What ho Wee Readers, well those last two posts had some contentious stuff in them, didn’t they? I had to delete at least one troll argument. And I bet you’re thinking after that I probably want to take it down a notch with my irritation at the current situation – maybe you even hoped that’s exactly what I did with this post, after all it’s just a top eleven list, nothing contentious in that surely. Well…psyche! Because we’re gonna talk about elder abuse.
Well if we’re going to talk about the uncomfortable subject of Elder Abuse around a top eleven list of the most badass elderly characters in fiction, than there’s literally no better character to start with then Abe “Grandpa” Simpson. Born to parents Orville and Yuma Simpson sometime before WWI, Abe spent his adult years during WII basically fighting in as many military units as he clearly possibly could. He was part of the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Marine corps. There is some evidence this might be exaggeration on his part, but since he is a cartoon, I’m just going to treat this as accurate until it’s outright proven false.
Unfortunately, due to his advanced age, and rapid decline in mental capably – Grandpa Simpson is not given the respect you’d think he should be by either his family or wider society. If he’s not being ignored, or mocked by most of the cast – except maybe Bart in more recent years – then he’s being used by the writers to tell some quite frankly very uncomfortable jokes. Like remember when Homer fantasized about smothering his father to death, so he wouldn’t have to take care of him anymore? Yeah, that was a joke. Look the Simpsons is a great show, I’d even argue it’s very underrated in its later seasons – but elder abuse is a very serious topic, and sometimes jokes like that can help normalise it to the wider viewing public. Something we have a very high tolerance for in our society anyway – for instance in a recent poll of 2,500 people in the UK, 34% of them didn’t see acts of violence towards older people as abuse at all. And nearly half of them fully believed that not attending an older person’s needs didn’t constitute abuse. So yeah Homer, bit not good there.
Now some people might claim that it’s cheating to use an alien from a science fiction movie in my elderly bad-ass list, but to them I reply with the words of the great man himself. “When 900 years old you reach, look as good, you will not.”
After spending roughly eight-hundred years training Jedi, this little green alien retired into exile at the rise of the Empire, whereupon he stayed hidden on his not-home planet of Dagobah until being discovered by the wanna-be Jedi Luke Skywalker. He is a master of the force, a CGI puppet with a light-saber, and in our modern-day pop culture he is the epitome of judging not by the size, or as chance would have it…the age. For 900 years old he may be, but right to the day he dies and becomes one with the force, Yoda is a dangerous force to be reckoned with and even powerful force users like Obi-Wan Kenobi know not to underestimate or discard him as disposable simply for his age or his erratic behaviour. Something that would be nice to see in today’s society. Oh? Don’t know what I’m talking about, well sit back because the next paragraph is gonna be pure rant.
Earlier in the year, an opinion piece published in the Telegraph noted that the 1918 pandemic of Spanish flu left such a large impact on the economy because it mainly affected what he referred to as ‘primary-breadwinners’. Which apparently the Coronavirus does not. In fact, he would go on to say, the 2020 pandemic could have a positive impact on the economy because and I quote…
‘Not to put too fine a point on it, from an entirely disinterested economic perspective, the COVID-19 might even prove mildly beneficial in the long term by disproportionately culling elderly dependents.’
This would be despicable in itself, but it adds a new layer of sinister when it turns out that a large amount of the governments around the world seem to have accepted a view like this one, as their actual policy when dealing with the pandemic.
9. Baby Jane Hudson
The antagonist of Henry Farrell’s 1960 book “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” and its various on-screen adaptions – the most famous being 1962 adaption starring Bette Davis – Baby Jane Hudson is a former child star aged out of her marketability. She’s trapped in the delusion of reviving her old act, along with a severe case of alcoholism. What makes this character more terrifying – or at least as far as any fictional villain is terrifying in today’s world – than sad is the fact that she has complete control over her wheelchair bound sister. By the end of the story Jane has practically locked her sister in the house, and prevented any contact between her and the outside world. Gee you must be wondering, I wonder what the Wee Lassie is using this to segue into now…well, I’m not one to keep an audience waiting, so I’ll show you.
The Lockdown – no matter what you may think of how needed it is – often disproportionally affects older people in a negative manner. Not only because of the usual rates of loneliness, isolation and sometimes starvation [but more on that later] that comes from being essentially cut off from the rest of the world. But also, because lockdown restrictions are often much harsher on those over the age of 65 – for instance in Bosnia and Herzegovina anyone over 65 wasn’t allowed to go outside. And there were no exceptions from this rule – you weren’t allowed to go the shop to buy food, or the pharmacy to pick up your medication. You weren’t even allowed to take out your rubbish and if you were caught, you were fined. This may seem shocking, but the truth is this sort of thing is happening all over the world – and even less drastic seeming measures (such as shielding) can have a terrible impact both physically and psychologically on anyone.
