Die Neue Mensch Dept.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2014-09-12 14:00:00 No comments

The Death of Adulthood in American Culture - NYTimes.com

It is now possible to conceive of adulthood as the state of being forever young. Childhood, once a condition of limited autonomy and deferred pleasure (“wait until you’re older”), is now a zone of perpetual freedom and delight. Grown people feel no compulsion to put away childish things: We can live with our parents, go to summer camp, play dodge ball, collect dolls and action figures and watch cartoons to our hearts’ content. These symptoms of arrested development will also be signs that we are freer, more honest and happier than the uptight fools who let go of such pastimes.

Most of the rest of the essay is the usual potted Hollywood sighing and hand-wringing, but this part was interesting, and I think for reasons that Scott was not himself conscious of when he wrote it. Maybe he was trying to be ironic.

See, I might well be one of the people he's talking about. I keep a steady job, pay my bills and my taxes, stay on the sidewalk, rotate my tires, and get my ass into the voting booth. On the other hand, I also read manga and watch anime, drink milkshakes, go to pop-culture conventions. There's something to enjoy in all of these things, and the trick is to find out how they all coexist gracefully without eating into each other.

If the Don Drapers and Tony Sopranos of the world are on the way out (although we shouldn't pat ourselves on the back too quickly over that), perhaps it's because it's being replaced with another kind of man -- not the "man-child" or "dudebro" that gets so derisively described, but someone healthier and a little more balanced that that. Someone who savors things previous generations of men found childish (toys, games, comics), but also takes seriously other things previous generations of men found beneath contempt or never considered important (gender and ethnic equality, GLBTQ support). Someone who doesn't see other people's pastimes or cultural perspectives as silly at best or contemptible at worst. Someone who is, in short, a man, and not a "guy".

Tags: culture sociology