Changing the Culture of Age
"We Must Believe in Age"

Ageist Joke or Not?

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Ronni Bennett has published a new story, The Power of the Aging Brain, this morning at blogher.org.]

At the conservative political weekly, Human Events, Crabby Old Lady ran across the oddest piece from, of all people, TV host Pat Sajak. She has re-read it a dozen times trying to figure out if it is tongue in cheek or serious. His overall point – a prediction that ageist language will become taboo within the next few years - is well-taken. But the commentary is what puzzles Crabby. An example:

“…we [baby boomers] are the most self-absorbed generation ever, and we firmly believe the world revolves around us. Hey, didn’t we stop a war, throw out a President and open everyone’s eyes to the wonders of peace and drugs and sexual freedom? [EDITORIAL NOTE: Well, no Pat. It was the generation just before you.] We’ve been running things for decades now, and we’re not about to give up that power. When we expressed our disdain for old folks, we meant the really old folks, not us.” [Crabby doesn’t know if that’s a joke or not.]

He continues, asserting that baby boomers [Sajak is one of the oldest born in 1946] will not need to look or act older:

“We can…use a little cosmetic surgery here or there to make sure we look young and a little Viagra to make sure we act young, and search for wonder drugs that might one day lead to a breakthrough in science that could keep us in charge forever! Wouldn’t that be the coolest?”

Again, Crabby Old Lady can’t tell if Sajak is kidding. He then ends the piece with a warning:

“So let me be the first to alert all you young bucks who think older folks aren’t important: things are about to change. You’re messing with the wrong generation, buddy! It’s us. We’re big in number and you’re not going to treat us as an unimportant demographic. [Did Mr. Sajak just get fired from Wheel of Fortune and Crabby hasn’t heard about it?] As for the P.C. Police, we created them, we know how to use them, and we’ll have them knocking on your doors at the slightest provocation.”

If this essay is meant to be serious – well, Crabby agrees in principle but objects to the details. If it is meant to be funny or satirical, Crabby thinks it is fortunate that Mr. Sajak found a long-term gig as a game show host because if the audience doesn’t know when to laugh, the comic has failed.

Comments

I don't know your Mr Sajak, but I would say very definitely it was meant as tongue in cheek. I liked it. I see he wrote an earlier piece in the same forum back in October on his feelings about turning 60.

Interesting article Ronni to say the least and I found myself reading it more than once myself. I am sure you will get varying opinions on its nature. Here are the conclusions I have come to, at least for the moment, about the article.….

He seems to be wanting to make some points….but keeping it cloaked a bit of self-perceived humor so as to not piss off anyone on either side of the aisle since he obviously knows that ageism “is” a real issue.

It seems to me the article is satiric or sarcastic at some level, perhaps leveling to a degree the “charge of hypocrisy” at the Baby Boomers. It seems to be saying that we weren’t bothered with ageism when we were younger so why all the concern and issues with ageism now?

He also seems to want to make the point that as a demographic we are being dragged into our elderly years kicking and screaming - doing every thing we can to keep ourselves from looking or acting like we are becoming elderly because of the stigmatism associated with being elderly.

And finally he, perhaps sarcastically again, seems to insinuate that we are a bit of a self-centered generation so those prejudices of ageism which may have been applied in the past to the aging just don’t apply to this generation and woe to those who dare try and apply them. Which is, in his opinion, the reason why ageism is now finding itself a front and center issue?

In closing, I must say I am not a huge fan of Wheel of Fortune but have watched many a show as most of you have. It has always been my perception that Pat Sajak seems to nurture a sarcastic sense of humor based on many of his remarks. I certainly think he was trying to make some points in his commentary, but again lacing it with a degree of humor and sarcasm.

Ronni: as for the "aging brain" piece, those far wiser than Freud (Pennsylvania-Dutch?)said it best......too soon old, too late smart. Please tell Crabby....(who I picture looking like Maxine!)that it's obvious that Pat Sejak isn't exactly a 100 watt, 3 way bulb. He does however have the best job in town. Dee

Well, I found his statements confusing on one hand & somewhat insulting on the other? I definitely don't think he knows what he's talking about. As to humor, I didn't see too much there. All the Viagra & cosmetic surgery in the world is not going to change attitudes. What is needed is a change in attitudes toward elders & I'll be damned if I know how to do that.

Kay said it for me. I don't like Sajak or his show, so I won't give him and this piece any more attention than I usually do - which is none.

I remember Sajak when he was an L.A. weatherman at one of our local network affiliated TV stations. I found him to be likeable. He still has that classic perpetually-boyish looking face so many stations include in their on-the-air staff. This look seems to earn a number of similar types automatic entry to televison-world advancement, so I wasn't surprised when he was tapped for game show hosting.

I recall him as having a sharp wit and good sense of humor in the by-talk that devours so much of news program time, as it has for many years now, in broadcast management's effort to focus on humanizing the shows anchors and reporters, over program content.

I think he was just being flippant, taking a bit of dramatic license by embellishing his comments with a little bluster in this article. I'll agree it is hard to know whether he was trying to be funny, satirical or serious. We really need to see his facial expression, hear his voice -- tone and inflections. Maybe he needs to stick to visual media exposure or develop his humor writing skills.

I agree that we would probably have a better take on what Sajak meant if we could see him. He is one reason I watch Wheel of Fortune, besides enjoying the game. I like his quick wit and think he treats the contestants with great respect, especially when they goof.

Sajak is definitely being satirical. I'm 1000 percent sure. He's a conservative, in case you didn't know, and one useful service conservatives perform is pointing out the enormous narcissism of the baby boom generation

I don't think Sajak is funny on "Wheel of Fortune," either. He's always making digs at Vanna.

Conservative hardly describes Human Events. These are the people who brought you the list of Ten Most Dangerous Books, including Democracy and Education, The Feminine Mystique and The Origin of Species. I wouldn't think twice about anything they or Pat Sajak say.

Elders need to stay engaged. The fact is, before we had an industrial and information age, the elderly carried our cultural knowledge. They don't anymore. They are seen as leeches on society who don't contribute.

There seems to come a time in people's lives when they stop paying attention to what the young folks are doing. They kind of opt out. I think that's a mistake.

And now they're saying 55 is elderly and older people are living in senior housing away from everyone else. Onlh 5% of seniors are infirm, yet I hardly EVER see any old people!

If older people were more engaged they wouldn't be ignored, and they could take their rightful leadership position in society once more, imho.

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