The man-child. The Peter Pan Syndrome. The premise of every movie starring Adam Sandler.
We are living in an era when many men don’t want to grow up but would rather hang with friends playing video games, sort through their comic books, remain immature and not commit to…much of anything. It’s become a stereotype that breaks every mold established by previous generations on how to embrace adulthood.
Sociologist Michael Kimmel, in his book Guyland, speaks of a period between adolescence and adulthood that for some can last decades where “boys can be boys.” He notes that younger pre-teens are adopting the posture and older males in their 20’s or 30’s are delaying departing from the space. It’s a kind of perpetual frat party in an age of entitlement.
Republican Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse’s new book The Vanishing American Adult details the post- World War II experience of growing up in a fabulously wealthy nation where teenagers could linger in non-responsibility limbo for longer and longer periods parented by adults who attended to their wants and needs and kept them busy, though unaccomplished. He cites that in the 1960’s one in twenty teens were obese. Today it’s one in five, a 500% increase. The average young male has racked up more than 15,000 hours playing video games before they are legally allowed by purchase a beer. One-quarter of Americans between 25 and 29 lives with their parents.
Annoying though they may be in real life, the stereotype has become a cinema staple, the character popping up in The 40 Year Old Virgin, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and the iconic Animal House, among many others. It leaves one yearning for the world John Wayne left behind.