Elder Music: 4 January 2009
Reflections: Of Lincoln, Roosevelt and Obama

Elder Media Moments

[EDITORIAL NOTE: In Saturday’s Elder News list, I included a link to a media story about Time Goes By with a photo of me that I actually like. In a comment, Lydia of Writerquake suggested I add it to the banner. Obviously, I can’t add it without redesigning the entire banner, so I replaced the last photo on the right with the new one.

That means there are about 20 years between the ninth and tenth photos, but I couldn’t figure which earlier one to delete. Not that you should care about this particularly, but I’ve aged a lot since the original final photo, which is five years old, so this is more honest.]

category_bug_ageism.gif A year and a half ago, I published a story here I called Best Media Effort to Combat Ageism Award. It was about a small scene in an episode of the TNT series, The Closer titled “The Round File.” The story concerned a retired police reporter, Mr. Baxter, who confesses to the poisoning murders of seven residents in the nursing home where he lives.

Los Angeles Deputy Police Chief Brenda Johnson, played by Kyra Sedgwick, is ready to book him when he recants, explaining that the confession was a ruse to get the police department to pay attention to the murders which he had reported in the past and been ignored.

Although the homicide squad doubts there is a previous complaint from Baxter and is suspicious of his recantation, that changes when a file of his past report turns up. As Commander Taylor, played by Robert Gossett, hands over the complaint file to Chief Johnson, the following exchange takes place:

TAYLOR: [The officer who took Baxter’s first complaint] found Baxter uncooperative. In fact, the old guy was more interested in asking questions than answering them. So Detective Gordon dumped his complaint in the round file. You know, Chief, we get this kind of stuff all the time. It’s hard enough staying on top of the crimes we find, much less the ones people make up.

JOHNSON: (perusing file) I know exactly what happened. Mr. Baxter is old and difficult and because of that he was just dismissed out of hand. [I know] that’s what happened because that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do to him myself.

It was a short scene, not even a minute long, but it is just this kind of moment, if repeated often enough in the context of larger stories, that can change a culture’s attitudes, beliefs and behavior.

Think of how MADD’s campaign with Hollywood producers to insert small moments about appointing designated drivers in drinking scenes has made that a common practice. And undoubtedly the fact that no one smokes cigarettes in movies and television shows anymore (well, sometimes the bad guys do, but that’s how you know who the bad guys are these days) has contributed to the reduced number of smokers in the U.S.

There is no reason this can’t work to improve attitudes toward old people, ageism and age discrimination in the culture, and there are a few recent incidences on television, in addition to The Closer scene, that hearten me.

A recent episode of Law & Order titled “Zero” dealt with the hard facts of age-related memory problems and possible dementia when a respected judge, played by Ned Beatty, is revealed to be reading decisions from the bench off a laptop screen, word-for-word, supplied by his law clerk typing nearby.

It was a not uncommon story of a widower, an old and lonely man trying to hang on to the only part of his life he still enjoys. It is important to portray these aspects of life along with all the youthful ones, and Law & Order presented it well as part of the overall plot.

An amusing thread in the same episode had District Attorney Jack McCoy, played by Sam Waterston who is a few months older than I, complaining that he can’t read now that the City has replaced incandescent bulbs with new CFLs. I have the same problem.

A reader emailed about a recent episode of Boston Legal titled “Juiced” in which Catherine Piper, played by 84-year-old Betty White, tries to enlist an attorney’s help in suing the television networks for not programming more for senior citizens. (In real life, Ms. White has testified before Congress a couple of times about the prejudiced portrayal of elders on television.)

I have never watched Boston Legal and unfortunately, ABC’s execrable episode viewer will not work on any browser on my computer, so I wasn’t able to view it. Maybe in repeats on TNT or USA some day, since this is the series’ last season.

As few as these moments are so far, it is encouraging that they seem to be increasing. As MADD and cigarette opponents have shown – and advertisers have always known – repetition works. It would be good if there were more “elder moments” on television.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Gullible tells of a magical evening with friends in The Boulder Creek Journal: The Spell of the Campfire.]


Boston Legal is showing nightly on our Ion channel, Ronni, maybe you can see it there. I watch as often as possible; it is my favorite show!

I like the new photo, even though I can't remember the one it replaced. The header is a nice progression!

Nice photo...but what I really noticed is how much you look like the little girl on the left hand side of the banner. Much more so than you 'in the middle'.

Hmmm, interesting about the CFLs! I've been wondering about them. I just did a Google search on reading with CFLs and found an interesting article here (http://www.dulley.com/docs/f936.htm) that describes CFLs specifically designed for easier reading. I think I'm going to look for them and see if they really make a difference.

I like Boston Legal, too, and one reason is that they have older characters. Candace Bergen's character has continued to have love interests, which has been nice.

BTW, I just discovered your photo bio, and it's wonderful. Anyone who hasn't seen it should check it out.

Boston Legal is insanely funny, and a haven for older actors. Love it!

If we substituted the "N" word for "OLD" in this paragraph it would be racism.
"Discrimination or prejudice based on race."

Ageism: "Discrimination based on age, especially prejudice against the elderly."

But so many times TV and Movies do not see this correlation.

gee....thanks for the mention, Ronni!
You described the latest photo on your banner as "more honest" and I'd say it's representative of some beautiful aging.

Looking forward to a new year of your wonderful posts.

I loved Boston Legal because they were "in the face" of nearly everybody at one time or another. I'll miss those lawyers; 'bout the only ones I could miss!

Insightful and amusing observation by commentor Steven W. Dunn that in your new photo you look very much like your youngest photo!

I wonder if we revert to looking like our "true" selves eventually as we age -- assuming there are no nips and tucks interfering with the process!

I love the photo.....such a lovely, happy, and relaxed person.

Ronni--Thanks for the change to your banner. I like it! Your new photo shows that you have grown more beautiful than the removed photo had shown. You obviously have been lovely to behold, throughout life--as a physical person, and as an intellect.

I LOVE BOSTON LEGAL!!! One of my all time favorite shows. Have loved James Spader for years...and that nutty William Shatner...what a hoot! Hope you get to catch some of the shows in re-runs on the Ion Channel that Kenju mentioned Ronni...well worth it....hilarious.

I love that new photo of you Ronni...glad you added it to your banner. It's a beautiful addition...Happy 2009 sweetie...

Of course you are looking up, looking at ease, smiling... and not worried about your neck like Nora Ephron

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