Sunday, February 27, 2005


I have a theory that the reason why so many people in my age bracket (thirty and under) have a difficult time adjusting to adulthood is because the people we grew up with on TV and in the movies were actually significant older than the characters they were portraying.

It's the Happy Days Syndrome. You've got Richie Cunningham and Ralph Malph and Potsie, and they're all supposed to be in, like, Grade 10 and 11, and they're played by people in their early to mid-twenties. So by the time that I get to be fifteen and sixteen years old, I look in the mirror, and I see this young little twerp, not looking anything like Matthew Broderick in Ferris Bueller's Day Off (who was twenty-four playing seventeen), or Judd Nelson and Emilio Estevez in The Breakfast Club (also somewhere in the mid-twenties range) and so this weird, out-of-body dislocation takes place. My age doesn't match my image of what that age should be, so I instantly regress.

(The exception to this was the Canadian TV drama Degrassi Junior High, which used real ugly and average looking teenagers, not Beverly Hills 90210 supermodels. And I have my own Degrassi story, if you want to hear it, which is that when I was getting hired to go teach English in Japan, there was a training session in Toronto, and one of the people they brought in to motivate us was a former teacher who was back in Canada after finishing her contract, and she was a girl of about my age, twenty-three or so, short, pleasant, Canadian, and I couldn't figure out where I had seen her before, until I suddenly realized that this was Spike, the girl on Degrassi who got pregnant, the girl with really spiked-out, whacked-out hair, hence the name 'Spike', and I thought oh, so this is where former Canadian TV stars end up, and all of the other new teachers on the break realized simultaneously that we had a Degrassi alumnus in our midst, and that was a fun moment, a real moment, and I think she is back on TV on Degrassi: The Next Generation, which I've never seen because I've been away, and I'm not sure I want to see it, truth be told, because it's somewhat cool but somewhat sad, too, to see the same students who were on the show ten, fifteen years ago returning to play older, wiser versions of themselves. Sometimes the past should stay the past, I think, but I know that bills have to be paid, too.)

Spielberg once said when promoting Saving Private Ryan that if you go back and look at what seventeen, eighteen, nineteen year olds looked like back in the twenties and thirties and forties, you'll see that they simply look older than those in the same age brackets today. I think that's true. Take a look at pictures of your grandparents when they were in their twenties. They look, I don't know, adult. Mature. Advanced. Whereas we have shows like Friends that seem to glorify extended adolescence into a near-religion.

We all advance at different speeds from each other, anyways, but I think the media, its reflections and distortions of who we are at various points in our lives, have more sway than we're usually willing to admit in determining how and why we grow the way we do.

That's my excuse, anyway.