Perhaps one of the more interesting aspects of my generation, better known as the Millennials is that in some ways we haven’t completely put aside childish things. Comicbook superheroes dominate the box office. Disney’s Frozen is fast becoming one of the top ten highest grossing films. Even stories like Narnia, The Hobbit and Harry Potter continue to be popular with readers well past the age of 20. People of my age don’t even have a problem with watching cartoons on TV and will readily but them on DVD.
It didn’t always used to be that way. Once things of this nature were left behind. Comic books were tossed in the trash. Cartoons were outgrown. Books like The Hobbit and Narnia were resold for a dime at garage sales. They were, simply put “kids stuff.”
Even those who dared to dream up these worlds were looked down upon. CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien were scorned by fellow intellectuals for writing Narnia and The Hobbit as that was seen as beneath men of their intellectual prowess. Superman and Spider-man were rejected multiple times by their publishers as they were seen as silly. No one in America wanted to take a chance on Jim Henson’s Muppets. Disney had to fight to get his movies made. Star Wars and ET were passed on several times by studios as they were seen as stupid kid’s movies. Playing a superhero was seen as the death kneel of an actor’s career, like what George Reeves thought of playing Superman.
So what has changed about my generation? Why do we still cleave to childhood friends like Aslan, Harry Potter, E.T., Spider-Man, Luke Skywalker, Superman, Kermit the Frog, Mickey Mouse, Bilbo Baggins, and Disney movies? Shouldn’t we just worry about jobs, the economy, war, and what is going on in the world? Shouldn’t we grow up a bit?
I know I thought so once. There was a time in my life, where I thought myself too “grown up” for Luke Skywalker, E.T. , Spider-man, Superman, Aslan, Buzz Lightyear, Woody, Kermit the Frog, and Mickey Mouse and didn’t want anything to do with Bilbo. I just wanted to read a steady diet of “grown-up” Christian end-times fiction. Which was fine, but as the world grew darker around me, those old friends from childhood called me back. Not only did I meet Bilbo, but he introduced me to his nephew Frodo and his friends. While I still enjoyed my more grown up stories, the stories of childhood beckoned.
Much of it was because of the fact that like many in my generation, we were bombarded by the 24 hour news cycle. Even if we don’t have cable, our networks devote hours on end of chronicling the life and times of the most recent mass murderer to make headlines, filling us with more doom and despair. We are hardwired to our computers and can receive no end of bad news, ranging from war, to civil unrest to social injustice. To say nothing of our dismal job outlook as few of us our really in our dream job. We are forced at times to work mind numbing soul crushing jobs in an ever shrinking job market. It’s hard to escape that, especially when a nice vacation is pretty expensive.
These stories remind us of a time when we had an easy escape. If we had a bad day at school, we’d go home, do our homework, and then watch some cartoons to unwind. If nothing was on TV but bad news, we’d pick up a comic book or watch one of those silly Star Wars things or a Disney movie and escape for a bit. Then at the end of the day we’d nestle into our beds and hear a bedtime story. Sometimes this would be, yet again, a magical fantasy adventure0. Then when mom and dad left the room, we’d grab a flashlight pull the covers over and read about a superheroes latest exploits.
These were our stories as kids. Be they those “just one more minute” comics, a “cartoon break” from the daily grind, or a bedtime story, they were our ways of unwinding and relaxing. Now that we’re growing up, we still need that kind of release. We need to unwind a little and take our minds of the problems and cares of the world, not to forget about them entirely, but as to not allow them to dominate our lives.
Why did we keep going back to them? Sam Gamgee says it best in The Two Towers.
“It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it’s only a passing thing this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it’ll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something even if you were too small to understand why. But I think Mr. Frodo, I do understand, I know now folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding on to something…. That there’s some good in the world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.”
So thrill me at the exploits of Indiana Jones, Spider-Man, Superman or The Avengers. Take me to another galaxy with the Jedi or the crew of the USS Enterprise. Let me fly on a bike with E.T. Let’s simply walk into Mordor with Frodo or explore Narnia with Lucy Pevensie. Enchant me with Frozen, The Lion King, or Toy Story. Make me laugh with the Muppets or Mickey Mouse. Tell me stories of friendship, trust, loyalty, and bravery. Remind me that good will win in the end. Reassure me that love conquers all. Let me know that someone like me can make a difference in this dark world.
Because with 24 hours of bad news, I need to know those truths. It’s getting late, and I’m needing sleep. I can think of no better “friends” to help me find it. If nothing else, they’ll help me have some good dreams. Dreams of a better world, either in this one, or the world to come. Don’t worry, I’ll deal with the problems and concerns of the “real world” in the morning. These old friends of mine have already shown me how to handle the tough stuff.
As it was said in Disney’s Pinocchio….well I won’t say it…I’ll let some of my old friends say it for me…