Posted on August 13, 2019
by Steve Janowick
I was exhausted.
I crossed over the Maryland line and could finally make out a Baltimore radio station that was semi-audible. I heard the laughter and banter through the dissipating static and knew I was getting close to home now. Perfect timing too, because I really needed a good jolt of cheeky irreverence to lighten my mental state after the arduous overnight trip I just endured – some quality adult humor – and although I wasn’t familiar with them, these three morning-show cats were just the ticket it seemed.
I caught them in the middle of a movie review shtick of sorts. I missed the title of the flick they were discussing, but I was sure it had to be something fantastic, because they were giving it glowing reviews, using words like mind-blowing and riveting and spectacle and a must see. Maybe it was a new Scorsese gangster film I wasn’t aware of. Or maybe that new epic WW2 drama that had just been released.
After all, by the sound of their voices, all three of these radio personalities were in their 40’s. They were grown men with kids and mortgages and receding hairlines. They were a little long in the tooth. Hardened a bit. Jaded a bit, like middle-aged men should be.
So, surely, this adoration and giddiness could only be for a movie that they could relate to as 40-year old men, right? A movie that played to their propensities as men who’ve lived a little and seen a thing or two. A hard-boiled, gritty drama that somehow paralleled the realities in their own lives…right?
The movie these three men were fawning over was Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Yea, that’s right. A computer-animated fantasy film, a feature-length cartoon basically, about a teen mutant crime fighter, and all his other spider friends from different dimensions, taking on a bunch of fantastical, quirky bad guys. Certainly, a tried and true premise, and with the technological advancements in CGI, probably visually stunning as well-to teenagers for God’s sake! Not three grown-ass 40-year old men!
It’d be one thing to accompany your kid and enjoy it through his/her eyes, to vicariously experience it through his/her kid-like sensibilities. That would actually be really cool. But that’s not what these three did. They, and millions of other man-children around the world, went to experience it for themselves! They sat in darkened theaters and watched a bunch of cartoon kids do and say a bunch of cartoon kid stuff-and they enjoyed the hell out of it – to the tune of almost $400 million in ticket sales.
Maybe I’m just jaded. Maybe I’m just a relic-an old man. But I don’t see how anything to do with a group of animated, politically correct, cookie-cutter, PG rated teenagers could be stimulating, or entertaining in the least, to a grown man. It goes against the natural course of his evolution. He’s not supposed to get emotionally invested in teenage cartoon characters. His brain is not hard-wired to be spurred-on by childish impetuses.
But that’s where he is…The 40-year old man of today.
Hell, I could go on a novel-length diatribe about what I believe to be the sociological, and even political, reasons for this subconscious yearning and desire for many adult men to maintain this sort of odd, perpetual adolescence in their lives, but I frankly don’t have the mental wherewithal to be in my own head at this moment. Because this whole thing is very weird and confusing to me.
Try to envision your grizzled grandfather at forty. Do you see those old, black and white photos of him in your head? Of that hardened, rough-around-the-edges, whiskey swilling, man’s man who fought in a world war and who rebuilt engines in his spare time? Do you see him clearly in your mind’s eye? Okay, good. Now, picture him in a haze of cigar smoke, sitting around a poker table with all his barroom, veteran buddies gushing like schoolboys over the latest teen cartoon movie they just saw. Can’t do it, huh? I know you can’t, because there ain’t no way in holy hell that would have happened.
And that’s where he was…The 40-year old man of yesteryear.
As I finally pulled up to my house, I overheard the most outspoken of the three radio personalities conclude the bit with some buffoonery about his anticipation and excitement for the next Transformers movie coming out. He even proudly gushed about the beloved Transformers figurine collection he had amassed through the years. Opined about his video game obsession, his skinny jeans and his preferred skateboard wheels
I heard enough.
I turned the radio off and made my way inside, shaking my head in disbelieve the entire time. And as I settled in to go to sleep, I felt the urge to pop in my DVD of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly to accompany me into unconsciousness. And right before drifting off, I could have sworn Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name took a puff off his cigarillo, grinned a squinty grin from the side of his mouth and then…put a slug of lead into teenage Spider-Man and all his annoying, hipster, teenage Spider-Man friends!
…It was a very restful, and very satisfying, sleep.
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