April 11, 2014

Dungeons and Dragons versus BADD

Filed under: Gaming, History, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:05

BBC News Magazine looks back at the moral panic about Dungeons & Dragons in the early 1980s:

Dungeons and Dragons rulebooks

In 1982, high school student Irving Lee Pulling died after shooting himself in the chest. Despite an article in the Washington Post at the time commenting “how [Pulling] had trouble ‘fitting in’”, mother Patricia Pulling believed her son’s suicide was caused by him playing D&D.

Again, it was clear that more complex psychological factors were at play. Victoria Rockecharlie, a classmate of Irving Pulling, commented that “he had a lot of problems anyway that weren’t associated with the game”.

At first, Patricia Pulling attempted to sue her son’s high school principal, claiming the curse placed upon her son’s character during a game run by the principal was real. She also sued TSR Inc, the publishers of D&D. Despite the court dismissing these cases, Pulling continued her campaign by forming Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons (BADD) in 1983.

Pulling described D&D as “a fantasy role-playing game which uses demonology, witchcraft, voodoo, murder, rape, blasphemy, suicide, assassination, insanity, sex perversion, homosexuality, prostitution, satanic type rituals, gambling, barbarism, cannibalism, sadism, desecration, demon summoning, necromantics, divination and other teachings”.

Pulling’s pamphlet on the dangers of D&D:

Dungeons and Dragons moral panic

In 1985, Jon Quigley, of the Lakeview Full Gospel Fellowship, spoke for many opponents when he claimed: “The game is an occult tool that opens up young people to influence or possession by demons.”

These fears also found their way into the UK. Fantasy author KT Davies recalls “showing a vicar a gaming figure – he likened D&D to demon worship because there were ‘gods’ in the game”.

Veteran roleplayer Andy Smith found himself in the unusual position of being both a roleplayer and a Christian. “While working for a Christian organisation I was told to remove my roleplaying books from the shared accommodation as they were offensive to some of the other workers and contained references to demon-worship.”

Looking back now, it’s possible to see the tendrils of a classic moral panic, and some elements of the slightly esoteric world of roleplaying did stir the imaginations of panicked outsiders.

March 27, 2014

Remembering “the war on Dungeons and Dragons

Filed under: Gaming, History, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:31

First, the comment that @FakeTSR linked to:

It was never a fair fight between fundamentalist Christianity and D&D. One was a dangerous system full of dark mysticism and threats to warp a young mind beyond repair, and the other was a tabletop RPG.

And then, the article by Annalee Newitz:

Thirty years ago, a war raged between the dorks who played Dungeons & Dragons, and the conservative parent groups who believed that gaming was debauched at best and Satanic at worst. Lives were ruined. People died. And now that war is over. I still can’t believe we won.


Still, unlike my fantasy of being a hot half-elf, the Christians actually had some control over our lives. My best friend got kicked out of Catholic school for playing D&D, which we counted as a win because it meant she could come to our shitty public school and play D&D with us. Outside our southern California town, however, D&D players weren’t getting off so easily. They were ostracized by their peers, kicked out of public schools, and sent to glorified reeducation camps by parents who feared their children were about to start sacrificing babies to Lolth the spider demon.

Dungeons and Dragons moral panic

Update, 28 March: Techdirt‘s Timothy Geigner sorrowfully points out that even though this particular moral panic eventually came to a happy end, the lessons of each significant outbreak of hysteria are not carried forward and the next professional pants-wetting politician or “concerned parent group” does not get the scrutiny they deserve.

As the article says, looking back from the vantage point of a world where entertainment is strewn with the fantasy genre, it’s stunning to see the propaganda that had been unleashed. Unsurprisingly, said propaganda has since been eviscerated, with all the common tales of kids killing themselves being shown to be completely unrelated to anything having to do with children’s games. Still, this kind of thing propagated like hell-fire. For all the normal, non-Satan-worshipping kids out there that were just trying to have a little fun, it must have seemed like insanity would rule the day. Fortunately, it didn’t.


Winners who are now all grown up and who have moved on to their next moral panic, be it violent video games, drill gangster rap, or any number of the next thing the younger generations will come up with. The cycle repeats. Every generation was young, became old, and feared the new young again. That’s too bad, but for those of us still reveling in our youth, real or imagined, it’s nice to know that the moral panic over video games, like all those before it, will eventually subside.

