While it’s well known that for the past 50 years modern society has been built around catering to the youth market, the last 20 years have shown an interesting if troubling development.
If you were in you were 17 in 1973 things would have been pretty great, no question about it. New technology and entertainment is being invented and marketed directly to you.
“So you like popular music do you? Well guess what; All the best bands of the day are making music just for you! Oh, and here’s a cassette player for your car so can listen to it anywhere!
“Like going to the movies? Here are a slew of movies where the main characters are your age and they get to stand up to authority! Just like you want to do!”
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But then the inevitable happens and before these kids know it it’s 1984, there’s a whole new crop of 17 year olds and suddenly they’re 30, trying to understand the kids’ androgynous hairstyles and terrible fashion sense. The world appears to have moved on without them.
So these now 30 year olds accept the role of all people out of their 20’s – to put your beloved childhood to one side and get on with the fun part of being an adult. And that it’s a good thing, because now with the benefit of time you can see just how stupid teenagers are anyway.
Jump forward to now, 2012. Youth culture is still celebrated as the be all and end all of things, but somewhere along the line there’s been a hitch. While all the other generations had a definitive moment of having to pack up their childhood in the old cupboard and get on with life, or face their childhood references becoming woefully anachronistic and ‘square’, our current generation appears to be trapped some sort of time lock.
“Loved playing with your transformers as a kid? Now it’s a multi-billion dollar movie empire. Loved dancing around your living room to the early 90’s euro-pop of Roxette while in your pyjamas? Now you can go see them on their sold out, supposedly non-ironic world tour!”
(Photo by Manecchino, Wikimedia Commons)
Every little thing that made your childhood childish, the stupid toys and terrible music, is now seen as a ‘safe property’, as something that has enough brand recognition and inherent nostalgic value to warrant it re-entering popular culture in a new form.
It’s no secret that Hollywood has been struggling creatively for a while now. In 1981 seven out of ten of the highest grossing films for the year were original properties (of the remaining three, two were sequels and one was an adaptation of a popular play by the author himself). In 2011, nine out of the top ten highest grossing films for the year were sequels (the remaining film Thor was an adaptation of a comic book and in itself a pseudo sequel to 2008’s Iron Man).
So, you may ask, what harm does it do? Why shouldn’t I get to see the elaborate war I waged as a child between the Decepticons as led by Skeletor versus The Ninja Turtles aided by a stoic Batman come to life in glorious IMAX?
Frankly, it’s because these things are shit. They were shit then too, you were just too young to realise it and you shouldn’t have to now.
I haven’t watched an episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in 22 years with good reason; I loved it. Man, I loved the hell out of it. Bad ass mutant monsters cracking wise, eating pizza, kicking things, signature weapons (including sais and swords) and colour schemes! The six year old me watched every episode, collected every toy and had several unresolved feelings about April O’Neil that may or may not inform my life choices to this day.
(Photo by NickHotel, Wikimedia Commons)
I loved it so much that I know it would be irrevocably ruined if I were to revisit it today. Mutant Monsters? More like a string of lame characters based on propping up an ever growing toy line. Sais and swords? More like big safety pins handily used to stick a bad guys shirt to the wall EVERY DAMN TIME (I’m not bloodthirsty but is a nicked artery too much to ask Leonardo?)
I mean come on, I’m pretty sure there was an episode where Raphael thought everyone forgot his birthday and then came home to a surprise birthday pizza. This is not good television by any stretch of the imagination.
Everything I loved about it is diminished by time and age, so why ruin those blissful childhood memories for myself? Do I really need to go see a gritty urban reimagining? Sure it may have more swordplay and angst, but it can never measure up to what I have in my mind’s eye. It can never be that thing that made me so happy as a six year old for the simple fact that I’m not six years old.
Those memories have become crystallised by time and goodwill, I don’t need some Hollywood jerk exploiting those memories to sell his movie, because the closer I look at them the more I realise how false it all was.
Let me keep my crappy little dreams of flying robots and skeleton men, they hold a special place in my heart, enriched by nostalgia of a simpler time when all it took to be happy was a purple mask and a couple of sticks. Stop shining a light on my embarrassing childhood memories and do your job – start creating new and exciting things for the kids of today to dream about.
Because right now we have a generation of men hitting their early 30’s who spend large amounts of time having the exact same conversations they had as six year olds.
(Photo by 5of7, Wikimedia Commons)
That doesn’t bode well for the future.
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