Where have all the grownups gone?

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Duckrabbit
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Where have all the grownups gone?

Post by Duckrabbit » January 11th, 2016, 10:36 pm

What does the fanaticism of putative adults for Star Wars, super-heroes, Comic-Con, and apocalyptic video games say about our contemporary culture?

When the new Star Wars (now a Disney franchise – Mickey’s dominion continues to spread) came out here in the U.S., television showed people waiting in long lines, many in full SW costumes, most of them adults. When interviewed they appeared for the most part to be well educated, well-spoken people. Yet they were practically jumping up and down spewing stuff like “this is going to be totally awesome!” Nightly “News” gushed about how many billions the movie was going to make and how dazzling the special effects were. Movie reviewers and critics make brief mention of and then summarily dismiss such adult films as Trumbo and The Danish Girl, opining that the directors should have done better with some of the fine points, before frothing at the mouth over the new Pixar or latest installment of some over-the-top, subtlety-to-the-wind blockbuster like Mad Max.

Several times a year adults traipse around town dressed as comic book characters as they descend on their fetishistic conventions. Prime time and late night TV brims with shows about superheroes, aliens, vampires, and zombies. These alternate with inane reality shows and sitcoms whose smarmy one-liners, sexual innuendo, and hysterical laugh tracks substitute for actual humor. In most of the big seller video games (some rated adults-only) like Call of Duty, everything standing is reduced to rubble and dead bodies pile up in mountains of lacerated flesh.

Anyway, I’m sure you get my point, though you may not agree that there is anything wrong with this or that it might say something about who we are and/or where we are going. But didn’t adults used to have a little more respect for themselves and their intellects with respect to art and entertainment? What, in your opinion, is up here?

Well, gotta go! The kids are all asleep and Super Girl is on!

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Greta
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Re: Where have all the grownups gone?

Post by Greta » January 12th, 2016, 2:19 am

This may be a transitional stage as we move towards a more virtual reality-based existence, where so much more is possible with fewer restrictions and problems. Like a replacement retreat in lieu of religion. Screens seem to fulfill a function that prayer and meditation once served because operating in close quarters with other humans can be intense and difficult to control and we need respite and a chance to relax. So we tune out and relax with pets, gardens, the internet and TV.

Dare I say it, Duckrabbit, society generally appears to be moving towards the "blue pill", although as one who is too mature and refined for fantasy you probably won't know what that means ;)

Sci fi and fantasy is thought to be juvenile but I fail to see great maturity in most drama; it's largely just the power games that primates play when aiming to bond or achieve. Aside from perhaps the most profound of films, the heart of most "serious" stories seems to involve at least one character who carries on like a complete and utter gimboid. This person or persons will be be responsible for much mayhem aka "tension, "drama" that would have been avoided by anyone even vaguely sensible. We are a little obsessive about toxic personalities, perhaps because being stuck with a toxic person probably features highly amongst our greatest fears.

Still, I'm a little bored with trying to empathise with the fictional actions of irrational, destructive, self destructive, undisciplined and deluded characters with fatally flawed communications skills that allow most plots to exist. Even my dog is more rational and reasoned than some of the characters I see in films and on TV, and she ain't no Lassie.

So I say bring on the monsters, aliens, exoplanets, exomoons, mad metaphysics and mythological beings! At least fantasy and sci fi don't pretend to be sensible. To be fair, I have a problem with unrealistic aliens too. Any beings capable of forming the large and complex civilisations that allow for space-faring technology to emerge will not have slavering jaws because being capable of biting a person to death is not a useful evolutionary feature in sophisticated societies. We once had larger canines than we do today.

Ironically, the closest thing to reality on TV - reality TV - features people who behave even less realistically than dramatic characters.

Thank you for allowing me what started as a post and developed into a rant - welcome to world of tomorrow!
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Aristocles
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Re: Where have all the grownups gone?

Post by Aristocles » January 12th, 2016, 3:55 am

I see the information age has exposed "grownups" for something more than we may have previously thought them to be... In turn, people seem to have tried to become more than what people appeared to be historically, perhaps further attempts at self-expression. This information age elevation of "knowledge" appears to encourage pretending from many vantage points. Maybe the fantasy is a distraction/coping skill from the perpetual stress of dealing with the sheer grandeur of information? What else would the affluent do, given that decadence, convenience, psychological manipulation have discouraged people from a more intimate genuine status quo?

Togo1
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Re: Where have all the grownups gone?

Post by Togo1 » January 12th, 2016, 11:01 am

A 'grown up' was a set of behaviours people used to feel they had to adhere to in order to be taken seriously and get along in the wider world. It was a set of behaviours and costumes. Now, that fad has faded, and people feel more able to act the way they want to. For many, but not most, people, that may involve continuing to be enthusiastic about things that impressed them when they were younger.

As a by-product of this, when people 'dress up' to go out, which has always been popular as a way of creating a sense of occasion, fancy dress is more or less their only option.

