America’s cultural obsession with childhood

Karlyle Stephens
Mesa Legend

karlyle-stephens-e1476710173825Of course everyone is anxious. And as they always do, our leaders tell us that we would should be directing those anxieties toward people and entities that are on the outside. Therefor, it’s hard to tell if enough people are nervous about a more realistic danger to our social vehicle. It comes from inside our very homes. I’m talking about children. Yes, the whiny passengers in car seats are now more like the drivers. Their influence on culture has more impact than anytime before. And I don’t just mean actual children, but am including the child that lives inside all of us. Being told to “put away childish things” once you’ve reached adulthood is unnecessary. Childhood is actually where we find our escape.

There’s always been the idea that this society is one designed to keep its people in a perpetual state of youth. Investments in very expensive sports stadiums and arenas have always supported that notion. Now there appears to be more evidence of this than I can count. Sporting games are still dear to us. Despite the concussion crisis football is still the national religion. Keeping seats in side stadiums filled and warm even when it’s freezing cold out. It’s also worthy to note that the joy of carrying on all week after your team wins over the weekend, whether collegiate or professional, might be inspired.

Much like a kid born in 1995, Ezekial Elliott, running back on the number one team in the league Video games remains a billion dollar industry, $13 billion, according to a 2016 report by bigfishgames.com. So is the case with movies. The most prosperous ones every year have some kind of childish appeal. In 2015 for instance “Avengers: Age of Ultron” was one of the top five highest grossing films of the year. Another in that group is Disney Pixar’s animated feature “Inside Out”.The youthful spirit is also reflected in the dress. Whether it be in comic tees, ripped jeans, or the “dad hat” trend (which to me actually look more like boy hats).

One of the biggest influences of these fashions is Kanye West, the self proclaimed “38 year old 8 year old.” Most of the tech giants and the minds behind all of these social media platforms we log onto daily, like Snapchat or Twitter, are often referred to as being “boysish” in their appearence and were born around or after 1990. Child-like voices rule the airwaves as well. Like the rap duo Rae Sremmurd for instance. Their “Black Beatles” is the number one song in the country and got into that position with help from the Internet. Now the internet and it’s social media is probably the biggest playground of all. This year it brought us a slew of “challenges” which all usually start in the hallways of junior high and high schools.

Rae Sremmurd’s record was feature in the mannequin challenge which had adults from Hillary Clinton to Paul McCartney freezing in their place. It even made its way into places like strip clubs where kids who started it, wouldn’t be allowed into. The young lead and everyone else follows. That trend is apparent in areas that isn’t so funny: our educational department. It’s enough for us to be alarmed. Cultural critic Chris Hedges warned us about this is his book “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.”Hedges says “Public rhetoric is designed to be comprehensible to a ten-year old child or an adult with a sixth grade reading level.” This is evident in social media where we spend most of our time.

Memes and the short texts appear with the images. And it’s no coincidence that we’ve turned to some of our favorite early childhood educational programs like PBS Arthur and Sesame Street’s Kermit the frog to help us with this task. The network behind “Arthur” came forward and expressed their disdain with the inappropriate use of images from the kid friendly show by people online. Some suggested the network aimed their fustrations at “black Twitter.” It’s not the fault of that group, but a result of a culture that is dominanted by the youth. “We have transformed our culture into a vast replica of Pinocchio’s pleasure island,” Hedges said. “Where boys were lured with the promise of no schools and endless fun,” he added. So while all of our inner children are invited to have all the fun they want, it’s important that we as a culture not allow our childishness to destroy us.

Mesa Legend Staff

Mesa Legend Staff

Stories contributed by MCC journalism students. See end of each article for corresponding authors.
Mesa Legend Staff

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