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Seniority TV! Why We Need More Old Folk On The Small Screen

Innovative television programming could be challenging the dominance of youth on television in Argentina and Brazil.

Argentina's Acua Mayor channel
Argentina's Acua Mayor channel
Ricardo Iacub*

-OpEd-

BUENOS AIRES — Although senior citizens watch more television than any other demographic, we rarely see them on screen. If they do appear, they tend to be portrayed as stereotypes that belittle and limit the age group's true ability and potential.

In Argentina, the older characters almost always have secondary roles or a minor presence, as the actual story plots revolve around young people. Can senior citizens fully participate in society when media, especially television, only use youngsters to represent the dreams and aspirations of people of all ages?

Why do we find it difficult to imagine a television series with 70-year-old actors?

Certainly, prejudiced visions of old age are not just the product of television. They already exist, and determine how senior citizens are depicted on screen. Yet, at a time when the number of old people is increasing, and the lifestyles this age group holds is changing, a discrepancy between television portrayals and reality begins to emerge.

One recent study shows that older adults who watch a lot of television find it difficult to identify themselves with characters in fictional programs, even when, and especially, these programs address issues related to them. These inadequate and incorrect representations reduce the elderly to stereotypes. This in turn means this segment of society finds it hard to see itself as a social asset.

Why do we find it difficult to imagine a television series with 70-year-old actors? Is it impossible for them to play out the same stories of love, passion and adventure?

Brazil offers some interesting examples, even on prestigious channels like Rede Globo. In recent years, it has been producing soap operas where old age and the elderly are given an important role. One of the more notorious examples is Mulheres Apaixonadas (Passionate Women), which depicted an elderly person being physically attacked, and achieved what many campaigns have not — public mobilization for a law to protect the rights of the elderly.

In another program, Amor a Vida (Love of Life), people aged between 70 and 90 confess about their love lives and lovers, prompting parallel chat shows on the lives of the participants. More recently, Babilonia broadcast — during a prime time slot — a couple of elderly women deciding to marry when the country legalizes it. Their onscreen kiss caused more of a stir than one might imagine.

These programs sought out the advice of experts and allowed people to see that television stories could promote, teach and affirm new ways of being an elderly person without a fall in ratings.

Could this happen in Argentina? Our country has produced Acua Mayor, a public channel where elderly people are the protagonists. Programs on it present scenes, actors and scripts that reflect the reality of a diverse population.

Acua Mayor was conceived as a transformative space to break cultural prejudices and include a group of people who have so far been left out. Their programming includes the active participation of elderly characters. As its creators say, this is "TV that invites you to watch but also adopt a more positive life model."

People who watched the channel later said they were surprised but pleased to see the manner their lives were depicted onscreen. Let us hope this idea takes better hold in our country.

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Geopolitics

AMLO Power Grab: Mexico's Electoral Reform Would Make Machiavelli Proud

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, aka AMLO, says his plans to reform the electoral system are a way to save taxpayer money. A closer look tells a different story.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of Mexico votes

Luis Rubio

OpEd-

MEXICO CITY — For supporters of Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) the goal is clear: to keep power beyond the 2024 general election, at any price. Finally, the engineers of the much-touted Fourth Transformation, ALMO's 2018 campaign promise to do away with the privileged abuses that have plagued Mexican politics for decades, are showing their colors.

Current electoral laws date back to the 1990s, when unending electoral disputes were a constant of every voting round and impeded effective governance in numerous states and districts. The National Electoral Institute (INE) and its predecessor, the IFE, were created to solve once and for all those endemic disputes.

Their promoters hoped Mexico could expect a more honest future, with the electoral question resolved. The 2006 presidential elections, which included AMLO as a recalcitrant loser, showed this was hoping for too much. That election is also, remotely, at the source of the president's new electoral initiative.

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