For several years it seemed the entertainment industry was skewing its movie and television product to a very young audience, featuring stars in their 20s and 30s. This was most likely to attract the coveted 18-34 age market. But recently senior actors have been moving more toward center stage. Especially encouraging were the 2012 dual Oscar nominations of Robert De Niro, 69 and Jacki Weaver, 66, for their roles in the movie “Silver Linings Playbook.”
This April, one of AARP.org’s picks for “Movie for Grownups,” “The Big Wedding” went even further by casting four of the six lead roles with age 50+ senior actors Susan Sarandon, Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, and Robin Williams. Although the film didn’t receive rave reviews, it’s great to see due respect paid to older actors of that caliber and experience. Is it possible we’re seeing a long-overdue trend towards breaking senior media stereotypes? Not so, says a recently released guide to ageism in the media.
Is Ageism Alive and Well?
A post on the blog Silver Innings cites a document released by the International Longevity Center – USA, “Media Takes: On Aging,” that is a style guide for journalists, the entertainment industry, and advertising. The guide points out the subtlety in the often perpetuated stereotypes of older adults. Some examples of those stereotypes portrayed are:
- “Approximately 70 of the older men and more than 80 percent of older women seen on television are treated with little if any courtesy, and often with reason – because they’re perceived as ‘bad.’”
- “In its representation of older people, much of the media focuses on those who are infirm, ignoring the 80 percent of us who are healthy enough to engage in normal activities.”
- “In advertising, retirement is usually seen as ‘playing golf, walking on the beach and sleeping in hammocks.’ Advertisers are insensitive to many retirees who wish to have a wide range of meaningful experiences, including learning.”
So despite the movie industry becoming more enamored of senior actors, we’ve obviously only touched the surface of how pervasive and often undetected ageism is in the media.