8. Olenna Tyrell
When we think of house Tyrell, if we’re not thinking about Margery or her brother, then it’s likely that we’re thinking about Olenna. Like Tyrion, she represents what many of us liked best in Game of Thrones – that is the clever writing and the focus on people, that often don’t get given the respect they should in high fantasy stories. However, unlike Tyrion, Olenna gets given that kind of respect in story as well as out. Olenna Tyrell’s son might be the lord of Highgarden but who are we kidding, it’s Olenna that rules the roost. Her words, like many of the best GoT characters, are the most powerful weapon she has and hers are some of the sharpest, easily putting even main players like Cersei Lannister in her place. However, after her family is murdered and she is left alone, it’s notable that she no longer uses this strength of words to build someone up in a positive way, but rather tear them down. We can see this most definitively in her last act before she dies. She tells Jamie Lannister that she killed Joffrey, and asks that he tells Cersei that it was her (meaning Olenna) that did it. A last act of symbolic revenge, before the Game of Thrones takes her down.
Hmm, a noble woman in a fictional fantasy land, how am I possibly going to connect this one to elder abuse within the current coronavirus pandemic? Well, I suppose that like many elderly people today, Olenna’s society, and the rules she has played so closely to, have failed her when she most needed that support. She is left alone in her grief, almost…isolated you could say. After all many older people, suddenly alone and without control over their circumstances – whether those circumstances involve being separated forcefully from your own family for ‘the greater good’, or having them blown up by one of your political enemies really doesn’t matter – can suffer from severe psychical and mental health conditions, not limited to cognitive decline and even depression. BINGO! We have a winner!
7. Hector Salamanca
Hector Salamanca is not a good man. He’s a former drug runner and enforcer to Don Eladio of the Mexican Cartel. He murdered the partner and possible lover of Gustavo Fring, to send the young entrepreneur a message. And he was instrumental into indoctrinating his own three nephews into that world, once holding one of their heads underwater and trying to drown him to teach his brother a lesson. So, yeah bad man – however through the course of both Breaking Bad and its prequel Better Call Saul, we watch Hector lose more and more of what made him who he was. In Better Call Saul after he’s poisoned, he suffers from a stroke and loses his ability to both walk and speak. By extension he also loses his business and much of his old power within the Cartel – not all of it, but a lot. But whatever, he passes his business onto his nephew Tuco and he goes on with his new life. It might be difficult, but at least he has his family – and family, as he mentioned while he was trying drown his nephew, is everything.
However, starting with the death of Tuco in Breaking Bad, Hector’s family slowly but effectively begins to get picked off. One of his twin nephews is killed when he tries to assassinate Hank, while the other is quietly taken out later in the hospital by Mike. His cousins, his friends, his old boss Don Eladio, even his own Grandson – all taken out by Gustavo Fring. He is left alone and forgotten in a nursing home with his only means of communication, the bell on his wheelchair. This is illustrated by the fact that the care home staff will often leave Hector in a corner, or alone in his room staring out his window – not from any malice per say but because it is so easy to forget about him now. So, to a man like Héctor Salamanca, the idea of turning himself into a living bomb to destroy his enemy – Gustavo Fring – and therefore escape his lot, seems the only logical course of action.
While the solution is different from many other people’s reaction, I’d assume, the notion of being neglected or forgotten in a nursing home when you’re no longer able to see your family, really isn’t – especially now. During the Covid19 Pandemic there has been a rise of elder death within long-term care facilities, however studies show that many of these deaths were not caused by Covid19 itself. Rather people died of hypovolemic shock, or if you would rather fluid loss. That is, shut in their rooms during lockdown, with 40% of staff just not showing up, old people like Hector Salamanca were left to die of thirst. When you look at things that way, I’d almost prefer to go out with a bang.
6. Abbé Faria
In real life Abbé Faria was a Luso-Goan Catholic monk and one of the pioneers of the study of hypnosis – however in Alexander Dumas’ the Count of Montre Cristo he takes the role of the prisoner in the next cell over from the future Count. He’s a genius in almost absolutely everything from language, history, politics, to tunnelling out of a sheer stone prison. He buries into the county’s cell where they become friends and plan to make a proper escape. However before they can, the Abbé dies, the count pretends to be his corpse to escape and the rest is literary history.
