Media Research

Age and Experience – BBC News


“That’s one difficulty about knowing how it will be with everyone living longer. A more serious one is that we are still talking about the old – the over fifties, older sixties anyway – as if they were all in the same bracket. They are nothing of the sort.

There’s as much difference between someone of 60 and someone of 85 as there is between someone of 15 and 40 and we don’t treat them the same.

You read a headline like “Old age pensioner bashes burglar” and imagine a frail but frantic white-haired Valkyrie. But the feisty female who felled the felon may be someone who is as strong as an ox and works six days a week but still gets a bus pass and free prescriptions.

We have to get these two categories separate in our minds. The problems of the older lot, for example, are hugely connected to health. Hearing aids, cataract operations, HRT, hip replacements and such have helped a lot.”


Do people become more judgmental as they get older?


  • “it’s not unusual for people to become more prejudiced as they get older.
  • ” although many people remain unprejudiced throughout their lives, older adults have a tendency to be more prejudiced than their younger counterparts.
  • “Psychologists used to believe that greater prejudice among older adults was due to the fact that older people grew up in less egalitarian times. In contrast to this view, we have gathered evidence that normal changes to the brain in late adulthood can lead to greater prejudice among older adults.
  • “older adults in our experiments are more likely than younger adults to rely on stereotypes and they have more difficulty than younger adults suppressing their stereotypic thoughts. But it doesn’t stop there – we find that older adults are more likely to be socially insensitive across a variety of domains. Furthermore, all of these effects only emerge among older adults who show signs of poor frontal lobe functioning.
  • “Our research indicates that older adults simply have greater difficulty suppressing prejudices than younger adults do.”

Representation of the Elderly in the Media


  • Pluralistic cultural identities of age seem to be restricted to hyper real examples”
  • The article of Media Edusites says that “the cultural stereotype of old age invariably has connotations of vulnerability, helplessness and undesirability” and that due to the repeated representations of the elderly being this way, “audiences have been conditioned into expecting these types of identities”.
  • Historically, and in more traditional societies the cultural identity of old age would be fixed but now … older people have a greater role in constructing and negotiating a role and an identity for themselves.
  • For example, in the film ‘Escape’ “Sylvester Stallone, aged 68 and Arnold Schwarzenegger, aged 67 … utilise their secondary persona as historical action heroes from Rocky, Rambo and Terminator films … and ensure audiences identify with their representation as action heroes.”
  • “… in the world of mainstream Hollywood film there are still a narrow set of identities that commercially appeal to mass audiences.”
  • “It is less common to see a dominant, older female identity in Hollywood film and certainly even less common to see a sexualised older female representation”
  • “Stallone and Schwarzenegger, using Blumler and Katz’ uses and gratifications framework still present audiences with an identity that they can identify with but also as a form of diversion or escapism. The characters are framed as aspirational for male audiences but also, up to a point for the female gaze for female audiences.”
  • In The Devil Wears Prada, Streep challenges the cultural stereotype that older women tend less to be cast in overtly sexualised roles and constructs a pluralistic identity.”

The ideas from this article suggest that the representations of age have changed from what they used to be like. In the past they were represented in a traditional way conforming to societal stereotypes, whereas now they are more challenged and elderly people ‘[construct] and [negotiate] a role for themselves’. However, the stereotypes are still commonly conformed to in a lot of modern media.

Stereotype: Non-judgemental vs Judgemental

A stereotype of the elderly is that they can often be judgemental in their views of other people, having ‘traditional’ views and not being very accepting of others. For example, the stereotype of elderly people being racist.

“Kingsman: The Secret Service”

  • kingsman‘Kingsman’ subverts this stereotype through the use of Colin Firth’s character. He views ‘Eggsy’ as a potential agent for Kingsman, looking past his exterior as being ‘chavvy’ and troublesome. He shows faith in him rather than dismissing him like the other characters do.
  • In the end of the film, ‘Eggsy’ is transformed into a younger version of Colin Firth; he dresses the same and behaves the same, shown in the scene in which Eggsy ‘reenacts’ the bar scene.


  • philomena-8-e1386559706841 The character of ‘Philomena’ undermines the stereotype of elderly people being judgemental. Throughout the film she demonstrates an understanding for others and shows her empathetic side.
  • An example of this is the scene in which Philomena and Martin are getting breakfast in their hotel. Philomena is talking to one of the chefs who is Mexican, she says “We don’t really have Mexican’s in England , we have Indian’s instead and everyone loves curry”. This is demonstrating her open-mindedness to other people and their situations. She also demonstrates an air of innocence and naivety when talking to the chef as she is impressed by him cooking her omelette and giggles at him talking to her, almost behaving in a way of a child.
  • She also shows her kind nature. When a waitress comes over to the table, the character of Martin says ‘trying to have a private conversation’. Philomena then tells him ‘I would rather you be rude to me than the nice people who work here’, and says ‘You should be nice to people on the way up because you might just meet them on the way down, now you of all people should understand that’. This demonstrates Philomena’s appreciation for people as she understands people’s situations and what they have been through, and also knows how to treat people.