As a further change, enthusiasm has moved from being a sign of mental instability or stupidity, to a sign of authenticity and honesty. People are more open towards, and more willing to confide in, people who are themselves open about their passions. Having a fairly innocuous, publically acceptable passion, is thus actively encouraged.

Thirdly, fan groups are no longer restricted by the ability to access the original material, or to locate people with similar interests. Thus they are able to recruit new fans and grow in size far more easily than they could do. As an example, there are many people who first became fans of the Dr Who TV show well before the new series were released, at a time when the actual show hadn't been on television for decades.

Granth
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Re: Where have all the grownups gone?

Post by Granth » January 13th, 2016, 2:12 am

If it's 3D and good production values I will watch those shows at home. Artistic merit I can evaluate from their production values, camera work, cgi, sound, etc. which means I can ignore the story.

-- Updated January 13th, 2016, 7:15 pm to add the following --

Does that make me grownup? I don't know. I am the least qualified to make that judgment.

Jklint
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Re: Where have all the grownups gone?

Post by Jklint » January 13th, 2016, 4:29 am

All of these high-tech blowups, nowadays so easy to accomplish, are nothing but proxies for our still existing gladiatorial instincts. Of course, if we did see a real such event Roman style, with executions, animal slayings, and the creme-de-la-creme, gladiators fighting to the death with parts of their anatomy missing, we'd probably only need to see it once to have nightmares forever.

Duckrabbit
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Re: Where have all the grownups gone?

Post by Duckrabbit » January 14th, 2016, 11:18 pm

Greta wrote:Dare I say it, Duckrabbit, society generally appears to be moving towards the "blue pill", although as one who is too mature and refined for fantasy you probably won't know what that means ;)
Hey, no need to gloat! It’s not easy being mature and refined. Actually I think I’m more angry than refined. And you’re right, I have no idea what reference you’re dropping with “blue pill”. So in addition to being mature and angry, I’m tragically unhip. But despite these handicaps, I am not in fact too refined for fantasy. In fact I engage in all kinds of fantasy, and not just the sexual and revenge varieties either.

As a child I loved being read to and then reading the works of J.M. Barre, L. Frank Baum, Lewis Carrol, C.S. Lewis, A.A. Milne, Beatrix Potter, Maurice Sendak, and Dr. Suess to name a few. I love to see children being introduced to these books and see their eyes fill with wonder and their minds open up to the magic of creative imagination. The fact that many of these works were also social, political, and theological allegories gives extra dimension and richness to their brilliance.

By contrast, most of the Star Wars/superhero/slash and burn entertainment that saturates our culture today actually stymies childhood imagination and reduces wonder to a corporate approved, merchandizing, and media hyped obeisance. There is nothing original about vampires, zombies, and human like, English speaking aliens. There was an interesting article in the Atlantic Monthly not long ago which describes how the current pop music scene is a carefully crafted, market researched, incredibly homogeneous corporate product. All the songs (Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Beyoncé, and so on ad nauseum) are written and produced by the same small group (composed to a large extent of middle aged Norwegian men, funnily enough). The same goes for movies and TV, though I’m not sure how much the Norwegians are involved in these media. Get the people addicted to the empty calories, then give them what they crave. Over and over. Sequel after sequel. Paying homage to this culture is an act of the most appalling conformity.

Plus these shows for adults about Captain Marvel, Green Arrow, the living dead, and fake science fiction like the X Files take themselves so seriously, as do apparently the people watching them. There is none of the wonderful absurdity inherent in the books I mentioned above. Of course there is plenty of contemporary art, music, movies, literature (children and adult) with plenty of whimsy and wonderful imagination. But these are on the fringe. People are so bombarded by the corporate pabulum, they don’t know or care about alternatives. They might be thought hopelessly out of it like me.

To my mind it’s not bold or daring, it not sweetly childlike, it’s not sexy, it’s not even cute for someone over thirty (I’m being generous) in full Darth Vader costume to be standing in line to shell out for the new Disney mind-numbing extravaganza. It’s just pathetic. Being mature, angry, and unhip, I gotta call ‘em as I see ‘em.

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Greta
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Re: Where have all the grownups gone?

Post by Greta » January 15th, 2016, 7:57 pm

Duckrabbit wrote:Hey, no need to gloat! It’s not easy being mature and refined. Actually I think I’m more angry than refined. And you’re right, I have no idea what reference you’re dropping with “blue pill”. So in addition to being mature and angry, I’m tragically unhip. But despite these handicaps, I am not in fact too refined for fantasy. In fact I engage in all kinds of fantasy, and not just the sexual and revenge varieties either.
Indeed, it must be a struggle to be so mature and refined, adrift in a ship of fools, plebs and philistines - you would have liked my mum :)

Basically, we're just grumpy old farts. Our bodies and minds were adapted to a different era during our formative years and our artistic expectations are necessarily based on the art of our youth. It's hardly a surprise that we find that changes in our entertainment (along with everything else) don't tend to suit us.

