UPDATE 2:30PM PDT: Sarah Wrightson says in the comments below, "someone edits Oliver's FB page: my comment is gone, as are many other people's on a range of topics."
If this is so - and I have no reason to doubt Sarah - I am even more disappointed in (and add disgusted with) John Oliver than I am at the original reason for this post. Please try Twitter instead of Facebook and especially the email to HBO.
And please come back here and let us know in the comments that you have done so. I wouldn't have followed up if there was no response to my post and your commentary but now I'm pissed off big time so it will help to know that you have complained.
Last Sunday on his HBO program, Last Week Tonight, John Oliver opened his feature essay with this:
”Progress,” he said. “It's the reason your grandparents' views are better not spoken in public. 'Why did I bring you to Straight Out of Compton, Papa?' This is partly on me.”
Apparently, neither Oliver nor any of his writers, researchers and producers, nor the 10 or 12 well-known websites I've read praising and promoting this video see the irony in exposing discrimination against the LGBT community while bashing old people.
Imagine if Oliver had opened the show with any one of these:
“Progress. It's the reason black people's views are better not spoken in public.”
“Progress. It's the reason women's views are better not spoken in public.”
“Progress. It's the reason Muslims' views are better not spoken in public.”
Shall I go on? You can imagine for yourself the backlash if Oliver had used any of those references instead of elders.
When a man who builds his television career on pointing out the large variety of inequities in American culture and brilliantly defending the rights of every oppressed group you can think of (and some you haven't) engages in this kind kneejerk ageism for a cheap laugh, it is indisputable that old people are the last acceptable prejudice.
On Monday I wrote about ageist language in No Cute Old People and normally I would not repeat a topic so soon. But I saw this video, as I usually do with Oliver, first thing in the morning and nearly spit out my coffee.
It's not like Oliver's words are new to me. Ageist attitudes and speech have so thoroughly permeated our culture for so long that people who would blanch at being accused of racism or sexism see nothing wrong with stereotyping old people.
And Oliver, like his mentor, Jon Stewart, is not new to this. They both, when a reference to old age is called for in their performance, always go straight to derogatory, demeaning and dismissive.
Don't think this stuff doesn't matter. Every time such as statement as Oliver's is made, (thousands of times a day), it helps make it okay to fire a perfectly competent old person, allows certain kinds of politicians to believe they can eliminate Social Security and Medicare and as Yale professor Becca Levy discovered in her research, can negatively affect longevity by up to seven-and-a-half years. And that is just for starters.
One reason elder bashing continues and continues to be acceptable is that old people don't complain enough. Mostly we mutter among ourselves, whether it is as public as Oliver's offhand disrespect on television or one-on-one in our daily lives (“and how are you today, young lady”).
Let's change that this time and I'll make it easy for you. Link to this post or repost it on your blog or Facebook page. I don't care. And take it a step further.
Below are a variety of web addresses for Oliver's program, Last Week Tonight, for John Oliver himself, for one of the show's executive producers and for HBO.
Pick one or two or more and send a note letting them know that it's hard to take Oliver seriously about LGBT discrimination while in the same breath he dismisses elders with an offensive stereotype.
Be polite – trolling gets everyone less than nothing. But be clear, be firm and if you think it's helpful, include the URL to this post: http://www.timegoesby.net/weblog/2015/08/even-john-oliver-does-it.html
Here are the addresses:
LAST WEEK TONIGHT
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER TIM CARVELL
What makes this lapse worse coming from John Oliver than it might from some people is that he is otherwise a force for good in the world, an agent of change that Time magazine earlier this year named among the 100 most influential people.
What a good thing it would be for him to influence others by taking a patented Oliver look at the widespread gratuitous ageism in the culture.
Except for that dismissive lead paragraph, Oliver's Sunday essay on LGBT discrimination is as funny, spot on and important as all his weekly videos are. Here it is the full segment:
Don't forget to follow up on letting HBO, John Oliver and his executive producer know what you think about elder bashing while defending LGBT people from discrimination.