YEP, THAT’S IT! Put it on a red baseball cap and do me a run of 10,000!
Allow me to begin with a declaration.
I don’t like children.
Really, I don’t like them.
When I’m boarding a plane, getting on a train, or standing in line to complain, I’d rather the precious little darlings were out of my field of vision and the extent of my hearing. I’m not advocating their return to being used as wriggly chimney brushes or to clean out the innards of industrial equipment or anything. I’ll settle, if pressed for a policy position, for creches being soundproofed and made mandatory for anyone too young to order a pint.
I have no plans to have children and commiserate anyone who does or has been badgered into doing so for the sake of their domesticated bliss. My best guess is that they’ve just grown tired of those tiresome weekend lie-ins, pockets full of disposable income, and ability to go out for the evening on a whim without handing over their hard-earned cash to some snotty teenager with an alarming lack of qualifications in most cases when you think about it. Either that or the prospect of remaining a wild horse is scary and they’ve concluded that it’s better to pop on the saddle and blinkers and pull that carriage round the park until the glue factory beckons.
So, you can imagine my feelings about the clear and identifiable lurch that society has taken from being adult-centric to, as Helen Lovejoy would put it, always thinking of the children. It seems that most of life now is made with the non-tax-paying bit of the population in mind. For instance, where once ‘family-friendly’ meant a TV show or movie was primarily made for adults but had enough loud noises, simple humour, or bright colours and shapes to keep the kids entertained, it now feels as if the balance has flipped. We now make stuff for the kids that adults can enjoy too – and that has worrying implications.
By way of an example, and because I’m a movie reviewer going slightly off reservation until the damn cinemas reopen, let’s go back to 1984.
That year, arguably the biggest movie event on the calendar was Ghostbusters, the story of a group of dorks who team up to fight David Bowie (True story, look it up). It’s a fabulous film and still the one that makes me laugh more than any other but for our purposes it’s important to remember that it was a grown-up movie with stuff in it that the kids could enjoy. Don’t believe me? Go back and watch it. It’s got swearing, “we came, we saw, we kicked its ass”, “it’s true your honour, this man has no dick”, and “let’s show this prehistoric bitch how we do things downtown”; copious and gratuitous smoking, a brutal critique of bureaucracy and red tape, sexual politics, and even a scene in which one of the supernatural pest controllers is sucked-off by a ghost.
But, it has the fun ghost fights, a big green mascot, and other stuff that made it a favourite of kids at the time.
See? It was an adult movie that the kids could enjoy. See also Die Hard, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Caddyshack, Back to the Future, and Little Shop of Horrors for further examples.
Now – since 2020 doesn’t really count because we’ve stopped being this planet’s dominant form of life and that’ll put the brakes on a culture harder than most events – let’s consider 2019’s top five grossing films.
They were, in order, Avengers: Endgame, The Lion King, Frozen 2, Spider-Man: Far From Home, and Captain Marvel.
While my back catalogue at ThinkScotland shows that I’ve given average-to-glowing reviews of all of these flicks, with the exception of Spidey’s latest, there was no doubt each of them is symptomatic of the problem I’m talking about. They are, on reflection, kids’ movies that are either made for the little guys right now or to teleport their Millennial or Generation X parents back to their own comforting youths. These are not adult movies made for whole families, they are kids films made for whole families and betray the dramatic shift in power that has taken place between the generations of late.
Now, at risk of slipping into Abe Simpson yelling at clouds territory, I don’t this is a good thing, at least not on the societal level on which it is most apparent.
Firstly, it’s not good for the adults because we’re deprived of the grown-up movies, books, tv, and other kinds of entertainment that we should have graduated to taking centre-stage by now.
Secondly, it gives tomorrow’s grown-ups (I’ve gotten in trouble for calling them ‘real people’ before, shan’t make that mistake again!) nothing to grow into in their turn – and so increases the chances of raising another nostalgic, nervous, and constantly second-guessing itself generation, something we need as much as the discovery of COVIDs 20 and upward.
Thirdly, it has wider implications that are bigger than just what’s successful at the movies.
It’s my opinion that the general infantilisation of society and its concurrent pandering to the minds of children has led to – a more childish society.
As Stephen Fry put it during his interview with Dave Ruben, we now have an adult society eating mushy food, drinking sugary drinks, wearing backwards baseball caps, and going to see superhero movies. With that being almost universal, is it any surprise that we’ve ended up with a politics that promises us simplistic, easily digestible, and ultimately unhealthy solutions? I’m not saying that Iron Man is directly responsible for Scottish Nationalism, Donald Trump, or InfoWars but the mass imposition of childhood on those who ought to have grown out of it has added to an atmosphere of childish simplicity. Because what are “build a wall”, “it’s thon Westmunster, ken!” and two grown men shouting about 100 genders and identifying as a penguin on breakfast before 10am on national tv if not the childish tantrums of a toddler who hasn’t gotten what they want and is now stamping his feet and screaming how much they hate everything?
And what of Twitter, it’s a bully pulpit for grown-up kids whose ADHD medication still needs to be prescribed properly and it has made our popular culture worse more indelicate, less discrete, and less restrained and considered as a result.
For a further example, imagine you’re at dinner with some agreeable friends. You’re all enjoying the ambiance of a restaurant at nightime (remember them?) and find yourself are on top form in the banter department. Suddenly, as if struck by a comic thunderbolt, you remember ‘that’ joke (that one another pal told you – that one about an Imam, a primary school teacher, a flight attendant, a bucket of vaseline, a courgette, and an overnight trip to Nantucket) that made you nearly need to wipe off your chair. It’s funny, you tell it really well, and, best of all, it’s utterly filthy.
The time is right.
The challenge is upon you.
You decide to tell it!
How many of you sneak a peek over your shoulder to check for kids or other such sensitive pairs of lugs? Even if it’s 8:30pm in a restaurant, an adult space if ever there was one?
Sadly, I think most of us would and we ought not to because grown-up spaces don’t need protected from jokes.
What I’m keen to stress is that some things should be for adults and some things, a smaller and more limited number, should be for the kids. Can we make that happen? Please? Because I’m getting tired of having to pause before I let fly with the four-letter words in public when I stub my toe or can’t find my keys. It’s really fucking tiresome!
Can we make society more grown up again? Can we be a bit more restrained, calm, willing to give the benefit of the doubt to others, and responsible for ourselves? Maybe! I sure hope so. But if we are to, then perhaps a good place to start would be to reorientate culture and stop pretending that children are as important as adults (they don’t vote or pay taxes, they do what they’re told) and understand them as what they are ‘adults in training’. Some will say that children are still our greatest resource, but they’ll continue to be wrong (it’s still oil and will be for the foreseeable future). Yes, kids are the future, but that’s where they’re needed, in the future, once they’re ready, but for now, let’s turn society back over to whatever passes for grown-ups.
N.B Should any parents read this and be upset with what I’ve said about kids then please feel free to email me your phone number and I’ll give you a call at 11:45am on a Sunday morning, after I’ve kicked someone whose surname I don’t know out of my flat and just before I go back to bed for another hour or two of uninterrupted sleep.
N.B This article has been written for comedic purposes and is made up almost entirely of deliberate hyperbole of the author’s position.