I am of an age that many of my friends and peers have children. I am high-minded, I don’t hold it against them or judge them for their handicap. Likely they were motivated by fear or guilt to have kids, so really they’re the victim in all of this. And yet no court in the land would sentence a baby to prison for holding adults hostage with their incessant needs. That’s the modern justice system for you.
When I think back to my childhood, which essentially happened during the Reagan administration, I remember feeling like I was the Most Important Person in the Universe. I think that my generation was the first one to be wantonly targeted by marketing departments of various corporations. Not that children weren’t catered to before, but in my time Sesame Street relented after a decade of not licensing their puppets to toy manufacturers. No cartoon or kids’ show existed that did not have a full line of products supporting it. Ewoks were inserted into Return of the Jedi at the last minute simply for franchise opportunities. It seems like my generation was the first to be seen as having a nearly limitless purchasing power.
Still, my childhood did not center around childish things. I liked Transformers a lot, I certainly played with plenty of Fisher Price toys. However, my mother also felt it was important that I see the original King Kong when I was six. She rented Fritz the Cat for me when I was thirteen, a character I was familiar with having seen Robert Crumb comics of my father’s when I was eight years old. I watched Inspector Gadget and Heathcliff and Friends as a kid, but I was also very into The Young Ones and Soap. I feel that as important as it was to my parents that I feel safe and educationally stimulated, they were also concerned that I didn’t grow up to be lame.
When I visit my Friends Who Have Children’s houses, I wonder if I should call a psychiatrist who specializes in hoarding disorders to save these people from the mountains of bulky, plastic crap that threaten to engulf their entire homes. And these are the parents of children who can barely walk, mind you. The DVD collections, alone, wielded by some of these kids would send the most obsessive compulsive completest movie collector into a depression spiral. You’ve got six year-olds with MP3 players, ten year-olds with cellular phones. Most of this shit didn’t exist when I was a kid. I remember it was a big deal when my family got a VCR in 1982, which meant we could accrue a library of movies. The first movie I recall watching on video tape was David Lynch’s Eraserhead.
Maybe my folks were bad parents. I think that by today’s standard, they’d probably be considered negligent or whatever. They encouraged me to do the things I wanted to do, but didn’t feel the need to occupy my every second with targeted entertainment and bullshit. It’s no wonder that each generation increasingly seems to expect the world to be handed to them, because it’s being foisted on them every second of their lives up until they stop developing secondary sex characteristics. I can remember when I felt the steadying hand of focused marketing slip away, I was about twenty-five and suddenly I realized I was older than most of the actors I saw on television and artists whose music I enjoyed. It’s a bittersweet thing when you grow out of your demographic, but I suppose it’s a rite of passage, like falling off your bicycle or acquiring your two-hundredth Pokemon.