Say the word ‘bingo’ and what’s the first scene most people picture? Scenes of joyous jackpots or elderly ladies huddled around a table? It’s likely the latter and how one of the world’s most popular games is viewed has a lot to do with its portrayal on TV and cinema. Bingo’s appearance on the big and the small screen is something of a commentary on social history.

Bingo is a useful tool for filmmakers and directors because it’s such a simple game at heart. Everyone recognizes how bingo is played and it can convey a sense of comedy, drama or familiarity when telling a story. But it’s almost always a story featuring older people with a few cliches thrown in for good measure. It’s often a good reason to have a giggle at the game’s quirks and those who play it.

What defines the bingo stereotype?

Bingo was a game with mass appeal that exploded in the 1950s and 60s so by the time many of us were born it was already seen as somewhat dated and that its devoted followers were getting on a bit. No one has a blue rinse these days, but if the hairstyle was to appear on our screens it would almost certainly be worn by someone who plays bingo.

Even the venue for a game of bingo evokes a sense of throwback nostalgia. Many bingo halls sprung up in former cinema buildings that had seen better days. If bingo isn’t played in an old odeon then it’s just as likely to be seen underway in a church hall, a social club or a holiday park.

Then there’s the game itself. Bingo phrases are still a part of popular culture. ‘Kelly’s eye’ and ‘two little ducks’ are just two examples that are ingrained in bingo folklore. The bingo game opener ‘eyes down’ tells everyone assembled to hush up and concentrate – you can almost hear the ‘shhh’ directed at anyone who breaks the studious silence.

How bingo is portrayed on TV and in the movies

Despite the multitude of adverts for bingo games site companies now on TV and online, we’ve yet to move away from the screen stereotypes of the game. Marketing of bingo these days tends to feature younger folk taking a break from their busy day to unwind with a game and make new friends in the site’s chat rooms. There’s a good reason for this – to move the image of bingo forward.

One day perhaps this is how bingo will be portrayed on television and in films, but the modern take still doesn’t conjure up the atmosphere that the traditional notion of bingo does. Here are just a few great examples of movies and TV series over the years with iconic bingo scenes that perfectly demonstrate the stereotype.

Bad Grandpa

Naturally, the bingo scene in ‘Bad Grandpa’ features an assortment of middle-aged and elderly women watching on in horror as the title character disrupts their otherwise decorous game. With iconic pranks and testing people’s patience in the hall, Bad Grandpa portrays his character perfectly during the scene.

Hotel Transylvania

Bringing bingo to the next generation, the animated movie ‘Hotel Transylvania’ throws every stereotype of the game out there in a 30-second scene. Deathly silence, a bored caller and the brief excitement of shouting for a win probably tells people that the last thing they want to be doing for fun is playing bingo. With bingo balls being replaced with mini skulls that whisper numbers in the scene, it perfectly matches the vibe of the movie’s horror yet comedic side.

Big Momma’s House 2

Want to dress up as an elderly lady to blend in and foil the dastardly deeds of a criminal gang? Then play bingo as Martin Lawrence’s character does in ‘Big Momma’s House 2’. Not only that, there’s lots of shushing, inane small talk and fury displayed at a ‘false call’ of bingo which brought great humour among fans of the movie.

The Simpsons

There are not many topics that ‘The Simpsons’ haven’t satirised. With many people often wondering what the best Simpsons episodes are, in season 10 of the long-running animation Bart and Lisa oversee a bingo game for a group of old folk which proved very popular among fans. The participants laughing at each other’s bad jokes, an inability to grasp the basics is just one creative way that bingo has been stereotyped on popular television shows.