A lot of time is spent discussing racism in society, and previously I myself have discussed sexism in my posts, and now it is time for the “third-ism” ageism (Nelson). Ageism is defined as negative (though sometimes positive) stereotypes, prejudice and/or discrimination against elderly people on the basis of their age on the perception of them as being “old” (Iversen). Though ageism most often refers to older people, old age and the ageing process, it can also be used to show the transition through a variety of ages such as adolescence and adults (Iversen).
So the big question here is; why is there such an under interest in ageism? Could it be possible that ageism is the most socially condoned and institutionalize form of prejudice? I believe this to be true, especially for America. Take for example the fact that there is an entire industry in the greeting card business dedicated towards “over the hill” themes (Iversen). Although these cards are considered humorous (come on we all have bought one, or laughed over one), they are essentially poking fun at old age and spreading the message that it is undesirable to get older (Nelson). How many adults have you seen sulk over a 40th or 50th birthday, nearly all correct? Ageism is a huge prejudice within society that has been condoned and promoted by the population at large.
One of the unique figures about ageism is that unlike race or gender, there are two-categories the “in-group” (the youth) and the “out-group” (the old). Interesting enough, even though everyone (if fortunate enough) will become old and one day part of the “out-group” (Nelson) there is still a stigma behind the word “old”.
Frank Miller utilized both of these groups in his comic. By having Robin, a member of the “in-group” being as she is only 13, partner up with Batman a man of 40, we are diffusing such a stereotype; though not without acknowledging its presence first. “ Couldn’t be Batman, Turk said he killed Batman…if it is him, he’s got to be pretty old…” (Miller, 37). There is a constant stigma around the age of Batman, whether it is Lola the news anchor reporting on how the children of this generation think Batman is a myth (Miller, 11), or the general statements made on how it cannot be the return of Batman for he would be told old. We are constantly reminded that Batman is no longer in his youth.
But don’t fret, he rebels against these opinions, these prejudices “this should be agony. I should be a mass of aching muscle—broken, spent, and unable to move. And, were I any older man, I surely would… but I’m a man of thirty—of twenty again. The rain on my chest is a baptism—I’m born again…” (Miller, 34). An entire page is dedicated to showing that even if Batman is now a man of forty; he is young at heart, mind, and in body. He is depicted as muscular, strong, fierce and as ready as ever. And even Superman, an enemy of sorts has mixed feelings on Batman’s age. Their physical depictions are of a virtually equal size yet the age difference apparent in their faces. Clark with his jet black hair and youthful skin, and Bruce with his white hair, sunk in cheeks and wrinkles. Even though Clark looks at Bruce and says I know you look better than you have in years, and it’s apparent that he is physically capable due to his previous crime fighting before their encounter, Clark still allows himself to be manipulated by the stereotypes of society. “You’re not a young man anymore, Bruce… maybe if you’d learned to slow down and find your niche…but times have changed and you—well it’s just not healthy. You’ll burn yourself up” (Miller, 118). These stereotypes are so ingrained in the minds of society that it has (as previously stated) become condoned.
I believe that this stereotype derives from the innate fear of growing old that most of us have. The fear of getting older causes you to rebel against what you don’t want. You string together a bunch of symbols with little grounding on concepts of reality or fact, creating a false idea of reality. You begin to believe that age is synonymous with health issues, forgetfulness, slowness, weakness and being “behind the times” (like when Clark says, “These aren’t the old days Bruce” (Miller, 119)). This influences your view of those older than you. Ultimately even though Batman appears defeated by the end, he fights a good battle against all the “villains”, and even against Clark. Bruce faked his death to symbolize the end of Batman NOT to show his lack of energy, intelligence or “youth”. Overall the stigma associated with old age is both exposed and appealed within the comic.
This is a video clip of the trailer for Part 2 of the animated movie Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Directed by Jay Olivia. This shows his treatment the visual depictions of both Superman and Batman. As well as summarizes my previous posts, where we see how Batman is viewed as a vigilante and he is considered a murder. We also see Batman’s bitterness and how he views Gotham as overrun by crime to the point where “we are all criminals”. Then of course we get a taste of the fight between the young Superman and the old Batman.
- Iversen, T.N, L Larson, and P.E Solem . “A Conceptual Analysis of Ageism.”Nordic Psychology 61 (2009): 4-22. Print.
- Miller, Frank. Batman: the Dark Knight returns. New York, N.Y.: DC Comics, 2002. Print.
- Nelson, Todd D.. Ageism: stereotyping and prejudice against older persons. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2002. Print.