Speaking of death, let’s turn our eyes from the still body of the Abbé dressed in the Count’s prison uniform – and to a more contemporary time, where you’d think we’d know better. You’d be wrong, but you would think that. The Abbé Faria’s corpse is mishandled, however as it was done to help his best friend escape their shared prison, it’s most likely he wouldn’t have minded very much. The same cannot be said for elderly people unlucky enough to die in nursing homes during this pandemic. With staff – due to fears of infection – encouraged to stay away, bodies were just left in the beds they had died in. Respect for the newly dead…what’s that?
5. Lady Violet Crawley
Alright I’ll be honest Wee Readers, I didn’t watch the Downton Abbey movie, it’s just the series got so boring by the end. Ghee it’s almost fetishizing the overly wealthy at a time of austerity and global pandemic is kind of sick.
Anyway, back on topic, my current distaste for the show and its content speaks deeply to why Violet is so high on this list. You have to be one of the funniest things on tv to keep even the socialists coming back to your boring show about how hard rich people’s lives are. That’s about all I’ve got to say about her, she makes me laugh. Her class on the other hand…
Statistically speaking in any kind of health crisis – but most notably in the covid19 pandemic – it’s the poor who suffer. We see this particularly in countries without some kind of universal healthcare, like America. Where many people can’t even afford to go to a hospital let alone receive prolonged treatment from one.
However stepping back into the actual topic of the blog post, while many old people were dying from isolation and lack of care, to protect them from potentially contracting the virus, what was the geriatric heir to the throne doing? A man who I will remind you had actually tested positive for the virus. That’s right, moving himself and his potentially infected staff all the way up to Balmoral Castle. Without so much as a whack on the wrist.
Well, clearly the governments of the world have made their opinion clear. If you’re going to recklessly decide to be old during a pandemic, you better be rich while you’re doing it.
3. Ruby Johnson
My favourite character in the series Blackish, Ruby Johnson, is the mother of lead character Andre Johnson, ex-wife of the, producer played, Earl Johnson, and thorn in the side / mother-in-law of manic doctor Rainbow Johnson. On a scale of one to ten Ruby considers herself a twelve, which should tell you all you need to know about her self-confidence. Let’s see what else, she once burned down her husband’s boat, but in my opinion the bastard had it coming. Look I’m not saying I’d damage property if I was cheated on like that but…I think for legal reasons it’s best I not go on.
However, what I love most about Ruby is how much she loves her family and how much they love her. I mean she’s awesome and everything, but Rainbow’s still kind of a saint for putting up with a mother in law like Ruby, living in her house. One big loving, if slightly difunctional, family that are allowed to help each other. Not everyone’s lucky enough to have that.
During lockdown many elders who live alone, and thus who rely on the help of neighbours or – if they have them – adult children, to go to the shops and get the things that they need, have been unable to get that help. Gee I wonder why? Thus, terrifyingly, many of them have been admitted into hospital with admission diagnoses of “starvation”.
2. Mike Ehrmantraunt
When you think elderly fictional bad-asses – if you ever think of something so specific – odds are you’re thinking of him. It speaks to Mike’s bad-ass nature or at least the popularity of his character that he went from being a bit part at the end of season 2, to one of the main protagonists on Better Call Saul. A show that I stopped watching partway through season four because it is like watching sand do nothing. So, let’s instead turn away from that show, to the far more fascinating tale of Breaking Bad. In particular the power trio he forms with Jesse and Walt in season 5, particularly the ending of it. Namely the fates of the three characters: Mike and Walt die, while it is Jesse the youngest of the trio that is able to get away and – as we see in the Breaking Bad Movie El Camiono – make a fresh start. As with many stories, the old must make way for the young.
Now I’m not saying that it was the intention of the Breaking Bad Writers to kill off Mike and Walt because they were getting too old – Walt himself is more middle aged and his death is clearly the result of his own actions, literally it’s his own gun that shoots him in the side. As for Mike it’s strongly implied that he dies in the plot to signal how far Walt has fallen; Mike is going to die in season five because Walter is so out of control. So, while the author’s intent might not be to cull the elderly, it does follow the interesting trend when it comes to characters at that particular point in life. Look back on this list in particular, how many characters died, or were hinted to be on the way out by the end of their book and or film / tv show? Over half of them. The old mentor, or parent figure, dying so that their young prodigy can go on to either avenge or surpass them is a tried and tested plot thread for a reason after all. Heck in Star Wars they’ve done it so often they’ve almost made a joke out of it. However, watching the rapid rise of Star Wars’ elderly death count changes from funny to actually kind of insidious, when we live in a society that leaves their elderly to die of thirst. Or prohibits them from even leaving their houses.
