In the early hours of September 11, 2014, adulthood gasped its final breath in an editorial by New York Times critic, A.O. Scott.
Scott's piece tracks the gradual deterioration of Americans' adulthood, the cultural rung meant to inspire the youth. The criticism spans a variety of topics, from the climactic deaths of male leads in serious television series, the rise and rise of comic book adaptations in Hollywood, and the expanding reach of young adult novels into an older demographic. Even the cultural demise of the patriarchy plays into his brilliant argument.
"What all of these shows grasp at, in one way or another, is that nobody knows how to be a grown-up anymore. Adulthood as we have known it has become conceptually untenable. It isn't only that patriarchy in the strict, old-school Don Draper sense has fallen apart. It's that it may never really have existed in the first place, at least in the way its avatars imagined. Which raises the question: Should we mourn the departed or dance on its grave?"
Scott goes onto argue who or what, if anybody or anything, killed adulthood, and explain our nation's historical resistance and skepticism of parenthood. All the while, the essay skips from the rivers of Missouri to the expanses of Montana, before arriving in Los Angeles for a fierce takedown of the bro comedy.
The bro comedy has been, at its worst, a cesspool of nervous homophobia and lazy racial stereotyping. Its postures of revolt tend to exemplify the reactionary habit of pretending that those with the most social power are really beleaguered and oppressed. But their refusal of maturity also invites some critical reflection about just what adulthood is supposed to mean.
The piece is a must-read for anyone who watches movies, reads books or kills weekends, loafing on the couch with Netflix set to auto-play.