Can We Be Too Old For A Genre?

Recently I was asking the question, what does it mean to be an adult? It seems like a good question, in a society lacking a proper coming-of-age, and where we have many aspects of dependency now carrying on late into people’s 20’s. What does it mean to suddenly, somewhere in the midst of all of that, be an “adult?”

In thinking about this question, I have also been wrestling with some opinions that I’ve read. One is Alan Moore, acclaimed comics writer, who thinks that comics are for teens, and that the adults (generally probably men/manchildren in his mind) reading comics are just refusing and failing to grow up. I wrestled with this a bit in a discussion of Watchmen on Sourcerer, and I was talking Alan Moore again today for V for Vendetta

The other opinion is that of Alejandro Inarritu, director of the new film Birdman. I read about this on We Minored in Film – great post (and it got me commenting at length) and it got me thinking I wanted to write about this. Well, rant about this. Inarritu believes… well, in his words (quoted from We Minored in Film):

“I think there’s nothing wrong with being fixated on superheroes when you are 7 years old, but I think there’s a disease in not growing up.”

So two creators, saying comics, comic movies, superheroes… these things keep us as children, make us weird or wrong as adults. And I want to respect and engage with their opinions, because unlike people who don’t even give science fiction a chance, these creators are engaging with the genre, creating works in the genre, and not just completely dismissing it. So what does it mean for a genre – like the comic book story – to be for children? Well, let me be sarcastic, and then a bit serious.

Let’s Get Rid Of Comics

Alright, so comics keep us as children. Since children can’t help themselves, clearly by “never growing up” (again, this means?…) we’re not going to be able to stop ourselves. So that means the product itself shouldn’t exist.

So, we get rid of comic books. Comic stores, of course, go with. That takes with it a lot of collectible card games and all as well… heck, let’s get rid of those, for sure. And while we’re at it, most all collectibles – in V for Vendetta, Moore has a (male) character who collects dolls, and who tries to talk this up as a serious thing. Clearly a well-rounded manchild character.

That hits related gaming fields like war gaming (which I was doing tonight – played my first game of Warmachine, pictures on my Twitter!). Oh, and the hobby stores where these things happen. Close them down.

Alright, so there’s nowhere for those comics nerds to go. Of course, that will just drive all of them to computer games, so those absolutely have to go. Oh, and gaming consoles, all of that. I’d say we could keep Nintendo, but no, too many young adults now who have grown up with this and keep playing for nostalgia. And sure, maybe keep just the games rated E? But no, if you build it, they will come – so don’t build it.

Okay, so then there’s the movies. All the comic movie adaptations have to go – Alan Moore would be thrilled (if not for the fact that we put him out of a job up above). Sure, they make a bojillion dollars and employ a ton of people, but they could be doing other, more serious things. Like adding more effects to more serious adult fare.

Oh, wait, no, all those movies with effects? Those are such popcorn-snackers – Inarritu looked down on those. They’re really for kids too – less thinking, right? So let’s get rid of all the genre films. No more action films. No more horror. No more romantic comedies.

And those Young Adult novel adaptations? Those have to go. In fact, we should do away with Young Adult as a genre completely, as our Young Adults need to grow up and become capital-A Adults.

So we’re leaving historical movies, art house – just be careful of the content. Really, probably avoid any adaptations. Again, Moore would be pleased – he doesn’t think his work can be adapted, as it was made perfectly for the correct medium and for no other. All works should be made precisely and only for the medium it is most appropriate for.

So really, I think we just killed most of the film industry – oh, and I didn’t mention TV, but I would assume the same goes there? In which case, we could probably collapse TV back down to the basic networks, maybe just a few channels like in England.

Alright, having now killed the entire Entertainment Industry, we have a lot less need in a lot of other industries. We’re just generally going to need a lot less marketing and advertising, HR, management, finance – all these sorts of jobs which go with an industry like that. So we can close a bunch of business schools too, we don’t need as many graduates with these degrees. Oh, and technical computer schools as well, without all those pesky computer games or movies to give them jobs.

Instead, we should all be focused on our own cynicism and on politics. Politics, which I studied, which reminds me that all acts are political acts.

So me reading comics, and seeing comics movies, and caring about representation in these media, and respecting all the hard work and technical skill and jobs and people involved in making this… appreciating how even the elections process can employ a ton of people… these things, to me, feel like adult attitudes, not childish ones.

This is my political stance: I read comics.

What Else Could It Be?

Okay, so maybe these things aren’t inherently wrong or evil. After all, the critics that I am being a little hard on above are also creating comics or superhero movies, so they don’t necessarily want this all to go away.

So I have an alternate hypothesis. Maybe their problem is with people having such an excess of leisure time. And they think that we could use that time for better pursuits – more enlightening, or engaged, or helpful pursuits. Okay, I buy that.

