One of the most blatant and highly forgotten diversity issues in the media is its depictions of the elderly as helpless and useless to society. This has prevailed movies, TV, and advertising making senior citizens be seen as incapable to thrive in modern society.
In movies, this isn’t something that is only shown in movies like Bad Grandpa. Here is a clip from the oscar-nominated movie Nebraska, where Bruce Dern plays a old man who thinks that he won a million dollars.
In TV, the elderly are usually only shown in supporting parts, like Jerry in Parks and Rec. Jerry is the comic relief in the show, always messing things up. While the show is great and has a decently diverse cast, the depiction of Jerry is a disappointing use of elderly stereotypes.
When they let the elderly take the center stage, you usually get something like Betty White’s Off Their Rocker, which uses old people as a joke to prank younger people.
But, like any time you are generalising, some depictions of the elderly are shown as more than the stereotype. Movies have explored complex senior characters like Judi Dench in Philomina and the recent James Bond films and almost every character played by Morgan Freeman.
One of the most beautiful depictions of old age in recent film is the Pixar film, Up, which begins with this.
Another great portrayal is that of Magneto and Professor X in the X-Men franchise. Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart play the central relationship of the entire series. They are the leaders of their opposing groups and are shown as the two most powerful men in the world. (Side note: Professor X is also a great depiction of a disabled person.) Here is the trailer to the first movie, where besides focusing on Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine or Halle Berry’s Storm, they focus on these two ‘old dudes.’
On TV, one of the best depictions of the elderly is on NBC’s Parenthood. In that show, the patriarch and matriarch of the family, Zeek and Camille, are shown as two people who are not done living their life, and have just as many stories as their grown children.
But don’t let these clips fool you. There is still a huge problem with the way the elderly are shown in the media, where they are almost never shown in advertising as an actual person, but just as a joke. And if you are still unconvinced, watch what we are showing to the children.
I have never met a senior citizen who was gullible enough to rub chocolate all over their body, but that might just be me.