THE INFANTILIZATION OF SOCIETY pt. 1
This essay is fantastic. It’s something that’s been going on around us for some time, but the critic A.O. Scott articulates it perfectly in his article.
I’m ambivalent about the eternal youth culture in this country. I can’t stop myself from feeling horrified when I see something like what I saw in target today…
These are pajamas for grown men. They were in the men’s wear department. They came in men’s medium, large and extra large sizes. Will the men who purchase and wear these pajamas ever have sex? And if so, what type of women will they be having sex with? It feels perverse. Why would someone want to fully transform into a little kid again? I hated being a little kid. It sucked. Being a teenager again, I could maybe understand. But a toddler? There’s something about it that repulses me.
Or how about this guy who turned his entire apartment into an arcade, causing his fiancee to leave him?
Yes, that’s a ninja turtles bedspread that a grown man with a career in PR sleeps in.
Are we really okay with this? I’m not.
I want to judge adults who only read Y.A. novels; mothers who are way more obsessed with Disney movies than their children; forty-year-old men wearing Adventure Time T-shirts.
But I’m conflicted. I don’t want to cast aspersions on others for the pop culture they consume. For one thing, it makes me a hypocrite. I’m as guilty of indulging childhood pleasures as anyone. I still read comic books and play tabletop roleplaying games. When I get angry about adults living as children, I start to suspect that the shame I feel for them is really my own. Maybe I’m ashamed of the part of me that is still a child.
Or maybe I have a point? Maybe we lose something vital when we abandon adulthood. To me, adulthood is taking responsibility and confronting the horrors of the world head on. Surely we are in deep shit if we lose our ability to do those things? At the very least, our movies and books won’t be as good. Guardians of the Galaxy is great, but I’d hate to watch nothing but superhero movies for the rest of my life. More and more, I feel like my peers would be completely content to do just that.
I don’t know. I’m confused about it. I’m going to keep writing on this topic until I can take a solid stance or at least get some material out of it.
In the meantime, here’s a story. I think this story is about the first time I started to realize that this “Let’s Be Kids Forever” thing was truly a phenomenon.
A few years ago, I was doing a stand-up show at the New York Comic Con. As anyone knows, Comic Book Conventions are an enormous celebration of childlike reversion.
It was a difficult gig— lots of people walking around, chit-chatting, unaware a show was going on — so I tried talking to the audience. It was going okay, and then I saw a young guy, big and tall, about 22 or 23, who stood out so much that I couldn’t ignore him. He was wearing one of those knit hats I still see worn a lot today. It’s a hat that makes your head look like a teddy bear.
I was immediately annoyed by this hat. To me, the only person that should be wearing this hat is someone like this:
I asked this twenty-two year old guy if it was getting close to nap time. I don’t think my joke was particularly funny, but it wasn’t a particularly funny show.
The guy didn’t understand my nap time remark so I spelled it out for him. Are you Benjamin Button? I asked him. Do you have that aging disease Robin Williams had in Jack? Because that’s the only reason a guy your age should be wearing that hat.
He stared at me.
"It’s a little kid hat" I said to him.
"No it’s not" he replied.
"It’s a teddy bear hat" I said to him.
He just stared.
"You’re not a teddy bear," I told him. There was a long pause.
"Yes I am" he said.
So he won the argument and the show went downhill from there.