What makes something childish?

10 06 2010

Last week I was in Orlando, Florida, for vacation.  I spent two days at Disney World, and it was awesome.   I went to Magic Kingdom and Epcot, spending one day at each.  (Each park really needs a whole day, if you want to experience everything.)  There were fun rides and neat buildings and attractions, but the best part was how the place sparked my imagination.  It made me feel like a kid again.

Later I got to wondering why many of us tend to put away things like imagination when we become adults.   I realize we can’t keep acting like children all the time because we have responsibilities to tend to, but we don’t have to throw away our imagination.  To me, that’s what makes people “old” and stodgy.

Is Disney World more for children?  Perhaps in some ways, but not necessarily overall.  On a similar note, are cartoons only for children?  Some are, because they’re so dumbed-down that there’s really nothing to them.  But many aren’t like that.  Yet it seems like most adults dismiss cartoons as childish.  Why?

Do we quit enjoying fictional / fantasy worlds?  Many adults still watch fictional TV shows, where scenarios are created that aren’t reality.  Do we not like comedy anymore?   Many of us still watch comedy shows.  So why are all cartoons dismissed when we still enjoy the basic principles of them?  Is it because they’re “childish”?   That’s too vague an answer.  What makes them childish?

I’ve seen cartoons that have more entertainment value and substance than “real-life” TV shows, including areas of comedy, action, and intellectual depth.   Those clearly aren’t childish.  In fact, many of the Looney Tunes cartoons we grew up on have jokes made for adults, like referencing war rations.   So how did they become childish?

I’ve wondered about this numerous times, because I sometimes hear these things.   I’m 36 years old, and I still enjoy watching some cartoons and playing video games, and I hear comments sometimes that those things are for “little boys”.  What makes shows for adults better?   From what I hear, many of the “reality TV” and real-life drama shows are stressful and vulgar.   Is that better for adults?

Lest you think this is just my ramblings, I want to quote one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century, C.S. Lewis.  He also thought about this:

When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so.  Now that I am 50, I read them openly.  When I became a man, I put away childish things — including the fear of childishness and the desire to be grown-up. ~ C.S. Lewis

Why do we have a fear of appearing childish?  Why do we want to appear “grown-up”?  (And what does that even mean?)  When we accept these preconceived notions of what is and isn’t grown-up behavior, are we doing it to convince ourselves?  Or to convince others?  What’s the purpose?   Haven’t we learned to be ourselves?  Do you remember how as a teenager you wanted to be grown-up, so you would conform to certain boundaries (in selected areas) so you wouldn’t be a kid anymore?  And likewise, teenagers tend to conform to the crowd they want to be part of, to be “cool” and to fit in.  As you get older, you realize how silly some of that is, and you learn that being “cool” is about being yourself and being confident about it and accepting who you are.  It’s not about what style of clothes you wear or what music you listen to or what car you drive.   It’s about being yourself.  So why would we as adults still do this by saying certain things are childish?

I’d like to hear your opinions on this.

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