more women to subsequent works, whether it is a sequel (in which the men in the previous work get older) or a prequel (in which the women must die off or otherwise disappear to maintain continuity).

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.

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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 and can remain so in various ways. A woman's value, however, is tied to her sexual attractiveness, so if that's been lost with age, there is absolutely no way she can ever gain back relevance or usefulness. Which is why the Vain Sorceress sets her priorities there, but the Wizard Classic doesn't.

See also the White-Dwarf Starlet, a formerly gorgeous and famous star who's been replaced with younger ones and can't accept it, and the Trophy Wife, of which there may be several as the Serial Spouse grows older.

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


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Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Bleach: Several captains of the Goei 13 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Naruto zig-zags this:
    • Like the other Legendary Sannin, Tsunade is over 50 years old, but she consciously maintains her youth with a spell and has never been seen in her real form (a shot of her wrinkled hand is shown at the ending of the Pain Invasion arc when she exerted her chakra to help the villagers, but we're not shown her face). Meanwhile, Mei Terumi is worried about getting married at her age, but her problem sounds rather petty (especially in the West) when you consider that she's only 31 and still gorgeous (then again, it's Mei).
    • Kurenai, the only female jonin mentor of Konoha, apparently retires after the Time Skip when she becomes pregnant with Asuma's daughter, as she is never seen in an active mission afterwards. It also happens to the point when she turns over 30 years old.
    • However, there are also aversions. The most notable example is Elder Chiyo, who still kicks ass despite being over 70 years old. There is also Koharu Utatane, the Third Hokage's female teammate who serves as one of Konoha's infamous war hawks and, as seen in a flashback, was on the front lines protecting Konoha during Kurama's attack. At the time, she was 56 years old and very visibly aged. Koharu returns in Boruto, still serving as adviser to the Kage, despite being over 90.
    • Speaking of Boruto, the series largely averts this. The teenage kunoichi from the previous series continue to be active as ninja just as much as their male peers, despite pushing 40 years old.

    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 The 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 while male team member remained the same.
  • 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, 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. Selina Kyle is still around, and a member of Lex Luthor's "Mankind Liberation Front", but she's retired her costumed persona.
  • 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.
  • In the Golden Age Wonder Woman (1942) comics most of the Amazons had stopped aging when they were young and beautiful but Althea, the Amazon physician who helped save Steve Trevor's life, had white hair and while fit looked to be well over fifty, apparently becoming an Amazon at a later age than most of the others on Paradise Island. In every version since then, Althea has either been replaced by a younger looking character or has herself looked like a teenager.

