‘Harold and Maude’: breaking ageism in romance

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

The 70s classic film, “Harold and Maude,” explored a romantic relationship between an 18-year-old man, Harold, and a 79-year-old woman, Maude. Since its release, film critics have had varying responses to this film. Some praise the film for its fresh perspective on what love really means. Others remain offended by the movie’s blatant display of a taboo relationship. This film should be revisited for its take on what love is and for how it shows that, in spite of differences, each generation is able to learn from the other.

 

Over the past couple of years, the advances made by the LGBT movement have paved the way toward accepting love outside of the heteronormative expectations. Yet, ageism has still brought on criticism between couples with a large age gap. Women in particular, are especially scorned in these types of relationships. Young women are called gold diggers if they start a relationship with an older man. Older women are marked as cougars whenever they are seen dating a much younger man.

 

“Harold and Maude” challenges these ideas by showing that age doesn’t have to matter in a relationship. Society shouldn’t be allowed to judge what types of love makes a person happy. If the people in a relationship are content like Harold and Maude were, then they should be allowed to be in love without society’s disapproval.

 

Secondly, there has been a growing division between generations with the “ok boomer” meme being one example of the older generation’s opinion being dismissed. True, times have changed and some of the ideas that the older generation carries are hurtful and outdated. This does not mean, however, that the older generation should be dismissed entirely. “Harold and Maude” shows that it is possible for two people from different generations to get along. Both of the title characters carried different views on life, but they didn’t let those differences divide them. 

 

Harold grew up in a wealthy family, but this didn’t stop him from developing an unhealthy obsession with death. This fascination led him to create various dramatic performances of him committing suicide. Maude, though older and more experienced, never made Harold feel like his struggles were invalid or compared them to her own. She listened and showed him all that life was worth living for. In return, he accompanied her on her mission to prove that old age can’t stop a person from living each day to the fullest.

 

“Harold and Maude” is a film that continues to challenge what love means. It shows the positive results that come from closing the barrier between different generations.

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