March 18, 2014

Selfies are “this year’s droopy pants, backwards baseball caps, or visible piercings, as a shorthand for all that is wrong with today’s youth”

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:21

Nick Gillespie loves the Millennials. No, he really does:

That discomfort you’re sensing all around you? It’s the American Establishment loading its Depends diapers over the prospect of a younger generation that is turning its back on political parties and other zombified artifacts of our glorious past.

On the heels of the Pew Research report titled “Millennials in Adulthood,” two leading New York Times columnists have penned anxious articles sweating it out over the “The Self(ie) Generation” and “The Age of Individualism.”

“Millennials (defined by Pew as Americans ages 18 to 33) are drifting away from traditional institutions — political, religious and cultural,” muses Charles M. Blow, who sees a “a generation in which institutions are subordinate to the individual… This is not only the generation of the self; it’s the generation of the selfie.” Oh noes! And it’s only gonna get worse: “In the future,” worries Ross Douthat, “there will be only one ‘ism’ — Individualism — and its rule will never end. As for religion, it shall decline; as for marriage, it shall be postponed; as for ideologies, they shall be rejected; as for patriotism, it shall be abandoned; as for strangers, they shall be distrusted. Only pot, selfies and Facebook will abide.”

Does it strike anyone else as odd that selfies — clearly less the product of rising narcissism and more the product of the same awesome technology that empowers citizens to capture cops beating the shit of innocent people — have emerged as this year’s droopy pants, backwards baseball caps, or visible piercings, as a shorthand for all that is wrong with today’s youth? Getting bent out of shape over selfies may just be the ultimate #firstworldproblem.

February 3, 2014

QotD: Plight of youth – unpaid internships and helotry

Filed under: Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:57

It is popular now to talk of race, class, and gender oppression. But left out of this focus on supposed victim groups is the one truly targeted cohort — the young. Despite the Obama-era hype, we are not suffering new outbreaks of racism. Wendy Davis is not the poster girl for a resurgent misogyny. There is no epidemic of homophobia. Instead, if this administration’s policies are any guide, we are witnessing a pandemic of ephebiphobia — an utter disregard for young people.

The war against those under 30 — and the unborn — is multifaceted. No one believes that the present payroll deductions leveled on working youth will result in the same levels of support upon their retirements that is now extended to the retiring baby-boom generation. Instead, the probable solutions of raising the retirement age, cutting back the rate of payouts, hiking taxes on benefits, and raising payroll rates are discussed in an environment of après moi le déluge — to come into effect after the boomers are well pensioned off.

The baby-boomer/me generation demands what its “greatest generation” parents got — or, in fact, far more, given its increased rates of longevity. The solution of more taxes and less benefits will fall on young people and the unborn, apparently on the premise that those under 18 do not vote, and those between 18 and 30 either vote less frequently than their grandparents or less knowledgeably about their own self-interest.


Symbolic of the many gifts bestowed by the baby boomers to the present generation of youth — aside from Botox and liposuction — was the new idea of the “intern”: an unpaid helot position predicated on the notion that the young and poorer might someday win a wage from the older and richer.

How odd that President Obama, in his soon-to-be-infamous “I have a pen and phone” boast to bypass the Congress, claimed that he would act outside the Constitution to enact his agenda and help the “kids.”

In truth, no administration in recent memory has done more to harm young people. Like some strange exotic species of the animal kingdom, we Americans are now eating our own young.

Victor Davis Hanson, “Eating Our Young”, VDH’s Private Papers, 2014-01-28

January 26, 2014

Moving the definitional goalposts – adolescents

Filed under: Britain, Economics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:53

In Spiked, Tom Slater talks about the constantly moving concept of “adulthood”:

The spike in young people staying and moving back home, although undoubtedly exacerbated by the floundering economy, nevertheless marks a profound cultural shift in the attitudes of young people towards independence. And it doesn’t take much digging to grasp the roots of it all.

The value of adulthood is battered out of young people nowadays. When last year psychologists announced they were extending the clinical definition of adolescence to 25, it felt sadly appropriate. Indeed, in all corners of society, young people are being fretted over and micromanaged with all manner of initiatives to help them negotiate the adult world. From university wellbeing services to the recent attempts of one charity to rebrand youth joblessness as a mental-health crisis, young people are imbibing the idea that they are essentially overgrown children in need of constant support and intervention.

