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The 48-year-old generated outrage online when it was rumored he was dating a 19-year-old model, as part of his long-observed age-gap-filled relationship history. But the story is really about our own obsessions.
Who is he? You probably know him as a true Hollywood movie star, with a career that's spanned decades and attracted plenty of awards nominations (and somehow, just one Oscar). But alongside his work, Leonardo DiCaprio's personal life has been the subject of constant scrutiny.
Documented most succinctly in this now infamous chart, all of his high-profile relationships have been with women under the age of 25. His last relationship, with actor and model Camila Morrone, ended this past August, shortly after she turned 25.
If there are two things people love, it's observing patterns, and having those observations confirmed. So you can imagine how the internet pounced when images suggesting a "romance" between DiCaprio and 19-year-old Israeli model Eden Polani surfaced this past week (although the tabloids say "sources close to DiCaprio" later denied the claims.)
Then, within the same breath, a Twitter trend focusing on how male celebrities have aged went viral, with DiCaprio seemingly being the catalyst. Documenting "twink death" (otherwise known as getting older) the original tweet juxtaposed a photo of early-twenties Leo to him in his mid-forties. Somehow his face has not retained the same elasticity and boyish charm it had decades ago. Who would've thought?
What's the big deal? The sweeping velocity of the discourse this week hasn't just reflected one man's dating tendencies that many find questionable, but a societal obsession with age.
As a lifelong celebrity, Leo has aged in the public eye, and had every part the process documented for everyone to speculate on. Society seems to be acutely aware of the power and importance that youth possess. So if you're conditioned to believe it's one of the most important things in life, and you don't have it anymore, maybe the next best thing is to surround yourself with it (models on a yacht can surely do the trick.)
Gender plays into this cultural discourse as well. After an appearance at the Grammys this past week, 64-year-old Madonna faced heavy criticism for appearing to have undergone cosmetic procedures, with some saying she looked "unrecognizable."
This cultural phenom trickles down into our consciousness before the aging has even begun: Mashable reported last month on how the latest TikTok trend of obsessing over anti-aging is the newest way to hawk products like serums, anti-wrinkle devices and cosmetic procedures like preventative Botox to people in their early twenties, or even younger.
What are people saying?
In an Instagram post, Madonna responded to the commentary on her appearance:
"Once again I am caught in the glare of ageism and misogyny that permeates the world we live in. A world that refuses to celebrate women past the age of 45 and feels the need to punish her if she continues to be strong willed, hard-working and adventurous.
I have never apologized for any of the creative choices I have made nor the way that I look or dress, and I'm not going to start. I have been degraded by the media since the beginning of my career but I understand that this is all a test and I am happy to do the trailblazing so that all the women behind me can have an easier time in the years to come."
And here's what Twitter had to say:
So, what now?
The anti-aging sector of the beauty industry is projected to be worth $120 billion by the year 2030,according to one market research study, so it seems like the rabbit hole will continue to go deeper.
We're probably looking at a maximum of two weeks before we get another female celebrity in her 30s or 40s being praised for "aging well" à la Anne Hathaway at Sundance.
To anyone worried about Leo's love life, no need. He's actually been spotted with 27-year-old supermodel Gigi Hadid and a 23-year-old actress named Victoria Lamas. Can we call that growth?
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