    Film 
  • 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. Peggy is dead by the time of Civil War and as of Endgame Steve has retired too.
    • Hank Pym is retired, but actively training his successor. Janet Pym, however, has died and her young daughter, Hope, wants to replace her. Turns out Janet is alive, but takes a similar stance to her husband.
  • 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 sometime 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    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 
  • 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 most human's standards to begin with, being somewhere between a turtle, a frog, and a t-rex appearance-wise.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Overwatch has gone all over the place with this regarding the skip between the old Overwatch of the backstory and the present-day vigilante Overwatch. Examples that play it straight are the male veterans Torbjorn, Soldier: 76, Reaper, and Reinhardt who are still around, with women like Mei, Brigitte, and Zarya all being newer recruits in the combat side of things, and female members of the old guard like Mercy, Tracer, and Mei also not visibly aging (though the latter two could are at least justified due to being temporally unstable and put in cryogenic stasis). Subversions come in the form of Ana Amari (the only female member of the original 5-man strike team) and Moira who have also visibly aged, but like all the aforementioned members sans Reinhardt, none of them are active in the present Overwatch, either being off-the-grid vigilantes or working in completely different fields.
  • 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.
  • Soul Series: How this trope is enforced can be observed between the 3-, 4-, and 17-year time skips that take place before Soulcalibur, Soulcalibur II, and Soulcalibur V, respectively.
    • Between the first two time skips, this trope is mostly averted as no one ages significantly in those seven years. However, the oldest male character (Seong Han-myeong) is no longer playable after his appearance in Soul Edge, and one woman (Sophitia) and two men (Li Long and Hwang) are demoted to unlockable and minor characters respectively in future games, in favor of younger counterparts. Sophitia would at least be restored to sharing equal prominence with her counterpart (her younger sister Cassandra) in Soulcalibur III and IV.
    • Soulcalibur V brings the heart of this trope, with more female characters than male characters getting replaced, and no female character aging past 35. We are supposed to believe that Ivy, the series' sex symbol, has stopped aging due to her exposure to Soul Edge, but Siegfried, the face of the series who was also exposed to Soul Edge, gets to keep aging. Additionally, within the story, both Cervantes and Soul Edge itself are seeking to transfer their essences into younger female bodies to cheat aging.
      • Following the 17-year time skip, only four of the ten previously playable female characters returned: Amy as Viola, Hilde, Ivy, and Tira. Of them, only Amy (age unknown, presumably anywhere between 9 and 14) and Hilde (18) noticeably age from their previous outings in SCIV. Four more (Cassandra, Setsuka, Sophitia, and Taki) were replaced by younger counterparts, and Seong Mi-na and Talim were removed entirely. This makes post-time skip Hilde the biologically oldest female main character in the series, at 35.
      • Just as only two women visibly aged, only two men did: Mitsurugi and Siegfried, to 46 and 40 respectively. The difference is more male characters were allowed to return, with ten (human) male characters returning: Algol, Cervantes, Dampierre, Edge Master, Kilik, Maxi, Mitsurugi, Raphael, Siegfried, and Voldo. Several of these appeared "old" or ageless to begin with, and those who didn't had some kind of Soul Edge-related reason for their aging being halted or significantly slowed. The only two male characters who were replaced (Astaroth and Yoshimitsu) have successors who have identical names, appearances, and mannerisms as them. This makes Voldo the biologically oldest male main character, at 67.
    • Soulcalibur VI, a Soft Reboot of the series, has the surprise return of the original timeline's Cassandra, who was lost in Astral Chaos long enough to forget her own identity. As some players had predicted, although Cassandra is now weary and horribly corrupted, she is still just as young and pretty as her 21-year-old self. As a bit of Gameplay and Story Segregation, she apparently does look different enough that her 1586 AD new timeline counterpart didn't recognize her as her four-year older self at first glance.
  • Many people suspect that the reason why time in the Tekken series never moves on after the fourth game's two-year Time Skip is because of this trope. Moving up ahead means the women age, and, as shown by this series and the Soul series (see above), Bandai Namco doesn't seem to want women to age past 25. Prior to Tekken 8, the biologically oldest playable female character is Lidia Sobieska in Tekken 7, the 29-year-old Polish Prime Minister who is Famous In Story for her youth, and is the only female main character who is biologically older than 25. The biologically oldest playable male character is Wang Jinrei at 105, who continued to fight alongside his replacement in Tekken 6.
    • This trope is played straight in the canon games, where the only notable time skip in the series is the 20-year gap between Tekken 2 and Tekken 3. Following this jump, every human male character from the first two games returns at least once, except for King I and Armor King I, masked wrestlers who were killed and replaced with younger counterparts. These men show their age in their designs. Conversely, no female characters from the first two games return for a canon game, except for Nina and Anna Williams, who were put into cryostasis and thus remained unchanged. As such, Nina barely looks any older than her son, Steve.
    • This trope is played with in the non-canon games. Over the course of the series, Kunimitsu and Michelle Chang were replaced by their daughters Kunimitsu II and Julia, while and Jun Kazama was replaced by her son, Jin, and teenage relative, Asuka. When they all returned in the non-canon Tekken Tag Tournament Dream Match Games, Kunimitsu and Michelle hadn't aged a day, with the latter looking nearly identical to her adopted daughter. (Though this at least has the excuse of the characters' designs being based on their last canonical appearance, even if the game treats them as being as old as they would be at that point in the series timeline. To wit, an older Michelle did appear in Julia's T3 ending, while Tag 2 has her interacting with Julia as one would expect a mother-daughter duo to behave.) In those same Tag games, several of the older male characters have comedic stories about plotting to restore their youth, or mocking each other for how old they are.
  • 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 

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • When it comes to reproductive life, women have their biological clocks working against them and the prospect of menopause to worry about. Men generally retain the ability to conceive into old age (although with higher chances of erectile dysfunction, lowered fertility and a higher likelihood of the offspring having a heritable disease). On a related note, men are far more likely than women to prioritize youth when choosing companions of the opposite sex, and by extension, to find such people who don't fit the bill disposable.
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