8/31/03 I’d like to take


I’d like to take issue with yesterday’s New York Times, which had an article in the Sunday Arts section entitled I Don’t Want to Grow Up – a pop-culture piece on the “new breed of quasi adult” that is “co-opting the culture of children as never before.” The article uses words like “kidult,” “peterpandemonium” and “rejuveniles” to describe this disturbing (according to social scientists) new trend of adults rejecting adulthood.

Among the things they mention are motor scooters, “Harry Potter” and “Spongebob Squarepants,” all of whom have a worrisomely adult audience. The reason for this, apparently, is rooted in the avoidance of dreary grown-up issues like lawn care and mortgages. The average age for video game players is 29 (up from 18 in 1990) and more adults 18-49 watch the Cartoon Network than CNN. There are apparently grown-ups baby-doll fashions and mentions of Twister.

Now, maybe this is partially true. With the kind of culture that gives moronic kids more airtime than they can possibly swallow – as well as the current emphasis on “tweeners” (a phrase that has been used every ten years or so, might I add), there may be a few more adults who know more about the Ashley Twins that they should. But really, what kind of story is this?

Motor scooters (or a Vespa, which was actually in the NYTimes picture) have been a passion for adults for fifty years. My buddies Lindsay and Dana both had Vespas at the age of 20, they have them now at 30, and they’ll probably have them at 40. This isn’t a pop-culture trend, this is the longterm appreciation of a good product. The same goes for video games – the average age has risen 13 years in the last 13 years because the same people have grown up with great video games. If you loved your Game Boy in 1990, you’re going to love the PS2 today. This is not a trend, this is hobby loyalty!

Adults like “Harry Potter” and “Spongebob” because they are immensely enjoyable on their own merits, not because they want to escape paying bills and re-seeding the brown patches on the lawn. And baby-doll dresses and Twister? PLEASE! Could anything be more 1994?

Maybe I get tweaked about this stuff because it’s my generation they’re talking about, again disparaged because we’re not only chained to our own now-dusty pop culture, but because we seem to be co-opting the pop culture of those 15 years younger. I’d like to re-write that New York Times article, and put it this way: we liked our old pop culture (“Brady Bunch,” “Sesame Street,” etc.) because it refined our sense of irony and humor. We like the new pop culture when it is good. This is not out of a fear of aging, this is the fruits of a longterm commitment to good entertainment. Just because your 10-year-old knows what a Patronus Charm is doesn’t mean we can’t.

And even if we are avoiding (or, in my hopes, redefining) adulthood, it has nothing to do with lawn care or mortgages. The Times fails to make the bigger point: that we are a generation born into cynicism (Nixon), raised during paranoia (The Day After), lost our virginity during the age of death (AIDS), and now see an entire world hating us (9/11) just as we intend to bring kids into it. Pardon us if we just want to play a few video games to take the edge off.