The sense of victimhood is bolstered by the ‘jilted generation’ brigade, who insist that young people have been undone by the avarice of their baby-boomer forbears. As a result, so we’re told, young people will never be able to achieve the same success their parents’ generation enjoyed. Moving out into less-than-lush surroundings has come to be seen as a kind of concession to the oldies wot wronged us. The bizarre focus on house prices in this discussion is particularly revealing on this point. Young people have been led to believe that their parents skipped renting and started buying up houses when they were barely out of school – an idea which Grace Dent gave a thorough rinsing in the Independent this week. In this sense, Generation Y have begun to conceive of themselves as the victims of an illusory, more prosperous past, to the point where even renting a box-room in a mould-ridden house-share is an inconvenience they’re not prepared to endure.

With all of this in mind, you can almost see why they choose to stay at home and spend their disposable income on other things. If things are indeed so bleak, why not buy a car or, as is increasingly becoming the norm, save up your wages and go travelling? Young people seem to forget having your own wheels or jetting off around the world are luxuries that were never within the grasp of their supposedly cash-rich parents.

January 19, 2014

TV as a form of birth control

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:59

There’s been some noise made about how the “reality TV” show 16 and Pregnant has influenced teens to such a degree that the teenage pregnancy rate dropped by a significant figure. Nick Gillespie has a few questions about the claims:

Television: Is there anything it can’t do?

After decades of being slammed by bluenoses, bureaucrats, and Bruce Springsteen for sexing up and dumbing down the masses, it turns out that the small screen has accomplished what no amount of promise rings, Twilight movies, or mandatory banana-on-a-condom classes have managed to do: reduce the number of teenage births.

At least that’s what the authors of a widely discussed new study say. In “Media Influences on Social Outcomes: The Impact of MTV’s 16 and Pregnant on Teen Childbearing,” (available online for the low, low price of $5.00 from the National Bureau of Economic Research, economists Melissa S. Kearney (University of Maryland) and Phillip B. Levine (Wellesley College) write “The introduction of 16 and Pregnant along with its partner shows, Teen Mom and Teen Mom 2, led teens to noticeably reduce the rate at which they give birth.” According to their calculations, the shows are responsible for “a 5.7 percent reduction in teen births in the 18 months following [their] introduction.”


The study is far less interesting for the specific claims it makes about teen birth rates than it is as a variation on persistent attitudes toward cultural production and consumption redolent of Frankfurt School anxieties over media’s impact on the proletariat. In many ways, “Media Influences on Social Outcomes” is simply the latest echo of the idea that TV, music, movies, novels, and the like don’t simply move audiences to laughter, tears, or contemplation but compel them to act in particular ways.

In other words, we’re all just mindless, easily brainwashed dupes who are being programmed by our media.

In more doctrinaire versions of Frankfurt School analysis, the producers of content are drivers and audience members are, well, just passengers along for the ride. To their credit, Kearney and Levine aren’t nearly so deterministic, even though they are quick to ascribe causative power to a particular set of programs.

In 2002’s Is Art Good for Us?, University of Tulsa professor Joli Jensen refers to this sort of thinking as an “instrumental view of culture.” It presumes “that art is an instrument like medicine or a toxin that can be injected into us and transform us.” This view, says Jensen, “is very tempting because if certain kinds of culture cause bad things in society, then you can change that culture and fix society.” The instrumental view implies formal or informal commissars that must oversee and direct cultural production, making sure more “good” art is made. After all, you are what you read, or watch, or hear. Morally suspect art leads to crime, chaos, and bad behavior.

December 28, 2013

Facebook ages out

Filed under: Europe, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:12

In the Guardian, Jemima Kiss explains why European teens are finding other social networking tools to be more attractive than Facebook:

Facebook is ‘dead and buried’ to older teenagers, an extensive European study has found, as the key age group moves on to Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and Snapchat.

Researching the Facebook use of 16-18 year olds in eight EU countries, the Global Social Media Impact Study found that as parents and older users saturate Facebook, its younger users are shifting to alternative platforms.

Facebook is not just on the slide — it is basically dead and buried,” wrote Daniel Miller, lead anthropologist on the research team, who is professor of material culture of University College London.

