Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Semi-Rant About Getting Older as Society Gets Younger

I know we usually don't get too introspective here at the CKT, but indulge me if you will, because I'm curious to hear what other people think on this.

A few days ago, I did my standard Paragraph Movie Review for the movie Adventureland and it ended up getting more personal than those usually get for me. What hit me was how much the character of James Brennan, played by Jesse Eisenberg, reminded me of elements of myself in my younger years, and also how much the character of Em Lewin, played by Kristen Stewart, reminded me of an amalgam of girls I knew and had feelings for during that period. The movie made me very nostalgic, which at first added to my enjoyment of it (as I mentioned in that initial post), but in the subsequent days has led to a surprising amount of self-examination, most of it interesting, but some of it downright stressful.

First off, I can't deny the elephant in the room that is my brain: this movie made me feel kinda old. I'm only 27, but these characters reminded me of a time when I was about 10 years younger, and that's an odd and kinda uncomfortable situation. The thing I observed was how nostalgic I found myself for a period in my life that, to be honest, isn't generally one I look back fondly on. Today I've got a job I find great enjoyment in and a girl who I love more than anything--and we're getting married! So why would I be nostalgic for the days when I had no idea what I was going to do with my life and girls were a major source of anguish for me? It's a strange sensation, but polling my friends the last couple days, apparentl I'm not the only one who has gone through it.

The other big thing I took away from Adventureland was that it's weird to realize you've reached the point in your life where the actors in a coming of age movie are no longer older than you or even the same age, they're far younger. I remember being in high school, seeing movies like Dazed and Confused of Varsity Blues and even though ostensibly the characters were supposed to be the same age as my friends and I, they were clearly played by actors who were a few years older; there's a strange sort of comfort in that, in thinking "I will grow up to be that cool." On the flip side, the characters in Adventureland were only supposed to be five years younger than me, and in some cases, so were the actors, but in others (particularly in the case of Stewart), they were far younger. Not only does that have the danger of leaving you with the very different thought of, "Well, I guess I used to be that cool," but it also brings me to my next point...

As I mentioned, the character of Em reminds me of several girls who I felt strongly about at one time or another. Also worth noting: more than one person has pointed out that Kristen Stewart and my fiancee are not twins or anything, but they do share some resemblance. So I guess it's only natural that I'd be attracted to/fascinated by the character of Em...and that kinda creeps me out. Why? Because the character was supposed to be 22 and further because Kristen Stewart is only 19 years old.

Obviously it's not uncommon when you're watching a movie to develop a bit of a crush on a character featured therein even when you don't feel a particular personal connecttion to the story being told. My big example has always been that when I saw Almost Famous back in 2000, I was totally captivated by Penny Lane, played by Kate Hudson. I had a huge, embarassing crush on her (and on a related note was devastated when she didn't win the Oscar).

Now it has always weirded me out to be attracted in any way to a character in a movie or TV show or whatever, because I picture how the actress (or actor) in question probably would feel about it and imagine either bemusement or discomfort on their part. Yes, I overthink things sometimes. But with the Penny Lane thing (and most subsequent similar circumstances), I didn't feel that uncomfortable, because she was 20, only two years older than me, and also seemed much older. That seemed normal enough.

But crushing on a girl eight years younger than you? I'm not condemning it, but it feels weird to me, and it definitely makes me feel like I've passed some sort of weird landmark on my life's road I wasn't aware of. It maybe wouldn't bug me as much if even the character were a bit older (because again, it's the characters, not the actress), but I've got at least five years on Em too.

This got me thinking about the larger issue of how society in general today is different in regards to how quick people, and in particular, celebrities grow up. I'm not going to preach, because honestly I'm not so much disturbed by this development as I am fascinated. But it was interesting to talk to my old man and note that as he was approaching his late 20's, he wasn't bombarded by a society in which teenage celebrities (guys and girls alike) are promoted as sex symbols. It's an interesting generational thing. Certainly Shirley Temple (bad example because my dad isn't that old, but let's roll with it) never wore outfits like Miley Cyrus does. And hey, I'll go ahead and say it: Miley Cyrus is pretty hot, dude! And she is 16! And just to show I'm being equally opportunistic here, I'm sure there are plenty of chicks my age who think 21-year old Zac Efron is a piece of ass--and in my hetero opinion, they ain't wrong!

Anyways, it's undeniable that celebrities are being sexed up at a far younger age, and that makes it a strange time to be in your mid-to-late 20's, because we're a big chunk of the target demographic for movies like Superbad or TV shows like Gossip Girl and part of that means we're being asked to accept that kids a decade younger than us are sexually desirable. It's a weird place to be.

In the end, I still think Adventureland was a rad movie, but I'm honestly not sure I could see it again in the near future. The amount of soul-searching it has led me to do in regards to my feelings on both society and my place in it has been both exhausting and at times a bit depressing. I'm not gonna lie: the next time I'm flipping through Entertainment Weekly and see a picture of Kristen Stewart, I'm probably gonn feel a weird sort of shame-type deal, and it sucks that a work of fiction should have that sort of power over you. It speaks to the quality of said work, but it still kinda sucks. I'll also feel a bit dumb when I see an interview with her and remember she's still a kid.

The solace I have found is that many folks feel the same way I do. Oh, that and the fact that once I stop being retarded and pining for the days when I was getting drunk in my friends' backyard and awkwardly hoping a certain girl would notice me and instead remember that my life fucking rocks now, I feel a whole lot better.

And besides, the best-looking person male or female in Adventureland was still Ryan Reynolds, and m'man's 32.

Kidding aside though, writing this all out was actually pretty decent therapy. And I'm genuinely curious to hear what the rest of you think.

Back to talking comics after this, promise.


Anonymous said...

You know, the best way I've heard to determine if you're too old for your partner is to halve your age, and add eight to it. That's the lowest age you "ought" to date.

So, in your case, that's 21?


- Mig

Ben Morse said...

Well, Megan is 25, so I think I'm safe.