America is still behind the times. I’m not talking about universal health care or acceptance of nudity, either. I’m talking about America’s habit of taking everything fun and giving it to kids. Toys. Cartoons. Games. What is the deal with that?
Don’t get me wrong. We’ve come a long way. But I think we all know there is still quite a disconnect between the growing population of young and middle-aged adults who still like the fun stuff, and the aging population. There are still a lot of people out there who think anybody past their mid-twenties who still watches “kids” movies, thinks super heroes are cool, and plays video games has something wrong with them. A lot of people still don’t consider people interested in these things “grown up”. This doesn’t make much sense to me for a very good reason.
These things weren’t originally meant for kids, and a lot of them still aren’t exclusively for children.
Lets be clear on this; adults created them all for adults. Video games were made for adults. Games were made by adults for adults. Cartoons were made by adults for adults. Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny weren’t dreamed up to make kids happy; they were for adults. Most of the cartoons created around the world were for adults. Sometimes they had adult themes, and sometimes they didn’t. Sometimes they were just fun little stories. It wasn’t until later, when America became obsessed with popping out babies and giving kids the world that somebody realized kids might be attracted to the characters and they could make a butt-load of money marketing to brats. Cartoons then became the exclusive realm of wee-ones for a while afterwards.
This happened to a lot of things. Comic books were certainly not for kids in the beginning. Super Heroes were definitely fantasies originally created for grown men. Science fiction and fantasy have always been a grey area, but there are plenty who think little of adults who prefer these genera to more “adult” choices. However, lets not forget, fantastic tales of heroism and adventure were just fine for adults during the preceding centuries. The same goes for games. Games were mainly played by adults, not kids. Games played by kids were usually tools to learn how to be an adult. We live in some sort of strange, paradoxical world now, where games of all kinds; card games, video games, and role playing games are designed for adults, yet adults find the idea of other adults playing these games reprehensible.
Then there are toys. This one is a little different. Toys are generally for kids. Except when they are “collectors figures”. Call them whatever you want, but the market for figures and models of characters in popular television shows thrived elsewhere, as did the continuation of cartoons and games for adults. Guys in America had to settle for buying toys marketed to kids and pretending to go to the movies because “the kid wants to see it”. I’m curious; after the original Star Wars came out, what percentage of toys bought made it to kids and what percentage ended up on a grown man’s desk at home.
Of course, much of what has been created “for kids” is, and has been with a wink and a nudge. Especially over past couple of decades. Animated movies have almost just as much appeal to adults these days, though we’re still not all that comfortable making animated features for adults. The video game market has evolved with it’s clientele; which has always young to middle aged guys, no matter what people might want to believe. Kid’s cartoons, at least the good ones, have so many references to them that children would never understand. Toys, at least those revolving around certain franchises adults might tend to take note of (especially those us 30-somethings grew up with) are starting to have figurines and “collectors” items that look suspiciously like stuff adults might buy.
Of course, this isn’t a license to never grow out of that adolescent phase of doing nothing useful. If you are in your mid-thirties and sit around all day playing video games and watching cartoons, you’re not doing anybody any favors.