“Mostly they feel embarrassed to even be associated with it. Where once parents worried about their children joining Facebook, the children now say it is their family that insists they stay there to post about their lives.”

Teens do not care that alternative services are less functional and sophisticated, and they also unconcerned about how information about them is being used commercially or as part of surveillance practice by the security services, the research found.

“What appears to be the most seminal moment in a young person’s decision to leave Facebook was surely that dreaded day your mum sends you a friend request,” wrote Miller.

November 21, 2013

How Obama lost young voters

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 13:46

Nick Gillespie looks at the remarkable way Barack Obama transitioned from cool to square for one of his key supporting demographic groups:

Back in 2008, Barack Obama seemed like the coolest cat to hit the national scene in a long time, almost scientifically engineered to appeal to idealistic young Americans. He was the perfect combination of a dream dad and an older brother who could run you ragged up and down the basketball court, wink and nod about smoking dope, and hip you to some older but still cool music, you know? In 2008, the Pravda of youth culture, Rolling Stone, slathered the future president with praise for being so with it that he even knew how to use…an iPod. We were all pretty sure that his eventual Republican challenger, John McCain, had stopped listening to music when Rudy Vallee went electric or Stephen Foster released his Chris Gaines record or something, but there Obama was, listening to Bob Dylan, Yo-Yo Ma, Sheryl Crow, and even Jay-Z. “I have pretty eclectic tastes,” Obama told Rolling Stone. He even went on to invoke “Maggie’s Farm,” Dylan’s classic song of generational defiance and opting out. “It speaks to me as I listen to some of the political rhetoric,” explained.

Yeah, well, it’s all over now baby blue. Like Bush before him — and in many wars, even worse than Bush before him — Obama has personified the failure of leaders to speak plainly, honestly and directly and to enact simple, effective, financially responsible policies that speak to Americans’ hopes and dreams. The great political continuity in the 21st century is one of transpartisan failure and the continuing flight from party affiliation by more and more Americans.

Beinart and others like him are right to note that Obama’s and the Democrats’ decline in popularity is not automatically the Republicans’ gain (though get a load of this: Ken Cuccinelli won the 18-24 year-old vote against Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia governor’s race). But just as there’s no reason to expect the problems with Obamacare to be fixed anytime soon, there’s no reason to think that youth disaffection with the president is going to get better over the remainder of his second term. He’s failed with younger voters not in spite of his policies but because of them. Along the way, he transmogrified from a hipster dad into a near-total drag whose control is as absolute as his inability to get anything right.

In terms of basic demographics, the future belongs to Millennials because they are young. For good and ill, they will inherit the world their elders made for them. In terms of politics, the future belongs to leaders and parties who not only agree with the record-high percentage of Americans who think the government has too much power but actually propose to give some of it away.

October 22, 2013

Dahlia Lithwick on smelling like a teenage boy for a week

Filed under: Humour, Randomness — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:21

It’s not just a scent … it’s a lifestyle:

When I first told my husband that I was planning on wearing only Axe men’s products for an entire week, his answer was a foreshadowing of things to come: “You’re planning on wearing that stuff to bed every night for a week? Man. Axe really does work. It’s only been a few minutes and look, you’re already single again … ”


Despairing of any kind of social response that wasn’t either threats of a formal legal separation from my husband or subtle nostalgia from mothers of former Axe users, I decided to trot out the stuff at the last night of Slate’s annual retreat in September. Having sprayed it liberally all over my body on the night of the big promlike party, I watched my roommate — Slate’s Dear Prudie — actually flatten herself up against a hotel room wall and slide uneasily down the hallway, in the manner of that poor cat being chased by Pepé Le Pew. Almost immediately upon my arrival at the festivities I was accosted by three female Slate colleagues who spontaneously observed that I smelled completely amazing. I was briefly thrilled at the enthusiastic response, until I realized that I didn’t really want my someday teenaged sons to ever be quite that amazing-smelling to women in their 30s and 40s. One colleague said it brought her right back to whatever it is that happened in the back of a truck when she was herself 14. The silence was slightly less awkward than after the pants-spraying story the week before.

