Old People Stereotypes Are Hilarious And Empowering

August 6th, 2012 | Categories: Age

Jon Stewart of The Daily Show never ceases to entertain. In his recent July 31st ‘Old Man Fight’ segment, Stewart shows how ‘old people’ stereotypes can be used for political commentary in a hilarious way.

Stewart’s segment does beg the question of why stereotypes of ‘old people’ are acceptable for him to communicate. Consider that the same segment using stereotypes of Hispanics to discuss a fight between Sonia Sotomoyer and Miguel Estrada might have resulted in backlash instead of hilarity.

The answer comes from considering how Stewart used the stereotypes. Think of the ‘old people’ stereotypes as wrapping paper. Stewart jokes that ‘old people’ are:

- smell
- grumbly
- cranky
- sleepy
- out of date
- belligerent
- and have removable teeth

In contrast to the wrapping paper, think of the political commentary – its content and language – about McCain and Cheney as Stewart’s gift to you.

The content of the gift itself is empowering of ‘old people.’ Their power is evidenced in the segment’s serious life and death focused content about:

- invasions
- “accidental near manslaughter”
- mistakes made in deciding the successor to the presidency
- torture

The language Stewart uses provides further evidence that Stewart is empowering ‘old people.’ Counter to the stereotypes on the wrapping paper, Stewart describes McCain and Cheney as powerful, strong, and virile using language like:
- “fight”
- “Wyoming World Wind”
- “Animal from Arizona”
- “knock out”
- “counter punch”
- “mother f—er”
- “McCain not only played the torture card, he licked the back of that card and stuck it on Cheney’s forehead so that you could see him playing it.”

The use of language to empower ‘old people’ is most obvious when Stewart quips:

“[McCain] ripped out your heart and is holding it in front of your face”
“[Cheney] does that himself every night all by himself and puts it in a glass by his bed”

Could there be two more powerful, strong, and virile men? One who takes out another’s heart and shows it to him and the other who takes out his own.

The content and language of Stewart’s political commentary makes the ‘old people’ stereotypes lose their appearance of reality. The stereotypes are disproved by two specific anecdotal examples of powerful ‘old people.’

It’s as if Stewart is saying, “Yeah, old people can be stereotyped as x,y, and z, but I know these two guys who….”

Stewart uses McCain and Cheney as examples of why the stereotypes are not true. By talking about two of the most influential ‘old people’ in the United States contrasted with empty generalizations in the form of stereotypes, the stereotypes lose all power. The segment is hilarious as a result.

The stereotypes were pretty to wrap Stewart’s segment in so that the audience would want to watch it. But the stereotypes are crumpled on the floor ready to be trashed by the end of the segment. What’s left is Stewart’s gift of empowering ‘old people’ by fighting against those stereotypes and doing so in a hilarious way.

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