Look I love Breaking Bad, but stories even great ones do not exist in a vacuum of their own creating. In many ways the media we consume not only reflects but dictates much of our world view. And trends in media that make us write off that old mentor character as dead before the end of act two, is much more troubling and apathetic in a world where the government is actually doing that in real life.
2. Sophia Petrillo
Picture it, Sicily, possibly 1905, Sophia Pertrillo is born and the start of an amazing story begins. Moving to Brooklyn after breaking off her engagement at the ripe old age of fourteen, Sophia would later – much later I assume – marry Salvador Petrillo and have three children with him. However, in Golden Girls we first me Sophia long after her husband has died and she is freshly escaped from Shady Pine retirement home. A place that is so terrible in her stories that it’s practically a prison.
It’s worth noting that although she’s prone to exaggeration – Sophia is genuinely afraid of going back to Shady Pines, so there must be some truth in her story. Gee…a retirement home so neglectful that it’s basically a prison, wow…sure wish that wasn’t as relevant as it is. No, no I’m being silly retirement homes aren’t like regular old prison, no… they’re much closer to be death row at this point.
During the 2020 Covid Panic to free up space in hospital beds many nursing home residents were put back into their communities either without being tested for the virus or, even worse, testing positive for it. Two weeks after lockdown – a time in which infection should have been lessening – 1800 nursing homes in England were continuing to have outbreaks. They’ve locked these people off from their families, and restricted their care in theory to stop the infection from spreading. But if that was really the case, then why are you putting infected patients back in their communities? Why not keep them at the basically empty hospitals?
I’d say this was all a mistake, just the product of extreme incompetence… except I don’t think it entirely is, anymore.
For instance, in Scotland and England, they’ve been pressuring residents to sign ‘do not resuscitate’ orders. A crappy thing to do all by itself but turned absolutely terrifying with what these nursing homes do after the forms are signed…they stop caring for the human being that signed the DNR. No medication, no food, no water, it’s sick. Granted it isn’t every nursing home, just the ones that have had new management thrust upon them, but it’s worrying that it’s any of them.
1. Socorro “Coco” Rivera
When I first began this post – all those many eons ago – I found it very hard to decide who would take the final spot on my list. There were so many good candidates, each more deserving than the last. Ultimately, I settled on Coco Riviera not because she was the most badass – although as head of her family she certainly is that as well – but because more than any other character on this list, her dying prematurely would affect her story.
Think about it. If Grandpa Simpson died before the final episode, the worst that would happen is the Simpsons might stop making so many ageist jokes. Yoda dies, for seemingly no reason in his film and it doesn’t even slow down the conflict. Olenna, Hector, Faria and Mike all die as well and as for Violet well how long can they realistically keep her alive? Really the only ones that would leave any an emotional fallout are Ruby and Sophia.
But Coco? If she’s murdered before the end of her film, or even before it starts, it makes a difference to the rest of the story…people would literally fade from existence. She’s so integral to the film having any kind of a happy ending, that they named the whole goddamn thing after her.
However, there’s one scene in particular that I think sums up exactly why Coco reached this spot. Now before you watch the clip remember, Coco sufferers from an advanced form of dementia, unable to even remember her own daughter’s name.
The climax of the film lies in sitting round and actually listening to what a person with dementia has to say, rather than say bunning them away in a corner and sedating them when they get too distressed. Gee, thank god none of these people live in Scotland
Do you know what the sea witch running my country is doing to people like mama Coco? Yes, that’s right, murdering them. Specifically, over-medicating them – or at least the ones in nursing homes – when they inevitably become agitated from being separated from their families so long. Which has a terrible effect on an already frail body and is suspected of being the reason for the rise in dementia deaths during the current crises. The Scottish government’s idea of help to these vulnerable people seems to be, sedate until the body gives out and then repeat to decrease the surplus population. Sometimes when I think about it for too long, it makes me feel ashamed to be Scottish.
If this post has stirred your righteous anger, check out some of the articles that inspired it.
Elder abuse set to increase as UK enforces coronavirus lockdown measures, charity warns
Telegraph journalist says coronavirus ‘cull’ of elderly could benefit economy
Dying of neglect: the other Covid Care Home scandal
Nicola Sturgeon’s care homes catastrophe
Sedation ‘linked’ to dementia deaths surge in Scotland
Rights Risks to Older People in COVID-19 Response
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