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Declining to Decline: Aged Tough Guys in 'The Expendables' and 'The Expendables 2'

Lisa-Nike Bühring


Old age in western cultures under current neo-liberal ideology is increasingly linked to notions of decline, frailty and dependence as it is often equated with being unproductive and a burden to society. This case study is based on the belief that in order to change socio-cultural patterns one must first understand them. Consequently, this article aims to analyse the socio-cultural (re)production of narratives of ageing in general and particularly of narratives of male ageing – a topic often neglected in academic debates of ageing.

Mass media represent today a major source for the development and maintenance of hegemonic socio-cultural standards.  As such their products need to be taken seriously even if their content might seem superficial and frivolous. A critical analysis of the commercially highly successful Hollywood action films The Expendables and The Expendables 2 will shed light on the cultural narratives of male ageing revealed in the two films and subsequently support a better understanding of the strategies used to transform narratives of decline commonly linked to ageing into stories of success and progress.


neo-liberalism, cultural narratives, ageism, hegemonic masculinity, action films, marginalisation

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