Older Than They Look

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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)"[2]

Sometimes characters look their age. But in this instance, they don't. 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 be 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 magic or Applied Phlebotinum can be used to explain the characters appearance being at odds with their age.

When science fiction or fantasy takes this trope to its illogical extreme, it leads to Really Seven Hundred Years Old 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).

Compare Mistaken Age, Age-Inappropriate Dress.

Contrast Animation Anatomy Aging.

Remember, this trope only covers characters who aren't impossibly old, just much older than they look. For characters who are impossibly old, see Really Seven Hundred Years Old and Time Abyss.

Examples of Older Than They Look are listed on these subpages:


  1. (Read from right to left).
  2. The preceding line is "If a woman tells you she's 20 and looks 16... she's 12".