QotD: They We were better people in those days…

Filed under: Cancon, Quotations — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

Back in the bad old days, before Pierre Trudeau saved Canada from the horrors of fiscal solvency and smallish government, school children, mostly girls, were taught something called home economics. The theory, terrible quaint though it sounds, is that since most women would become homemakers they should be prepared for that role. Some, no doubt, came from good homes where dutiful mothers ensured that their daughters knew how to cook, sew and deal with troublesome infants. Some did not come from good homes. Part of the point of public education was to make sure that all girls knew how to cook nutritious food for their families. More broadly it was to ensure that all children acquired life skills along with whatever algebra and Shakespeare they could pick up.

That was one of the goals of public education. Educating a self reliant, sober and decent citizenry. Not rationalizing every vice and undermining the founding tenets of Canadian society. There was plenty of propaganda, but it was mostly propagating positive values. A tad parochial and silly by our standards, but not without its merits. It was not a platform for allowing anti-capitalist and anti-industrial zealots like David Suzuki to pontificate.

If there is a problem with “food insecurity” it’s because many Canadians, especially among the lower classes, lack basic life skills. That, not incidentally, is why most are in the lower class. If the Pakistani cab driver with a scant English vocabulary can feed and cloth his family with some decency, what does that say about the Mackenzies who have been here since Simcoe? Some of the poor are poor because they’re physically or mentally incapable of fending for themselves. In an advanced society they comprises only a small fraction of the working age population. Much of the poor in Canada are poor because they exhibit poor behaviour.

Most of the long-term poor, this excludes those who are simply suffering from temporary misfortune, think in a much different way than those in the middle class. The long-term poor are short-range in their thinking. Their savings rate is close to non-existent. They can’t resist instant gratification, like junk food or gambling. This also extends to their sexual lives. They exhibit a strong tendency toward highly unstable short-term relationships based on fleeting desire. The notion of a long-term, emotionally stable relationship is either alien or absurd.

Richard Anderson, “Thinking of the Children”, Gods of the Copybook Headings, 2013-10-21

October 13, 2013

Schools with anti-bullying programs more likely to produce bullies

Filed under: Randomness — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:22

A counter-intuitive study result from the University of Texas – Arlington:

Anti-bullying initiatives have become standard at schools across the country, but a new UT Arlington study finds that students attending those schools may be more likely to be a victim of bullying than children at schools without such programs.

The findings run counter to the common perception that bullying prevention programs can help protect kids from repeated harassment or physical and emotional attacks.

“One possible reason for this is that the students who are victimizing their peers have learned the language from these anti-bullying campaigns and programs,” said Seokjin Jeong, an assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice at UT Arlington and lead author of the study, which was published in the Journal of Criminology.

“The schools with interventions say, ‘You shouldn’t do this,’ or ‘you shouldn’t do that.’ But through the programs, the students become highly exposed to what a bully is and they know what to do or say when questioned by parents or teachers,” Jeong said.

The study suggested that future direction should focus on more sophisticated strategies rather than just implementation of bullying prevention programs along with school security measures such as guards, bag and locker searches or metal detectors. Furthermore, given that bullying is a relationship problem, researchers need to better identify the bully-victim dynamics in order to develop prevention policies accordingly, Jeong said.

H/T to Tyler Cowen for the link.

October 11, 2013

Jonah Goldberg on Scooby Doo

Filed under: Humour, Media, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:53

For this week’s Goldberg File email, Jonah Goldberg ran an old piece from some time in the last few years, talking about the cultural implications of the TV show Scooby Doo:

So my daughter and I have been talking about Scooby Doo a lot. She thinks the show, in all its myriad incarnations, is riveting. She will interrupt conversations with “Oh, Daddy, did you know …” and I will expect to hear about something from school or from her daily life, and she will commence to tell me something about Shaggy or Velma or Scooby.

The show has gone through a lot of changes over the years (the Wikipedia entry is disturbingly interesting; one of these days I must remember to carve it into a great chain of toilet seats). In case you didn’t know, the show now features real monsters and ghosts quite often. Not always, but often enough. For decades, the monsters weren’t real, merely the attempts of hucksters and con men. Now the makers of the show teach little kids that there really are vampires and witches.

At first, I thought this scandalous. I always thought the point of the show was to teach little kids not to be scared of things that go bump in the night.

But this is actually the least offensive thing about the show. Bear with me.

