New is not a Synonym for Young
Updated: Oct 15
By David Gittins.
In a supreme example of irony, the most outdated thinking I have come across recently was in an Ankler article from Richard Rushfield called "Old Mountain; Old Turkey; Ages of Fear". In this, Rushfield discusses an old argument that perpetuates the idea that only the young can be new and innovative and anyone older must be stale and out of touch.
New is the opposite of old. Sure.
Young is the opposite of old. Yes.
But new is not a synonym for young. It's a simple and common mistake.
Older people can be innovative and in touch, just as young people can be unimaginative and out of touch. And all ages can be everything in between. Because that's how people are: different. Broad generalizations based on matters outside of a person's choice and control are usually wrong and are never helpful. But they happen. That's why we have protected classes.
Age is a protected class. That gives people over the age of 40 legal safeguards equivalent to those granted to race, sex, religion and so on. Now, if you were to draw a causality between innovative competence and race, or competence and gender, or sexuality, or religion then it would rightly be regarded as being offensive. Would he have written a piece about turgid thinking in the business being caused by too many Jewish people? Too many Black people? Too many women, gay, or trans? Probably not, because they'd be repulsive. They'd also be incorrect.
But here's the thing. Concluding a causality simply based on age is equally offensive, wrong, and damaging.
The people "outed by age" in the piece will not necessarily be damaged by it. If they lose a position they’ll most likely find another if they wish. In any case, they’re probably wealthy enough not to have to work again. Not so for the people further down the food chain. Executives, managers, and other decision makers looking to “refresh” may now decide you are right. They need new ideas so the obvious solution is to lose older workers and replace them with younger ones. Experience and competence don't matter. Only the year of birth does. Being aged out is a real and ongoing issue where extremely capable and competent people are fired or not hired based purely on age. It's systematic bigotry. And the article supports and helps sustain that.
There are numerous possible causes why the studios are losing generations. Regardless of age, the growing gulf in income and wealth is dividing the economic classes and is turning us into either millionaires or Uber drivers. People of all ages who are not indemnified through a high corporate salary or other source of wealth, now need second and third jobs simply to cover the essentials. People simply do not have time and/or money to spend on traditional entertainment. Watching movies in theatres is time-consuming, expensive, often unpleasant, and increasingly unsafe. Entertainment tastes change. We no longer head down to the Colosseum to watch Christians V Lions III. Sometimes an idea has just had its day. These possible causes may be valid, who knows? But each is more worthy of a discussion than the rolling out of an ageist trope.
Finally, one last thought. Most disposable income in the US lies with the over 50s. By the end of 2020, worldwide older adult spending will reach $15 trillion. By 2030, the 55 plus population will have been responsible for 50% of the US consumer spending growth since 2008. The only thing that isn't determined or projected is on what older people COULD spend their money. Perhaps this is where the focus should be and perhaps it is this audience we should all be fighting to attract? Who knows, maybe this is what the studios are already doing. In which case, by the logic of Rushfield's argument, the people mentioned are in fact ideally suited.