In this article, we analyse how mediated discourses of toxic friendships echo and reconstruct the category of the toxic friend. We ask: what kind of assumptions does the toxic friendship discourse draw on, and what forms of subjectivity and interpersonal relationships are encouraged? Employing a critical discourse analysis of digital texts, we argue that the discursive category of the toxic friend draws on a simplistic set of classificatory dichotomies distinguishing between the good and the toxic friend. We also suggest that the popular labelling of difficult friendships as ‘toxic’ reflects the contemporary diffusion of the notion of toxicity in contemporary public culture. We contend that this discourse reflects the discursive conflation between therapeutic culture and neoliberal wellness logic, with the figure of the toxic friend constructed in ways that support imperatives for self-care and self-governance. While much of the advice situates friendship as an important personal tie, there is very little encouragement to ‘work’ on these relationships. As such, these discourses offer a reductive, disposable approach to friendship ties that overlooks the complexities and lived experiences of friendship relations.
Adverts tell a story and comprise images that old men encounter in their everyday lives, and which provide popular scripts on ageing masculinity. This chapter focuses on old men’s own understandings of advertising and their depictions of old men. Focus group interviews with Swedish old men, aged between 65 and 92, were conducted, with commercial adverts featuring old men used as visual prompts to invite discussions on masculinity and ageing. The advertising shown reflects both negative and overtly ageist images, and images of the so-called successfully ageing old man; adverts appealing to identification and aspiration, adverts inciting laughter and appreciation, and adverts creating a sense of resistance or rejection. Different readings of the shown adverts emerged, which point to the polysemic nature of media texts. The chapter discusses prominent themes from the transcribed and coded focus group interviews, on embodied ageing, ageing in different stages of life, masculinity and societal changes in terms of gender equality and the role and status of old men.
Media representations of ageing play a role in stereotype formation and even reinforce them. Encountering these stereotypes can negatively impact the self-esteem, health status, physical wellbeing and cognitive performance of older people.
This international collection examines different dimensions of ageing and ageism in a range of media. Chapters include explorations of the UK media during the COVID-19 pandemic; age, gender and mental health in Ghana; advertising in Brazil; magazines in Canada; Taiwanese newspapers; comics, graphic novels and more.
Bringing together leading scholars, this book critically considers differences in media portrayals and how older adults use and interact with the media.
Advertising is a complex type of persuasive, cultural text, produced by the promotional industry. It displays powerful economic, social and cultural significance. This chapter takes an analytical stance on the persuasive language of Brazilian advertising to argue that negative assumptions about ageing still inform the Brazilian media, according to which individuals are presumed to take responsibility for the way they ‘choose’ to age. The chapter first presents the fundamental, sociocultural basis of this discussion. It then provides empirical data that inform our critical reflection on ageism and the promotion of the ageless ethos in contemporary Brazilian advertising. The chapter closes with a reflection on the sociocultural construction of the meanings of ageing in the Brazilian imaginary, the role of promotional cultures in the production of subjectivities and the social engagement of academic research, which actively takes part in the struggle against ageism in Brazil.
Whether later life is represented through the lens of an apocalyptic demography or an over-entitled baby-boom generation, such differing representations point to the continuing dissolution of old age as a unitary social category. The division between the ‘third’ and ‘fourth’ ages is becoming an important feature of ageing societies. While the latter reflects an image of old age defined by dependency and vulnerability, the former projects an image of generational capture. This bifurcation has been present over the past 30 years and has recently become evident in responses to, and discourses about, the COVID-19 pandemic. By drawing attention to these disparate representations of ageing in the media, this chapter argues that public discourses of ageing articulate a fundamental incompatibility in the framing of later life, through the representational structures of the third and fourth ages in society.
This chapter brings together the main themes discussed in the preceding chapters. It addresses the challenges of representing ageing in media contexts and the role of the media in addressing ageism in a global context.
In Austria, considerably fewer older women than men use the internet (Statistik Austria, 2019), increasing their risk of exclusion from a digital society. To contribute to preventing such exclusion, this chapter offers insights into older women’s understanding of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and critically discusses cultural beliefs, social norms and life situations that facilitate use and non-use of ICTs in everyday life. Discussing the findings of a recent mixed-methods study on older women’s ICT use, the chapter identifies important commonalities in how older Austrian women make sense of media technologies in their lives. Most notably, their engagement with new ICTs is informed by a double logic of care: either they use new ICTs to care for others (particularly their families) or, on the contrary, are too busy caring for others to engage with them.
This collection showcases leading research across the globe on ageing and the media. It examines different aspects and dimensions of ageing, as represented in a range of media, such as newspapers, magazines, advertising, graphic novels and comics, and websites. Older consumers’ voices are also heard about how they respond to media depictions of older adults and about how they embrace communication technologies. The chapters critically discuss current discourses and understandings of ageing and the lifecourse in different cultural contexts and demonstrate how age intersects with gender and sexuality, for example. The research sites range from Europe to North and South America, Africa and East Asia. Some of the central themes that are addressed in eleven chapters are: How do older adults feature and how are they represented in the media in different cultural contexts? What visual, semiotic and discursive strategies are employed in these representations? How do particular cultural and demographic contexts structure and give meaning to ageing in media texts and images? What is the role of older adults in the mediascape? How do older adults relate to media representations of ageing and older age? The volume is divided into three parts: (1) Framing and constructing ageing in media reporting; (2) Imagined ageing in promotional and fictional contexts; and (3) Older adults’ interaction with the media and media technologies
Comics can be a helpful storytelling medium through which to study the representations and portrayals of older adults and later life. Contributing to the slow but steady acceptance and visibility of comics, this chapter examines five comics in conversation with emerging ideas about queering ageing futures, drawing on Sandberg and Marshall’s (2017) article that critiques successful ageing discourse. The analysis reveals that these comics, in their exploration of the fullness and the complexities and contradictions of later life, assume a liminal quality. The older characters’ bodies, behaviours and relationships occupy and weave through multiple, concurrent narratives associated with later life (biological decline, an imperative to age successfully and our proposed third narrative of the queering of ageing futures). In allowing these three narratives to co-exist, the analysed comics interrogate the narrow binaries of success and failure in dominant successful ageing discourse. This interrogation provides a space to queer ageing futures and ultimately recognises a different kind of diversity in ageing futures.