Recently, I caught the tail end of one of the newer episodes, and I was dismayed to discover that the perpetrator of the scary hoax was not the bad guy. He was something of an environmentalist/historic preservationist who wanted to keep some greedy corporate fat cats from developing some land. It seemed like something close to an endorsement of ecoterrorism.

Obviously, I was going to turn this revelation into an NR cover story. But as I pondered it, I thought more deeply about the original series. The show starts in 1969. The kids of Mystery Inc., who seem to have absolutely no parental supervision, are clearly counter-cultural. Freddie may not be gay, but he wears an ascot, and, for anyone under the age of 60, that alone is an invitation to a beating. And given that the show was launched in 1969, he may just be dressing that way to duck the draft. (Indeed, why the heck aren’t Fred and Shaggy knee-deep in some rice paddy somewhere?) Velma, meanwhile, certainly looks like she runs a pottery shop in Burlington, Vt., if you know what I mean.

And Shaggy, well, he’s a filthy hippy who always has the munchies. ‘Nuff said.

October 1, 2013

Candy-coat my world and keep me safe from my trouble and pain

Filed under: Media, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 15:04

I linked to an entertaining rant by Ace last week that talked about the “nummification” of modern life. At risk of being identified with the “get off my lawn you [26-year-old] kids” bracket, here’s another tale of western society’s almost complete flight from adulthood by Christopher Taylor:

But the culture has become a bit too childish and cutesy for me. If you look around you can see what’s happening easily enough. Adam Carolla recently went on a rant about Starbucks “coffee” and how childish its all become. I won’t link it here because it gets pretty foul and sexualized, but the basic gist is this: you didn’t have a coffee before work, you had a shake. That Caramel Moccachino with whipped cream and sprinkles on top wasn’t a coffee, it was candy in a cup.
You can extend this further. I saw an ad recently on TV for adult vitamins, clearly targeted at men. The selling point? They’re gummy vitamins. Multi-Vites! They’re chewable and sweet! Take a few of those in the morning before your coffee shake. And for lunch? A “power bar” which is a candy bar with vitamins in it.

This isn’t adult behavior, its Halloween all day long. Remember when you were 11 and mom wouldn’t let you gorge yourself out of the plastic pumpkin bucket you filled on Halloween night? And you kicked the side of the bed vowing that when you grew up you’d eat all the candy you wanted?

You’re supposed to grow out of that stage.


I’ve written about the annoyance of frat boy culture here many times, where men are perpetually the party boy they imagined themselves being in college. Never grow up, never get serious, always avoid responsibility. Your hair getting gray? Return it to your “natural” color with dye! Hey, idiot, gray is your natural color. Put away the Viagra, you’re old. Deal with it.

Except that’s not even the problem any more. We’re being told that adolescence now extends to age 25 by sociologists. Yes, I know sociology is about as much science as astrology, but this isn’t a suggestion, its a diagnosis.

Taylor also links to this BBC News Magazine article from last week, which advances the notion that expecting young people to become adults at 18 or even 25 is no longer realistic:

Frank Furedi, professor of sociology at the University of Kent, says we have infantilised young people and this has led to a growing number of young men and women in their late 20s still living at home.

“Often it’s claimed it’s for economic reasons, but actually it’s not really for that,” says Furedi. “There is a loss of the aspiration for independence and striking out on your own. When I went to university it would have been a social death to have been seen with your parents, whereas now it’s the norm.

“So you have this kind of cultural shift which basically means that adolescence extends into your late twenties and that can hamper you in all kinds of ways, and I think what psychology does is it inadvertently reinforces that kind of passivity and powerlessness and immaturity and normalises that.”

Furedi says that this infantilised culture has intensified a sense of “passive dependence” which can lead to difficulties in conducting mature adult relationships. There’s evidence of this culture even in our viewing preferences.

“There’s an increasing number of adults who are watching children’s movies in the cinema,” says Furedi. “If you look at children’s TV channels in America, 25% of the viewers are adults rather than children.”

He does not agree that the modern world is far more difficult for young people to navigate.

“I think that what it is, is not that the world has become crueller, it’s just that we hold our children back from a very early age. When they’re 11, 12, 13 we don’t let them out on their own. When they’re 14, 15, we hover all over them and insulate them from real-life experience. We treat university students the way we used to treat school pupils, so I think it’s that type of cumulative effect of infantilisation which is responsible for this.”