At one time, leisure time really only belonged to kids. It still, in the minds of many, is something reserved for them. And the hobbies and leisure activities that an Adult should pursue were useful ones: cooking, sewing or quilting or crocheting, building and repair work. Barring that, get a second job! Earn more money!

Oh, and parenting, parenting takes a lot of time. And you shouldn’t dare join you children in games – I guess? I’ve mentioned before – I played games with my dad. War games, trading card games, video games. From a young age up until I moved. My mom got me into comics and collecting. They both got me into science fiction and fantasy. Was that all wrong? Are they not Adults?

I guess my point is, there are likely people who are upset at others for choosing Leisure over toil. For not spending their extra time also working. After all, for creative people like Moore and Inarritu, they probably have to use a lot of what could be Leisure time creating their products, maybe especially in their earlier days. So there’s probably a lot of resentment for people who have never “grown out” of Leisure activities.

However, I would argue that the future is going to see more, and not less, of Leisure time. For one thing, people are living longer, and even if we work a little later in life, there’s still a whole bunch of time in retirement when entertainment is going to be necessary – you can’t travel all the time!

People are having fewer kids, or no kids at all, and this affords a lot of time for Leisure. And, there are so many products and media that work for adults and kids that I could see the interaction between the generations increasing over time, not decreasing. More parents like mine, playing video games with their kids.

The Internet has made getting your hands on things so much easier and cheaper, as well. There’s so much less need for you to have a “practical” hobby, when you can buy all the crafts you could ever want on Etsy. And whatever else. Finding specialists and specialty items is easier than ever in history.

Meanwhile, with increased technology and automation and the Internet, we are seeing fewer jobs. This is a natural progression and has been an effect of technology for a long time. Maybe always. Combined with this, there is a growing push for not just a minimum wage – but a Living Wage. If employers are going to pay a Living Wage, then it’s going to be a lot harder to get a low-paying, easier or off-hour sort of second job. Businesses will go without, instead. And you hopefully shouldn’t need to, as your first job should have you covered.

All this is to say that Leisure should be on the rise, not on the decline, in foreseeable future. Barring the apocalypse (which Moore did not bar, as it’s in both Watchmen and V for Vendetta). So we need to not identify Leisure activities as “childish,” unless we’re also willing to say that “childish” is okay.

“I do not miss my toys. I wouldn’t play with them anyway. I am fifteen. I miss my childhood.”

-Jo Walton, Among Others, p.160

Your Thoughts

Sorry for the rant, but I needed to get this out of my system, and I think my ideas coalesced pretty well. But I’d love to know what you think. Do we need to be productive every moment of our lives? Or perhaps do some people just need to unleash their inner geek? Let me know in the comments below!

If you want to know more about geekery and our opinions in opposition to the opinions I argue against above, read literally all the rest of this blog – as Comparative Geeks definitely should not exist if these sorts of things are “childish!”

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27 responses to “Can We Be Too Old For A Genre?

  1. I spent most of my teenager years and my young adult life running away from comic books, magic and that sort of thing because I wanted to be a “grown-up” – it wasn’t until I grew up that I realize that being an adult means accepting the things you love and be ok with it. Loving comics and that whole genre doesn’t keep you from growing up, I would argue that it might expand your imaginations and allow you to resolve your everyday problems more easily

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This reminds me of how I was told quite a few times how I should work on more “serious” genres if I really insist on being a transmedia scholar, instead of Science Fiction (with dabbing into Fantasy). When I say that without Star Wars, I might not be where I am today, some roll their eyes. I am not a huge comics fan (though I like a good many screen adaptations) but it is nothing new, it isn’t because I am supposedly a grown up. I’ve got back into gaming and got into YA over the past few years (and I’m turning 30 in December). I love working on children media, and even incorporate it in my research.

    I think that people finding a genre (or multiple ones) that they like and with which they have a good time is what matters. And it can also have a lot to do with the mood you’re in, besides tastes in a broader sense.

    There was a time in my late teens, when I went away from some stuff (though never Science Fiction, that’s something visceral to me) closer to youth and magic, but fell back into them pretty hard when I realized that it was just silly. If I enjoy them, then I should watch/read/play them. Give me Blade Runner or My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, I’ll be a happy camper either way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have to admit, I was bad and had not looked up what Transmedia meant before… the slippery slope I explored above would completely demolish Transmedia!

      Finding what you like is critical, and I would add that not being down on the things you don’t like – or better, the things you’ve never tried – is important too. There are people who love the more “practical” hobbies. I know people who knit or crochet while watching TV and movies: efficiency!

      I think it’s going to blow some people’s minds when our generation gets older and we’re STILL playing video games. At some point, though, the people who would be most shocked would be gone by then – but maybe not. Maybe there are always people with these attitudes, and maybe it’s secretly a lot of jealousy that you’re doing something “fun” while they “have” to work.

