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Friday, October 12, 2012

Television and Ageism

Who do We See on Television and Ageism[i]
         One of my favorite TV shows is Glee.  Do I like it because of the wonderful music or am I more interested in the behavior of the young performers and their stories? I suppose there is little bit of both.
         First a little background.  It is stated that Television “…is the most important mass medium in U.S. society (and in much of the rest of the world).” For one thing there are very few older characters in prime time shows.  “When elders are absent or rare, it may send a message that elders are unimportant or uninteresting.” 
         There is also a gender issue.  “Only 10 percent of people on TV that are over 65 are female” and they are more likely to be negatively portrayed. In reality there are older women are more likely to be experienced as nurturer’s displaying s adoring attendance to others and, in every population and every country: women everywhere live longer than men by 4 to 5 years.
         It has also been found that “…elders in nighttime television series are usually the ‘bad guys” more likely to fail and be unhappy.
         Another factor is that “…elders in commercials are less likely to be physically active and are more likely to have health problems than younger people.”
         “On the other hand, public affairs and talk shows generally present elders positively. Elders on these shows tend to be influential business leaders or politicians, or respected actors or artists.”
         So, it appears then, that TV shows have manifested and reinforced ageist stereotypes.  At the same time Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil show us how older people can help others. There aren’t that many.    Off hand I can think of several; Tom Selleck, Ted Danson, Harrison Ford, Lana Delaney, Christine Boronsky, Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz.  Not many considering the volume of TV.

[i] Material comes from highly recommended Ageism Negative and Positive by Dr, Erdman Palmore  ISBN  0-8261-7000-5

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