Extended adolescence or new age of wisdom?

Posted by on Sep 12, 2014 in Art and Entertainment

This is my initial reaction to A.O. Scott’s New York Times piece from yesterday:

A.O. Scott has been developing this extended adolescent thesis for awhile now, but never in such a sweeping way. When it was confined to summer blockbusters and Apatow comedies, it felt persuasive. But now that he’s carrying the argument so much further, to our whole cultural moment, it needs closer scrutiny. But I’m glad he’s made the argument because I think it’s interesting.

My first question is to what extent he can jump from identifying trends in art and entertainment to applying it to cultural analysis. Art can reflect and show insight into the world, but it can also create fantasy worlds that allow us escape from its realities, so we need to be careful with extrapolation. To be more persuasive Scott would need to marshall some social science to show that the immaturity of adulthood is also a fact of life, not just a preoccupation of a lot of art right now.

I can think of a few examples off the top of my head which would support his case, such as the delay in the average age people are getting married and having kids (which is actually a trend of the college educated and affluent, not of the whole culture). But you can interpret the delay in marriage to mean we’re more mature than ever–choosing to delay having kids and having fewer of them, tends to lead to happier marriages that last longer, not to mention its benefits for the environment in a world with limited resources.

Anyway, I look forward to reading (and writing myself) some further responses to this piece, so we can flush out how relevant and insightful it is. We know Hollywood’s financial center is adolescent and Scott’s job is to analyze Hollywood’s products–but how true is this of the rest of our world?