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We Need to Talk About Leonardo DiCaprio

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A white man with very short goatee beard looks off into the distance, expression blank. He is wearing a suit and tie.
Leonardo DiCaprio in New York on Dec. 05, 2021. (Michael Ostuni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

Twitter raised a collective eyebrow earlier this week when photos emerged of 48-year-old Leonardo DiCaprio hanging out with a 19-year-old French model named Eden Polani. No one was surprised, of course, but assumptions about what was happening quickly spread online.

The age gap between DiCaprio and Polani is similar to the one between Pedro Pascal (47) and Bella Ramsey (19) from The Last of Us, people pointed out. It’s also similar to the one between David Harbour (47) and Millie Bobby Brown (18) from Stranger Things, others chimed in.

Wouldn’t we all be uncomfortable if either of these duos became couples? The short answer is, hell yes, we would. And not just because the women in question are still young enough to play underage people on television, or that those men play their guardians.

On Wednesday, per TMZ, “a source close to DiCaprio” denied that he’s dating Polani. As if to prove this, TMZ noted that DiCaprio has also recently been linked with 23-year-old model Victoria Lamas and has been photographed on a yacht with a group of young models. It’s not terribly surprising that the public jumped to conclusions about DiCaprio and Polani, given how he’s been behaving for literally decades.


The world has known about DiCaprio’s dating preferences for a very, very long time — namely, that he appears interested almost exclusively in young models, and that he doesn’t date women past the age of 25. DiCaprio’s compulsion to date and then dump women under 25 has been the topic of too many jokes to list here, and it would be boring for me to do so — you’ve already heard them. We all have.

Someone on Reddit even made a handy graph in 2021:

A graph showing, on one line, Leonardo DiCaprio's age, and on another beneath it, the fluctuating ages of his girlfriends, none of whom are with him past 25.
Stark, isn’t it? (TrustLittleBrother on Reddit)

What the graph doesn’t include are the many flings he had with models in the ‘90s (everyone was the same age, it’s fine) or, more recently, the end of DiCaprio’s relationship with Camila Morrone. The couple lasted four years and came to an end three months after the model turned — you’ve guessed it! — 25. Incidentally, DiCaprio and Nina Agdal broke up two months after her 25th birthday. He and Kelly Rohrbach split a month after she hit that milestone too. Bar Refaeli made it four months.

To be clear, age gaps, in and of themselves, aren’t the problem. We’re all going to fall in love with who we fall in love with, and sometimes that person just wasn’t born in the same era — love is love is love. When we pass judgement on younger women who date older men, we often strip them of their agency and reduce them to trophies.

But the issue with DiCaprio is not love with an age gap. The longer this all goes on, the less his situation looks even vaguely love-related. It looks like a pattern of swiftly replacing one model for the next once they hit a specific age milestone. Not all of them even make it that far — Blake Lively was 23 when the couple split (he was 36), Erin Heatherton was 22 (he was 37), Toni Garrn was 21 (he was 39).

From the outside, it would appear these young women are interchangeable to him — disposable, like cars he’s done driving or suits he’s sick of wearing. They are reduced to trophies by the very circumstance of getting involved with DiCaprio in the first place, because we all know they’ll be discarded before they have time to develop a single, solitary wrinkle. (The end of his relationship with Morrone was widely predicted when her 25th birthday rolled around.)

Even when we take into account that these relationships are clearly consensual, it’s still surprising that, throughout all of the post-#MeToo conversations about the negative effects of power imbalances in relationships and sexual situations, DiCaprio hasn’t really come up. If we now recognize that Monica Lewinsky was in a seriously vulnerable position during her affair with Bill Clinton, shouldn’t we also be thinking about the welfare of these women?

I’d argue that one of the reasons we haven’t is because these very young women are some of the most beautiful in the world. As such, there is an assumption that, since they could probably have anyone they wanted, if they end up choosing DiCaprio, he must be a good choice. The reality is, being exceptionally beautiful doesn’t make you worldly before your time, or necessarily equipped to deal with a man who is twice your age, world famous and who has been playing the same game with legions of women since before you were even born.

One of the reasons we’ve traditionally processed DiCaprio’s love life via jokes rather than actual judgment is because the actor has not broken any laws that we know of. That DiCaprio first met Camila Morrone when he was 35 and she was 12 doesn’t come up nearly as often as it should. (They were introduced by Morrone’s stepfather, Al Pacino.) That many of the women DiCaprio dates aren’t old enough to legally drink when he first meets them has also been under-discussed.

Another major factor that’s been keeping DiCaprio off the hook is that he was a kid himself when he first came to prominence. His roles playing troubled teens in 1993’s What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? and 1996’s Romeo & Juliet are seared into the culture. He was just 22 when he made Titanic. Because of this, even as he ages — dad bod and all — we still see a very young man when we look at him. If he looked more like Pedro Pascal or David Harbour, or if he’d only become famous in his thirties, we’d have noticed the depth of his dating life’s ick factor way sooner.

It’s also worth remembering that DiCaprio’s penchant for chasing young models wasn’t immediately obvious. In his younger years, he had two longterm relationships. The first was with Gisele Bundchen (six years his junior) for five years, and Bar Refaeli (10 years his junior) for five and a half. Perfectly normal dating behavior for a man in his twenties and thirties. Was it weird that the two women so closely resembled each other? A little. But it’s significantly stranger now that all of the women who have followed Bunchen and Refaeli have also looked like Bundchen and Refaeli. (Morrone was a brunette — that’s the closest DiCaprio has come to broadening his field of vision.)

A photo of a white, fair-haired man in a suit embracing a tall slender woman with long blond hair, next to a photo of a different tall slender woman with long blond hair.
(L) DiCaprio with Gisele Bundchen in 2005, (R) Bar Refaeli in 2007. ((L) Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage (R) FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP via Getty Images)

Despite his well-known status as a serial dater, DiCaprio has never been portrayed as unlucky in love. This is, of course, because he’s a man — no famous man, regardless of individual circumstances, is ever presented that way. But in DiCaprio’s case, there is also an assumption that he’s not really taking any of these women seriously in the first place. Collectively, we have accepted that this man is going to discard the young women he surrounds himself with, then quickly replace them.

It’s about time we start examining how much we want to continue to turn a blind eye, laugh at the jokes and move on. Because when we as a nation regularly laugh at women being treated as disposable objects, we’re normalizing it. And that keeps archetypes about rich men as playboys and beautiful women as playthings in the culture. Do we really want those grossly outdated constructs still hanging around in 2023?


When it comes to DiCaprio, just because a behavior is technically legal doesn’t mean that something very disturbing isn’t going on in full view of the world. As one shrewd Twitter user noted this week: “I really don’t think the threshold for acceptable behavior towards women should be, ‘But is it criminal?’”

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