Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

Potty of Gold

with 2 comments

It’s some ridiculous hour on Sunday morning, and I have Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier playing behind my head and tea right here next to me, but I’ve had so little sleep that I’m annoyed, and the chocolate–did I mention that the chocolate came?–well, I’m old enough so that I can’t eat that for breakfast.

Although it’s an idea.

Last time I checked in, I was complaining–I think–about the infantilization of American adults, and using as an example the number of cultural productions (there’s a term for you), like books at movies, that are actually for children but sold to adults.  This certainly includes the Harry Potter series, which was written specifically for children, but also lots of other things–The Princess and the Frog, Shrek, and dozen of other children’s movies that are marketed aggressively to adults.

I was then met by the, yes-but-it’s-all-taste thing, and who’s to say what’s for children and infantilist, etc.  And I don’t accept that sort of reasoning about art for a second, but yesterday, something occurred to me.

I’ve got a much better example of what I think of as the infantilization of adults than kid’s movies and books marketed to, and bought by, adults.

I’ve got poop.

I was going to use the s word, but it occurred to me that poop got the problem across much better.

To be specific here–I can’t count anymore the number of light comedies that have relied for at least some of their laughs on jokes about people taking a dump, as they used to say in the Fifties.

The worst offender in this category was a Jennifer Anniston movie of a couple of years ago called Along Came Polly, but it was by no means the only offender.  There’s Big Momma’s House, for instance, and the new Death at a Funeral, and  Goldmember, and I could go on and on and on forever.

This is the sort of humor that used to be restricted almost exclusively to junior-high-school-age boys, the very essence of what girls of my generation turned up their noses at as “immature.” 

I don’t go to actual theaters to see actual movies much these days, but I have a positive policy against going to see comedies until I can find out from somebody that I’m not going to be subjected to supposedly risible shit.

References to, jokes about, and graphic depictions of people in bathrooms committing number two have become practically standard in a certain kind of movie and a wider range of television shows. 

And yes, that’s not just “taste.”  That’s immaturity or worse, the kind of thing one does when one hasn’t developed enough to exhibit actual humor.

That so many people find this funny these days–when they wouldn’t have fifty years ago–that this sort of thing is a selling point for at least some movies, says a lot about who we are and hat we’re like at the start of the 21st century.

But I don’t think consumer capitalism is causing it.

And yes, I’ll get to the enabling eventually.

I really am incredibly tired.

Written by janeh

April 25th, 2010 at 5:43 am

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses to 'Potty of Gold'

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  1. The last mass-market comedy movie I saw in a theatre was something about weddings – no, not the Greek wedding one you dislike so much, but something about wedding guests – and I was bored to tears. I don’t remember any potty jokes, but I do remember the protagonistgs just did the same rude thing – crashing weddings – over and over again, and I didn’t find it terribly amusing the first time. And then, of course, the hero had a sudden conversion and persuaded the heroine, who didn’t appear mentally incompetant, that he was a reformed character.

    All my favourite comedies are old enough I never saw them first time around, except for the Air Farce, a Canadian show, back when it was still on radio. And I am definitely not amused by potty humour, or adults behaving childishly. Stupidity, I can enjoy – I adore Wodehouse, and of course Wooster is an idiot. I watched the DVDs of Wooster and Jeeves (or was it Jeeves and Wooster?) with Stephen Fry and the guy in ‘House’ recently, and although I enjoyed most of the episodes, in some of them the restraint of the originals was lost, as in the one where all the characters ended up on an ocean liner, so Jeeves and Wooster jumped overboard and rowed around the world back to London.

    The apparant need to go one step further to try to get a laugh, when Wodehouse himself managed it within narrower confines may simply result from less talent, or less confidence in the reviser’s talent. Maybe depending on bathroom jokes is something similar; a desperate attempt for attention. I don’t think for a minute that it’s simply an attempt to epater la bourgeoisie or engage in transgressive art or whatever because nothing much shocks the the theatre-goer today. I think it’s just an attempt to attract attention from the younger set who are mostly the ones who go to movies.

    And they show vomiting nowadays, too. I meant, I don’t really need to see it; I know what it looks like, and I do get the idea from the camera simply turning away as the actor becomes overcome with nausea.


    25 Apr 10 at 6:28 am

  2. Yeah. I’ve seen it myself. It’s hard to miss, after all. But I’d thought of it as “cruder” rather than “infantilized.” I knew adults who spoke like that, and had a sense of humor on that level, 40 years ago, but they weren’t directing movies, but doing unskilled labor. Or you could go to the upper crust liberals and be treated to the “free speech” movement and Lenny Bruce.
    You could do the same thing with illegitimate births, or most sexual hi-jinx for that matter.

    And this does affect TV and movies in another way. After you reach a certain level or profanity and excremental crudeness, the audience which doesn’t care for these things stops coming back to see what you’re doing now. Mom and Dad walked out of NEW YORK, NEW YORK for crudity of language, and Dad had been a sailor. They haven’t been inside a theater since, and they’re of a generation which used to go every week.

    I’d seen both as the decline in cultural influence of the middle class. Where 40 or 50 years ago the millionaire and the unskilled laborer accepted middle class values, now it’s to some degree the other way around.

    I’ll admit it limits my choices down at the DVD rack, but I have no idea how to reverse it.


    25 Apr 10 at 6:39 am

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