Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Childish Things

On May 19th, 2015, several Facebook friends posted an article about Simon Pegg (  In an interview he talked about how many adults are consuming childish things: superheroes, comic books and the like.   He wondered if this was an infantilzation of Western Culture. He later referred to the more intellectual work of genre fiction; his examples were Ex Machina and Mad Max: Fury Road.  He posited that genre can be used to delve into deeper subject matter, but somehow the Superhero films and those that target nostalgia for those in the 30’s or older were possibly bread and circuses (the phrase refers to the Roman practice of using food and spectacle to distract the masses from what is really going on).

I had been in a situation where I was belittled for enjoying, video games, comic books, superheroes, and animation.  When I left, I re-claimed those things.  The reclaiming of my geeky passions was a way for me to reclaim my identity.  If you were to see where I live, you would see my superhero action figures and other geeky/nerdy merchandise.  Those who have known me for a long time know my childhood was no bed of roses.  When I have these things that connect to my childhood, they are because they connect to so very strong positive memories.  Pegg claimed that this infantilzation of pop culture is used to distract from weightier issues.  This may be true for many, but not for me.  The funny thing is that in the format superheroes where introduced, comic books, I have found myself drifting away from them.  I have even sold most of my comic book collection.  

I tried to keep up but the continuity and events soon soured me again on mainstream superheroes from the big two, Marvel Comics and DC Comics.  I still read, watch and buy merchandise and media about superheroes, just not in comic book format.  When Pegg mentioned the headier genre fiction, I have been reading those kinds of novels for decades. I enjoy work that makes me think and re-think my views.  Such authors for that lately have been Nathan Lowell, Charles de Lint, Jay Lake, Abigail Hilton, and John Scalzi.  I have many other authors I enjoy for sheer entertainment values.  Neither diminishes the need for the other. 

The attitude that reaching for the nostalgia of one’s youth is new to Generation X or younger is incorrect.  In the early 80’s there was a re-make of the Lone Ranger targeted to the Baby Boomers.  I know of grown men who were highly influenced by westerns on film, television and in literature who still consume all the media and merchandise associated with their youth.  Then you have the revival of fifties music in the seventies and the revival of sixties music in the eighties.  The nostalgia game is hardly anything new.  Wizard of Oz still appears yearly on television as do many holiday special from long gone decades.  In the 1980’s there were revivals of Gidget, Dobbie Gillis and they even reunited Frankie and Annette.

The thing is what Pegg is referring to is mostly targeted to the Nerd/Geek community, which in the last decade has gone seriously mainstream.  What we need to do is appreciate our loves from are youth, but not allow that to regress to being childish ourselves.  Youthful energy and passion is good, making it the end all be all that can be considered questionable.  

We need to not allow these passions to become bread and circuses. What I mean is do not allow the powers that be distract us from making the world a better place for everyone.  There are many injustices out in the world, we should work to make sure they no longer hold true. We need to build better communities.  Why not start with pop culture communities?  We can work to make them safe and enjoyable for as many as we can.  We can then work out in a widening spiral to help everyone in our personal sphere.  The Browncoats (Firefly/Serenity fans) hold events regularly to help the show’s creator, Joss Whedon’s favorite cause Equality Now, which works for the Human Rights for Females. That kind of fandom mixed with activism can and could be powerful.

We also need to promote balance with outside interests and our popular culture passions.  When passions become unhealthy obsessions they hurt those involved, not always directly.  When I talk about healthy, I mean physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.  I feel however putting away all childish youthful things may be going too far.  We need to feed the inner child that helps keep us youthful in our minds.  There is a fine line between passion and obsession, it is necessary to find the line and know our limits.

We also need to feed the adult, by dealing responsibly with the world and others. We should read things that stimulate our intellect and improve our knowledge base. We should help others find their passions and help ground them with the real world.  That can be by example and/or mentoring.  There is a time for all things under heaven as according to chapter three of Ecclesiastes also used for the Byrds song Turn! Turn! Turn!  Well, That Has Been My Not So Humble Opinion.

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