      Glad there’s another 30-year-old out there with me, blogging!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think you hit the bullseye with it really being about leisure time. I’m studying the birth of novels as a form, and the same debate was going on then — reading novels was seen as lazy, lulling people into indolence and distracting them from their chores. At the same time, it was thought to excite far too many passions, teaching people to expect unrealistic things and getting them worked up with no real-world outlet for their emotions. Sound familiar?

    Women were a huge early novel-reading audience because they had so much time! Increasing efficiency and manufacturing meant women didn’t have nearly as much to do at home, and it was a mark of being upper-class that the husband didn’t need his wife to work, so that filtered down into the middle classes too. Women read to occupy themselves, and of course they wanted some excitement with their moral instruction! (This basically explains the success of Pamela, the novel on which I’m focusing — It’s “a work that could be praised from the pulpit and yet attacked as pornography, a work that gratified the reading public with the combined attractions of a sermon and a strip-tease.”)

    Same thing here, except everyone has more and more leisure time, not just women.

    (Also, if Alan Moore thinks he’s writing for kids and teenagers, I’m deeply troubled.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • The history major in me says yes, of course I saw this trend in history… 😉

      I feel like the more frequent argument you hear, though, is things like “rock & roll is evil” and “dancing is evil” and for a while it was “comics are evil” and “Harry Potter is evil” and “video games are evil.” But for me, it’s more than this vice argument, more than the thought that this too shall one day be accepted and we’ll laugh at the past.

      The entire line of thought that there are things an adult ought not to be doing… isn’t that why we were so eager as kids to become adults? So we could do what we want, with no one telling us we can’t? So much for that!

      Thank you for adding a solid historical perspective to this. Definitely not a new debate, but one that is hard to get out of. Because what’s our answer: No, these things are not “childish?” Or is it just that we don’t care that they are?

      Like

      • Personally, I just think children (sometimes) need or prefer simpler versions of things. It’s all a continuum. I enjoy picture books because I find them multilayered and visually beautiful. When I was a kid, I loved hearing or reading long books like The Hobbit and Battlefield Earth. I think calling things “childish” as a derogatory term is all a construct to make people feel more sophisticated, completely discounting how complex children’s lives actually are.

        So, it’s partly that I don’t care if something’s childish, and partly that things like picture-stories are childish but that doesn’t make them lesser!

        Liked by 1 person

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  5. So, how we define what counts as “productive” is political. Leisure and a lot of “childish” activities can be easily viewed as productive if we value things like mental health and overall quality of life. If we spend all our time being “productive” in the industrial sense, then eventually our entire society will be less productive. Also less creative and in general meaner-spirited than it already is, is what I think.

    Liked by 1 person

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  7. I think you hit it on the head – “Geek Backlash”. How do you people have all this time to read comics, play video games and dress up for comic con? We got real life going on here – grow up.

    Like

  8. Ok. I’ve been wanting to respond to this for a while and haven’t had much of a chance.

    I think that the dismissal of comics is directly related to its relationship with childhood. And I think that ties to a deep-seeded cultural ambivalence toward children. Cultural attitudes have evolved since the mid-1500s when children were considered base and evil, but there is still the framework of child-hate. At the same time, there’s a deeply embedded Romantic notion in the purity of the infant and of child-like faith.

    I think that what we see, when we see disdain pointed toward things associated with childhood, is that ambivalence tipped toward hatred, toward the child as less than the adult or as Something in Need of Control. This presents itself in all kinds of ways—creepy children in horror films, memes about hating children, books like “Go the Fuck to Sleep,” and characters like Captain Hook who appear in children’s literature and hate children/childhood (there’s a really neat article about child-hate here: http://lilt.ilstu.edu/kscoat2/Documents/hate.pdf).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have been hoping you would swing by and give this a look 🙂

      As someone else pointed out… If all comics are for kids, there are a number that seem very inappropriate, starting perhaps with Alan Moore’s! So maybe saying all comics are for children is respectful of how much they can deal with – or maybe it comes from a lot of people who don’t even read comics (or YA, or pick a genre or medium). People who just hate on it without trying, or who feel grown up for having “moved past” it.

      But calling something childish or for children is clearly meant as an insult. I think your reference to Captain Hook is perfect – his rival didn’t think we ought to grow up. It’s the two sides of the debate, apparently still today!

      Like

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  10. Loving what you love makes you more uniquely you, giving up something you love because of fear of criticism from judgmental people takes you away from your authentic self.

    We are the best version of ourselves when we are unafraid to express ourselves openly and honestly, what we love makes us expand and grow, in fear we wither and die.

    Comics are not just art and storytelling but great passion and the expression of universal creative force that lives in the hearts minds and souls of all human beings.

    We need to create and express joy, we need to enjoy aesthetic pleasures.
    Art and stories are not luxuries but part of our very being, our inner most core.

    Liked by 1 person

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