Representation Of Age In The Media
Representation refers to the construction in any media (especially mass media) of aspects of ‘reality’ that can either mirror or subvert societal expectations. They are often based on negative stereotypes allowing the audience to feel secure and familiar. By definition, all media texts are re-presentations of reality. They are intentionally composed, lit, written, framed, cropped, captioned, branded, targeted and censored by their producers, they are entirely artificial versions of the reality perceived in the current world. Every media form, from a home video to a glossy magazine, is a representation of someone's concept of existence, codified into a series of signs and symbols which can be read by an audience. However, it is important to note that without the media, our perception of reality would be very limited, and that we, as an audience, ‘need’ these artificial texts to mediate our view of the world, in other words we need the media to make sense of reality. Therefore representation is a fluid, two-way process: producers position a text somewhere in relation to reality and audiences assess a text on its relationship to reality.
Society has tended to overlook, undervalue, and stereotype the elderly. The stereotypes are concepts produced by the media and perceived by the audience as truth. Seniors are often thought of as unproductive, alienated, and ineffectual. Parsons (1993) notes that society views the aged as an "increasing burden on society because they are unproductive, increasingly frail, and vulnerable with their decreasing ability to perform activities of daily living, and frequently poor mobility". Like racism and sexism, ageism is a social disease fed by stereotypes. Elders are lumped together under the heading of “old” and attributed a demeaning set of characteristics: senile, sickly, unattractive, greedy, cranky, and child-like. These stereotypes are conveyed and reinforced by the mass media.
This stereotype is fairly