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How Middle Adulthood Is Portrayed In The Media

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During middle adulthood, there are many changes that affect the physical, social, and biological elements of an individual. While everyone ages differently, at different times, and in different ways, the media portrays aging as the exact same for everyone. Three media outlets that portray middle adulthood would be movies, commercial advertisements, and magazines. It is extremely rare to sit down and watch a 30 minute television program without seeing a commercial advertising some type of aging beauty product. Almost all movies will have at least one character in middle adulthood. Every magazine has at least one advertisement of a wrinkle cream, a hair loss technique, or a prostate product. Are all these portrayals of middle adulthood true or a stereotype the media has created?

Middle adulthood is a critical and somewhat challenging time in an individual’s life. There is no way to avoid the side effects of aging, but media claims they can reverse aging. Media advertises middle adulthood behaviors in movies are portrayed as unusual, atypical, dramatic, and extravagant behaviors (Gatling, Mills, & Lindsay, 2014). When in reality, middle adulthood isn’t as crazy as media makes it seem. Middle adulthood ranges from ages 45-65. This stage in life is when most are finishing raising their kids, retiring, raising grandkids, etc. While your body does go through remarkable changes over these twenty years, it is not as dramatic as the media portrays it. Wrinkles will develop, hair will change color and texture, joints will ache, vision and hearing will decrease, but it doesn’t happen overnight. Aging isn’t something you can avoid or prevent from happening, but movies, commercials, and magazines may convince someone they can delay it.

During this twenty year period many things occur. Individuals begin to see changes in skin, such as the pigment decreasing, age spots, moles, varicose veins, and wrinkles. Our skin wrinkles because of the four step process of thinking, losing connectivity, loss of elasticity, and the decrease in underlying fat (Gerst, Chp. 3). Hair loss occurs by destruction of germ centers that produce hair follicles, while graying is caused by cessation of pigment production (Gerst, Chp. 3). While watching movies, tv, or reading a magazine, you see these people that are between the ages of 45 and 65, yet they don’t look like it. They don’t have wrinkly faces, they don’t have grey hair, and their skin is flawless, yet this isn’t reality. It seems you’ll see individuals on opposite sides of the spectrum. Some will portray the actors or models as young and flawless, while others go overboard on trying to make them look older. A study showed that 73. 1% of older adults in advertisements were shown with a limited amount of wrinkles, and 97. 4% of advertisements showed older adults with overall good health (Robinson & Callister, 2008).

According to Gatling, Mills, & Lindsay (2014), “For comedy filmmakers, the (over)reactions of a middle-aged person to the realization that they are no longer young provide bountiful opportunities for humorous plots and scenarios” (p. 11). Filmmakers often choose a male protagonist rather than a women as a central character because they suggest that middle age for men is more problematic than it is for a women. When they concentrate on a crisis rather than transition allows filmmakers to represent middle age in a comical light rather than a “banal stage of life” (Gatling, Mills, & Lindsay, 2014). This is then portrayed to the audience as middle adulthood in a negative light due to the turbulent emotions and consequences of aging (Batling, Mills, & Lindsay, 2014). Due to filmmakers portraying middle adulthood in this way, it shows half of the human life filled with regrets, misfortune, and ill health.

Although, not all of that is completely true. Yes, aging is inevitable. No, aging does not ruin the second half of your life. Any type of media has the power to influence and control the discourse of aging and how people view it (Gatling, Mills, & Lindsay, 2014). Zhang et al. (2006) study found the following:… content analyzed 1,044 commercials to determine whether older characters were desirable (mentally and physically competent) or undesirable (mentally or physically incompetent). Their results indicated that older models (i. e. , those older than 65) were shown less favorably than younger models; commercials that were targeted at people older than 45 depicted individuals older than 65 as being helpless, impaired, weak, lazy, or less informed than their younger counterparts. (p. 269). This study also proves that older adults are lonely and less favorable when that is not what middle adulthood is in reality. Your balance will change due to changes white matter in the frontal cortex and in the occipital cortex (Cavanaugh & Blanchard-Fields, 2019). Your taste, hearing, and smell will alter, but that no way implies that you will be lonely or less favorable to those around you. The media portrays middle adulthood in a negative light most of the time in order to sell more products. A high market industry is anti-aging products. Anti-aging involves procedures and medication intentional to delay, stop, or retard the aging process (Orbis Research, 2017). The Global Anti-Aging Market was worth $250 billion in 2016 and estimated to grow and reach $331. 41 billion by 2021 (Orbis Research, 2017). The anti-aging market focuses on the demographics of Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y (Orbis Research, 2017). The basis of products the market is divided among UV Absorbers, Anti-Wrinkle Products, Anti-Stretch Mark Products, Natural Products and Hair Color (Orbis Research, 2017). Based on services the market is segmented into Anti-Pigmentation Therapy, Adult Acne Therapy, Breast Augmentation, Liposuction Services, Abdominoplasty, Chemical Peel, Eyelid Surgery, Hair Restoration and Sclerotherapy, Anti-Cellulite Treatment Devices, and many more (Orbis Research, 2017).

Those listed above is just a sneak peak into all the anti-aging possibilities. Instead of taking aging for what it is and embracing it, people are spending thousands and thousands of dollars in order to stay ‘young’. Middle adulthood is a time when certain parts of your body begin to change and some feel like they are no longer beautiful or handsome once those changes occur, Although, everyone is beautiful in their own way no matter what body changes happen as we age. Aging is a part of life that is inevitable and individuals need to be able to wear wrinkles and stretch marks with pride and courage, instead of doing everything in their power to hide them. Our bodies tell the story of our lives. Every wrinkle, scar, stretch mark, birthmark, bruise, bump, mole, vein, etc, has a story behind it of how our lives were built. Individuals should be able to be proud and to tell their stories without media pushing them to buy the next product or try the new medical operation in order to prevent it or take their marks away. Individuals in middle adulthood should have the right to feel confident in their bodies.

Aging is something that we can attempt to push off or avoid all we want, but at some point we have to accept the fact that our skin is going to thin, our hair is going to turn grey or fall out, our vision will worsen, our hearing will change, our taste and smell will become more intense or diminish, our minds start going a little blank, and our bodies will slowly begin to diminish, but we are still human and we are all still beautiful. The media will try to persuade individuals otherwise in movies, magazines, and commercials. They will state that older adults are lonely, sick, crazy, and weak but that is a stereotype media has created. Middle adulthood isn’t particularly easy or normal, but embrace it for all that it is.

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