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Older Than They Look
aka: Older Than He Looks

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"If she tells you she's 26, and looks 26, she's damn near forty!"
Chris Rock, "No Sex (in the Champagne Room)" note 

Sometimes characters don't look their age. Whether it was a deliberate artistic choice on the behalf of the creator (usually to make the character more attractive or to legally fulfill a fetish) or something much deeper and linked to their characterization and the plot, this character will be older than they look. Although still within the normal range of the human lifespan (for that setting, anyway), this character will look noticeably younger than their age. Sometimes even improbably younger; it's not unheard of for a seeming teenager to be over the hill chronologically.

This is an extremely common trope in Speculative Fiction, where Functional Magic or Applied Phlebotinum can be used to explain the characters appearance being at odds with their age.

In science fiction or fantasy, it can lead to Really 700 Years Old, The Ageless, or a Time Abyss. See also Age Is Relative and Improbable Age. Not to be confused with Older Than They Think. Contrast with Younger Than They Look. If they're just drawn in a way that makes them seem older, it's Artistic Age. When a character is played by a much younger actor, it becomes Hollywood Old unless the difference is justified. When the actor is older than the character they portray, it's Dawson Casting (although the actor themselves may just fit this trope, justifying the Dawson Casting).

This is a Super-Trope of Never Grew Up.

Compare Mistaken Age, Age Insecurity, and Age-Inappropriate Dress. For characters that don't look younger than their age but are still good-looking, see Silver Fox. Contrast Animation Anatomy Aging.

Remember, this trope doesn't cover characters who are impossibly old, just much older than they look. For characters who are impossibly old, see Really 700 Years Old and Time Abyss.


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  • This was the thrust of a classic 1960s ad for Grape Nuts cereal. The commercial involves a young boy who mistakes his girlfriend's mother for her daughter (his girlfriend) and comments "Oh, no, Mrs. Burke! I thought you were Dale!" The idea was that eating Grape Nuts and exercising would give someone a body that would cause them to be mistaken for their own child. The ad was very popular and inspired a number of copycat advertisements, such as a magazine ad for Ivory Liquid brand dishwashing detergent in which a group of teen college girls was shown with a 32-year-old mom among them, the ad asking the reader to guess who it was, but stating that "Her Ivory Liquid hands won't give her away!"

    Asian Animation 
  • Happy Heroes: A relatively Downplayed example; Kalo is stated by the creators to be around 30. However, due to the art-style, he is about the same height as (or slightly taller than) Careful S., who is implied to be a middle-schooler. However, he is an Adelian and they may age differently from people.

  • When Bruno Mars first received mainstream attention, his youthful voice and Teen Pop-oriented music caused many to judge him as someone in his late teens or very young adulthood, yet in actuality he was in his mid-20's and already had a noteworthy music production career. As his career went on and his music matured, his voice and appearance hasn't changed much even as he is now well into his 30's.
  • CHVRCHES: Lead singer Lauren Mayberry is well-known for still looking like a teenager despite being well into her 30s.
  • Corey Hart has aged very well if you look at him. He's a 58-year-old guy who looks like he's 38.
  • Devin Millar is really an adult man in his 20s but he naturally looks like he could be 15.
  • Eazy-E: His short height and relatively youthful voice makes it extra surprising to learn that he was actually the oldest member of the N.W.A.
  • Eminem's breakthrough album, The Slim Shady LP, depicted him as a short, small-framed platinum blond with cute mannerisms, large eyes with long eyelashes, and a high-pitched voice. At the time, he also had a brat/juvenile delinquent persona, rapping about childish topics like teachers, school bullies, comic books, cartoons, and abusive parents. In the video for "My Name Is", he could easily pass for 16-18. He was in fact 26 years old and - in the era of Teen Pop - was already fretting about being over the hill. His management team even subtracted a couple of years from his 'official' age, only going back to the real number after his mother - as part of her ongoing harassment of him - leaked his birth certificate to the press. In addition, Eminem is the oldest member of D12; he looks like he's the youngest. While he definitely started to look middle-aged in his 40s, it's still not uncommon for young people discovering him from his recent material to react in disbelief when they find out he's old enough to have been a major celebrity in the 90s.
  • Futari No: Nana and Lili are depicted in music videos from ages 7 to 21. However, due to Harumaki Gohan's chibi-like art style, combined with a dash of Hairstyle Inertia, the only physical difference between their 7-year-old and 21-year-old selves is their height. It would be reasonable to see them at age 21 and assume that they're 15 at most. Nana especially.
  • Gwen Stefani : Outside of her music career, one of the most talked about things about her is how she never seems to really show her age. At one point her fanbase even speculated that she may really be a vampire.
  • Kate Pierson of The B-52s looks about 10-15 years younger than her actual age, and that doesn't even cover how energetic she is in videos and performances. For example, she was 41 for the Love Shack video.
  • Orono Noguchi from Superorganism is in her early twenties and has been described as looking like a high school freshman.

Alternative Title(s): Fauxli, Older Than He Looks, Older Than She Looks


Pokemon Sun and Moon

Lusamine points out to Hau that despite her youthful appearance, she's actually over 40 years old.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (13 votes)

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Main / OlderThanTheyLook

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