September 26, 2013

Selling things by amping up the “numminess” factor

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 17:01

I think Ace is making a good point here … modern culture is being retuned to a younger, less adult-oriented default:

A moccachino, topped with lots of nummy whipped cream, is not a sophisticated taste. We emerge from the womb craving the sweetness of sugar, after all.

Again, it’s one thing to indulge in a treat. But it’s another thing to decide to simply revert to one’s childhood self.

Now when he was on this rant, I thought he was full of shit and just being annoyed because Being Annoyed is how Adam Carolla makes his rent.

He also, I’m sure, went off on his typical rant about adult men watching Super Hero Movies, which does in fact hurt my butt. And I’m sure he connected that to the New Nummy.


We are indeed becoming a more childlike people. We are more and more shirking the expected obligations of adulthood, such as marriage and procreation, and even more basically, we’re rejecting the obligation of adults to actually think, in terms of numbers, and of best outcomes, and so forth.

The national mode of thinking is now Nummy. “We” — and by we I mean Americans, not “we” meaning us here right now — increasingly think in terms of cute, and easy, and glib, and dumb, and fun.


Why, Yes, actually. Because having all of your trivial cultural preferences flattered by impersonal corporations at every turn is itself Very Nummy Indeed. All little girls want to be told that they’re the Best and Prettiest Little Girl there is, and all little boys want to be told they will play for the Yankees when they Get Big.

To have one’s head patted and cheeks pinched by Admiring Grown Ups at all possible times is the Nummiest Nummy Thing there is.


Now I have to caveat this: Prior to Tweener Girls becoming the default National Tastemakers, our national culture was determined by the tastes of 19 year old boys, per the Zanuck Postulate.*

So this isn’t just a sexist thing. It’s about losing at least those seven years of maturation, too.

We are drowning in nostalgia and crushing debt and we can’t see the latter because we’ve checked out into our Happy Place to chase the former.

I can’t blame the White House or BuzzFeed for these trends. They’re pushers, but they didn’t create the sad addiction. This stuff works in America.

But why? Why does it work?

When did we all check out of adulthood to revert to tweenerhood? And when did we stop thinking that might be a little indulgent and shameful?

June 15, 2013

Ontario’s abusive relationship with sex ed

Filed under: Cancon, Health, Media — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:31

In Maclean’s, Emma Teitel talks about the failure of Ontario’s sex-ed classes to keep up with the times:

In the fifth grade, my friends and I had a special afternoon tradition. When school let out at 3:30, we would walk to Katherine’s house (a pseudonym), raid her fridge, go upstairs to her bedroom, lock the door and watch Internet pornography. Where were Katherine’s parents? They were at work. But it wouldn’t have mattered. When they were around, we just turned off the sound, or read erotic literature on a website called Kristen Archives. This is how we gained the indispensable knowledge that some women like to be ravished by farmhands, and others, by farm animals. The year was 1999. We had not yet sat through our first sex-ed class, but when we did, almost two years later, it was spectacularly disappointing. We had seen it all, and now we were shading in a diagram of the vas deferens.

Since our special after-school tradition came to an end over a decade ago, Friendster, Myspace, Facebook, Flickr, Formspring, Instagram and Twitter have emerged. But against all logic, nothing has changed in the sex-ed business. Our century is literally on the cusp of puberty, and yet despite these enormous social and technological changes, we remain largely incapable of giving kids the resources they need to deal with their own puberty. I’m talking here, specifically, about the province of Ontario. As you read this, kids from Sarnia to Kingston — kids who, on average, have viewed Internet porn by age 11 — are probably shading in the exact same vas deferens diagram I did. There’s nothing wrong with the vas deferens — or so I’m told — but surely there is more to sexual education in the 21st century than anatomy and colouring. Ontario currently boasts the most out-of-date sex-ed curriculum in Canada. It was last revised in 1998, which means sex ed was out of date when I took it.

[. . .]

Kids shouldn’t watch porn, but they do. We can’t un-invent the Internet. And we can’t reverse puberty. Case in point: In 2001, one of the most determined voyeurs in our special after-school group skipped sex ed at the request of her religious father — for whom an hour of vas deferens shading was just too much to bear. He told her to go to the library instead, which was fine with her. Who, after all, could resist an afternoon with the Kristen Archives?

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