In our discussion about Rocky Balboa in the Episode 12 thread, Dave mentioned that part of the reason he’s excited for the movie despite its silly plot is because he associates Rocky with his childhood. If Rocky’s too old to fight, then Dave must also be old, and that’s not something Dave wants to be the case, so he’s happy to see Rocky out there fighting one last bout. That discussion got me thinking about how Rocky Balboa really has a lot to say about the way movies deal with the whole concept of getting old.
While I understand the impulse to see Rocky make one last stab at greatness in the ring, it strikes me as being the wrong way to think about aging. We shouldn’t spend our later years trying to recapture the glory of our youth; we should be growing, finding glory in new endeavors. I would much rather see something like where Rocky V was trying to go, with Rocky finding joy in training a new generation of people. To see a plastic surgery addled Stallone trying to pretend he’s still 30 is sort of sad. What’s so hard about admitting that when we get older we can’t do everything we once did?
But it’s not just Rocky. Hollywood is always happy to slap a middle aged man into action roles, pairing him up with a woman in her early 20s. Part of this is just wish fulfillment on the part of the audience, but I think part of it is that the movies want to sell us the idea that we never have to change with age.
When characters are allowed to be older in the movies, they’re generally portrayed as cranky or senile old farts. You sometimes get the wise elder, but you almost rarely see somebody 50 or older living like people that age actually do. For women the distinction tends to be even worse: they’re sex symbols up to their mid-30s, and then almost instantly they’re nothing but motherly matrons.
Can anyone recommend any movies that deal with growing old in a more interesting way than just being about characters trying to relive their youth?