“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”


  • Maggie Smith’s character ‘Muriel’ in ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ both supports and undermines the stereotype. In the beginning of the film, her character is portrayed as extremely stereotypical, having racist views and being ‘set in her ways’.
  • Throughout the film she demonstrates this through the use of her language codes when describing other characters of a different race: “He can wash all he wants, that colour’s never coming out”. She later says “I want an English doctor”. This very racist attitude that she has is commonly associated with elderly people, possibly due to the fact that they will have experienced the racial segregation in the past.
  • However, towards the end of the film the audience can notice a change in her character. A particular scene in which this happens is when ‘Muriel’ is invited into the home of one of her carers in India, Anokhi. Previously when she has been offered Indian food she refuses and says “If I can’t pronounce it,  I don’t wanna eat it”, however, in this scene she accepts the food offered to her by Anokhi as she is told it will offend her if she doesn’t eat it.
  • In the same scene, the character Muriel shouts at some children who she thinks are trying to steal her wheelchair. There is then a later scene in which she goes to Anokhi to apologise and gives her a packet of her biscuits. This change in character implies that the character of Muriel believed her racist opinions without having any evidence to base it off, most likely only what she has been told by society. However, when she actually goes to India and experiences the culture, her opinion changes.
  • Producers undermine the stereotype by showing her as an intelligent character who can use her previous experience to help the hotel owner. She becomes an active role in the hotel, rather being a passive character who just sits in her wheelchair. She also adopts part of their culture, wearing the traditional clothing.

Target Audience for the Top 100 Films of 2010 – 2015


Children 0-12 = 11
Mass Audience 13-60 = 88
Senior 61+ = 1

The overall idea from this list of top 100 films is that the main target audience is generally teenagers and adults. There are a few films that are aimed at children, however, these films were made less frequently than films aimed at a mass audience, which are released endlessly. Films aimed at a senior audience are made very rarely, although of course, senior audiences may too enjoy the films aimed at a mass audience. However, films made particularly for them are made rarely. The only film in this list that I believe to be aimed at an older audience was ‘Philomena’, which I will be studying in more detail for the representation of the elderly.

The results of this list implies that in the media – in particularly films – an elderly audience is not taken into consideration as much when producing a film, and are often not provided with films that are relatable to them or are made with the intention of a senior audience viewing them.

Representation of the Elderly


“Five most harmful ways in which these stereotypes are perpetuated in media and popular culture:

  • Elders are portrayed as helpless victims; [news] stories perpetuate the stereotype of elders as being warm, but incompetent figures who deserve our pity.
  • Elders who defy negative stereotypes are presented as bizarre and comical; non-stereotypical figures end up reinforcing negative stereotypes – precisely because they are seen as unnatural, odd, bizarre, and exceptions to the stereotypical norm.
  • Growing old is equated with inevitable deterioration and decline; Stereotypes of growing older include generalisations about declining health, happiness, and attractiveness.
  • Elders are demonised as a group; elders are often treated as sweet, pathetic figures (…) [this] conveys the message that elders are not worthy of humane treatment, which in turn fosters exclusion and discrimination.
  • Elders are under-represented and ignored; according to Senior Journal, elders were represented in less than 2 percent of programs on prime-time television”

Although this website was American, I was still able to find stereotypes about the elderly that are portrayed in the media globally, especially in Western cultures. Therefore, I am still able to apply some of this research to my own individual project.

Media Representation of the Elderly (blog post)

On this blog post, the main focus is of the representation of the elderly in the media.

  • “The mass media is catered towards children, teens, adolescents, and adults but not the elderly. In this way the elderly are portrayed in media as nonexistent to our society and as if they do not matter.”
  • “On the other hand, when the elderly are portrayed through the mass media, unfortunately it is in a way that does not depict their true representations. (…) in negative ways which in return confirm the stereotypes against the elderly”
  • ““Elderly women are shown much less on Television then elderly men, “only one in ten characters over 65 is a woman”. (Delloff, 1987)”
  • There are many representations of the elderly in the media that conform to societal stereotypes. For example, the idea that the elderly are a burden on society and need to be taken care of. Some of the examples that are found on this blog post are:
    ‘Lacking cognitive abilities’
    ‘Unable to take care of themselves’

Media Representation of Teenagers

“‘Hoodies, louts, scum’: how media demonises teenagers”-


(image from

 The article focuses on the negative ways in which teenagers are represented in the media – specifically teenage boys.

  • One interesting quote states that ‘The portrayal of teenage boys as “yobs” in the media has made the boys wary of other teenagers’, suggesting that the idea of only older generations finding teenagers intimidating, due to the excessive portrayal of the ‘yob’ representation , is wrong.
  • ‘Figures show more than half of the stories about teenage boys (…) were about crime’. The media focuses primarily on the idea that teenagers are criminals and are a danger and a nuisance to society.
  • There are often derogatory terms used to describe teenagers that are used by ill-informed people (people are ill-informed due to the misrepresentation in the media) – ‘The word most commonly used to describe them was “yobs” (591 times), followed by “thugs” (254 times), “sick” (119 times) and “feral” (96 times). Other terms often used included “hoodie”, “louts”, “heartless”, “evil” “frightening”, “scum”, “monsters”, “inhuman” and “threatening”.’
  • ‘The research – commissioned by Women in Journalism – showed the best chance a teenager had of receiving sympathetic coverage was if they died.’
  • ‘…teen boys were described in glowing terms – ‘model student’, ‘angel’, ‘altar boy’ or ‘every mother’s perfect son’ (…) “but sadly these were reserved for teenage boys who met a violent and untimely death.’
  • “The research, Hoodies or Altar Boys? what is media stereotyping doing to our British boys? was carried out for WiJ by the research company, Echo.”
  • The overall theme from this article states that teenagers (boys) are often represented in the media as being ‘perpetrators of  crime’ and generally causing trouble. As a result of this representation, people, even other teenagers themselves, feel more wary around teenagers that they don’t personally know than they did in the past. “80 per cent felt adults were more wary of them now than they had been a year ago”.

Characters in “Kingsman: The Secret Service”

I will focus on a selection of characters out of the film when identifying the representations. These include:

Older Characters

Harry Hart (Colin Firth)
Merlin (Mark Strong)
Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson)
Arthur (Michael Caine)

Younger Characters

Eggsy (Taron Egerton)
Roxy (Sophie Cookson)
Gazelle (Sofia Boutella)

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