The ol’ Hollywood ageism machine appears to be at it again…
On Tuesday, The Hollywood Reporter announced that Emmy Rossum would be joining the cast of AppleTV+’s The Crowded Room. The series is a “seasonal anthology” that “will explore inspirational stories of those who have struggled, and learned to successfully live with, mental illness.” Tom Holland had previously been announced as an executive producer and star of the first season. The actors are both great, but it’s not the starpower that has folks talking right now — it’s their characters’ inneresting connection.
Tom is set to play the lead role of Danny Sullivan in the psychological thriller, who may or may not be the patient of Amanda Seyfried, cast as “a clinical psychologist faced with the most challenging case of her career, who is also trying to balance her life as a single mother.” Emmy, whose character “is always looking for a man to fulfill her dreams of salvation,” will also play a maternal role… Tom’s mother, in fact.
Sounds like an intriguing premise, but Twitter has one major problem with the production. Have you guessed the issue? That’s right: the Shameless star is only TEN YEARS OLD than her onscreen offspring! And the extremely inappropriate mother-son age gap had some fans protesting. Reactions included:
“Emmy Rossum is 35. Tom Holland is 25. What is this nonsense!?”
“Emmy Rossum (35) playing the mother to Tom Holland (25) is a very distracting casting choice.”
“Emmy Rossum playing Tom Holland’s mother on television because she is 10 years older than him and that’s how math works OBSESSED HOLLYWOOD IS PERFECT!!!!!!!!!”
“Emmy Rossum (35) playing Tom Holland’s (25) MOTHER is peak Hollywood”
For her part, the actress (who welcomed her IRL first child less than a year ago) didn’t indicate anything odd about the casting choice, and tweeted her enthusiasm for the announcement with a simple, “Let’s go!”
Let’s go! https://t.co/pgIAivjyYS
— Emmy Rossum (@emmyrossum) February 22, 2022
Unfortunately, as some users pointed out, Hollywood has an icky history of ageism that includes casting women as mothers in similarly weird age gaps. Most recently, 38-year-old Rebecca Ferguson played 26-year-old Timothee Chalamet’s mom in Dune. Hilariously, 47-year-old Sally Field played 37-year-old Tom Hanks’s mother in Forrest Gump — just six years after playing his love interest in Punchline.
In the latter case, Sally was depicted as his mother from his childhood, with old age makeup applied as Forrest grew up (a la Mandy Moore in This Is Us). So we can’t rule out that something similar may be happening with Emmy here — it’s possible she only appears in flashbacks with a younger version of Tom’s character. (Maybe he recounts stories of his childhood to Amanda the psychologist?)
At least, we’re crossing our fingers that’s the case, because the alternative is just uncomfortable and exhausting. Not only does this ongoing tradition of the “young mom” create unrealistic expectations of what women of a certain age look like, it also denies older actresses opportunities. Opportunities which can be frustratingly uncommon, because again, ageism.
Ch-ch-check out some more of the casting reactions (below):
"Holland, who is also executive producing, is starring as a man named Danny Sullivan.Rossum will play Sullivan’s mother, who is always looking for a man to fulfill her dreams of salvation."
— Ryan Aguirre (@aguirreryan) February 22, 2022
you, a loser: how can Emmy Rossum play Tom Holland's mother when she's only 10 years older than him?
me, a genius: hot mom
— Corey Atad (@CoreyAtad) February 22, 2022
Emmy Rossum at 35 is the same age as *checks notes* Michael B. Jordan, Robert Pattinson, Evan Peters and Penn Badgley who are in turn 10 years older than the 25 year old Tom Holland and she is playing his MOTHER https://t.co/FcSllZMYZ3
— Will Mavity (@mavericksmovies) February 22, 2022
Emmy Rossum is ten years older than Tom Holland. She has been cast as his mother. This is gross. https://t.co/MYsBqeBobo
— Chris E. Hayner (@ChrisHayner) February 22, 2022
[Image via NBC/CBS/YouTube]