I will examine and problematize the representations of old age and aging based on the way the protagonist of this film, Carl Fredriksen, has been portrayed. I will explore the way in which this film, simultaneously, relies on representations of elderly men to maintain socially acceptable bounds, and poses challenges to these same social boundaries to create a narrative of alternative masculinity in old age. I will focus on discourses of declining in old age, Ageism, self-reinvention, and concepts of alternative masculinity.
While watching this film I have asked: what narratives based on stereotypical depictions of old age are employed in the film; to what extent the narratives presented in the film create and / or provide discourses to the keep older folks within socially acceptable bounds; and / or challenge social boundaries? I also explored how this film makes use of chronological age as a category to justify social inequality and divisions. At the same time, I observed how this film uses processes of agency and transformation of the Self in old age.
This film offers two extreme perspectives to look at old age. On the one hand, the film’s plot relies on stereotypical representations of elderly men, keeping them inside of widely socially acceptable boundaries, while at the same time it also challenges social boundaries by creating alternative forms of masculinity for older male to, essentially, contradict a widely accepted declining narrative on old people.
Almost from the beginning, this animated film presents the audience with a character of an old and lonely widower, Carl Fredriksen. He is depicted as a methodical, set-in-his-ways, bad-tempered and sulky man. He rises up at 6.00 AM with the sound of an alarm clock, straightens his back with much struggle, descends the stairs in a motorized wheelchair and goes to his kitchen to eat a bowl of bran cereal. He clears his dish, straightens up a ceramic bird that he and his wife Ellie bought—showing his reluctance to any change even when Ellie has long passed. Next, visibly annoyed Carl opens up several locks that hold his front door shut—a sign of mistrust to the outside world. After what appears to be a daily ritual, he sits on his front porch. One of the reasons for Carl’s discomfort and safety norms is made evident as the camera shows how what once was a Carl’s little cottage in a rural area, which he and his wife had restored together, now it is surrounded by high-rise construction.
Carl is portrayed as a retired grumpy old man, whose future seems to be rather precarious. His depiction serves to classify him as old, not only for his age but also for not keeping up with the latest changes of the times and for being widowed and also, for the potential of his overall health decline. These characteristics used to represent Carl are stereotypes of Ageism—a social construct that considers old age as a problem. Such categorizations of chronological age serve to generate a social identity,...