The Depiction of Aging in Western Film

By: Maureen Gibney  

There is agreement among those who study later life that it is a time for continued growth. Oddly, though, this theme was often not reflected in film depictions of older persons, and instead, aging was cast as a time of general stasis and decline. Now we can note progress in the representation of aging and its benefits and burdens, so that earlier age archetypes such as the bumbler and figure of pity or mockery have become relatively rare. We frequently see more nuanced portraits of elders, some of them frail but some of them robustly active. The yearning for love and the challenges of seeking partnership have been explored in both moving and comedic ways (though elder sexuality itself is often consigned to the fade-out). In this presentation, we will explore older and current film perspectives on age-related concerns. How do characters experience developmental tensions particular to aging and how do they navigate those that aren’t age-graded but still require adaptation? How do the loss of a partner and the search for a partner, or the strengthening or fraying of a long-term relationship, appear through a director’s lens? How much is owed to the aged and how much do they owe to generations coming behind them? In our session together we will address the ways in which film representations of family, work, health and illness, and the search for meaning reflect and shape societal views of what is and isn’t possible in later life.

Aging, Film, Representation, Stereotypes
The Arts in Social, Political, and Community Life
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Maureen Gibney

Drexel University, United States
United States