Re the blue pill:
The red pill and its opposite, the blue pill, are popular culture symbols representing the choice between embracing the sometimes painful truth of reality (red pill) and the blissful ignorance of illusion (blue pill). The terms, popularized in science fiction culture, are derived from the 1999 film The Matrix.
Duckrabbit wrote:By contrast, most of the Star Wars/superhero/slash and burn entertainment that saturates our culture today actually stymies childhood imagination and reduces wonder to a corporate approved, merchandizing, and media hyped obeisance. There is nothing original about vampires, zombies, and human like, English speaking aliens.
Yes, the images of a story are no longer generated by imagination and are now now laid out before young people with fantastic realism. There may be a few dynamics at play here. This is an age of technological advancement and it's not only in movies that we are revisiting the past and re-imagining it with more powerful technology, replacing old stop action animation with much more convincing CGI, and old comics scenes that would have once been impossible to recreate can now be rendered realistically.

Another consideration is that violent and sexual imagery provides an outlet for our vestigial atavistic instincts as our lives become increasingly sedentary and nonphysical. Dogs deal with the gentrification of their lives by guarding and patrolling territory and chasing balls, which act as proxy fleeing prey. By contrast humans watch images of other people on screens either getting it on or being threatened and damaged.

The famous movie memes you listed can be creatively re-interpreted, eg. Close Encounters, 2001, Avatar, Interview with the Vampire, Shaun of the Dead. The cliches stem from the larger problem - economic rationalism.

Could this "new primitivism" just be a cheap service provided by leaders using the time-honoured and tested "bread and circuses" approach to governance? Maybe it's all supposed to keep us numb and quiet as part of the human taming and domestication process, whose aim could be cynically thought of as converting the natural anarchy of the human mind into productive unit.
Duckrabbit wrote:There was an interesting article in the Atlantic Monthly not long ago which describes how the current pop music scene is a carefully crafted, market researched, incredibly homogeneous corporate product. All the songs (Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Beyoncé, and so on ad nauseum) are written and produced by the same small group (composed to a large extent of middle aged Norwegian men, funnily enough). The same goes for movies and TV, though I’m not sure how much the Norwegians are involved in these media. Get the people addicted to the empty calories, then give them what they crave. Over and over. Sequel after sequel. Paying homage to this culture is an act of the most appalling conformity.
Middle aged Norwegians. How weird.

Even back in the 80s I noticed that popular music was effectively consuming itself - everything that was being released was a re-hash of old popular tracks. No more daring experiments or risk taking of the 60s and early 70s. The economic rationalists could see that fostering art rather than profit may foster some spectacular successes, but too many failures. "Waste".

I see this as part of a broader dynamic - everything gets worse over time except for, hopefully, one's attitudes. I noticed this at work. In every job I had, the perks and creative aspects - the things that made the job enjoyable - were gradually stripped away by auditors and bean counters. Same thing happened to popular music - all the interesting stuff was stripped away, leaving the bare functional bones of songs designed to follow prior successful formulas.

Later, I became a bean counter myself, passing on HR information to the executive, yet I wasn't immune from the gradual erosion of my work and perks. But this entropic decay happens everywhere in life because:

1) we are becoming more crowded and in a process of increasing integration and

2) as we age, the world moves away from the conditions in which you were formed and in which you are physically and mentally optimally adapted.
Duckrabbit wrote:Plus these shows for adults about Captain Marvel, Green Arrow, the living dead, and fake science fiction like the X Files take themselves so seriously, as do apparently the people watching them. There is none of the wonderful absurdity inherent in the books I mentioned above. Of course there is plenty of contemporary art, music, movies, literature (children and adult) with plenty of whimsy and wonderful imagination. But these are on the fringe. People are so bombarded by the corporate pabulum, they don’t know or care about alternatives. They might be thought hopelessly out of it like me.
However, today we have choice. Don't like what's on TV but feel like relaxing after a hard day? Switch off and watch a video of your choice on YouTube.

In the end it's a personal decision whether to stick with the rationalist mediocrity of mainstream entertainment or to explore other choices. Smart and creative people with a passion for the arts will obviously find that rationalist media products won't satisfy and will naturally search elsewhere for art that works for them.
Duckrabbit wrote:To my mind it’s not bold or daring, it not sweetly childlike, it’s not sexy, it’s not even cute for someone over thirty (I’m being generous) in full Darth Vader costume to be standing in line to shell out for the new Disney mind-numbing extravaganza. It’s just pathetic. Being mature, angry, and unhip, I gotta call ‘em as I see ‘em.
Most likely, any adult living in the comic book world to the extent of playing in a Darth Vader costume is one of my autism spectrum peers :)

Gosh, this is a long post! Sorry. Blah blah blah.
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Newme
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Re: Where have all the grownups gone?

Post by Newme » January 15th, 2016, 8:54 pm

Adults excited about watching Star wars and super-hero films is not as troubling as the lack of response-ability.
Everyone needs some type of escape - "functional illusion."

What is especially troubling is when adults put THEIR wants above children, or society as a whole.

I am amazed how many older adults (like 30's +) play video games!

Mod note: offtopic material removed.

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