Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, June 05, 2013
What is adult?

Stubborn has a great post up about Adult Themes. He says: "It seems that anything that’s considered “not appropriate for children,” must, then, be “adult themed,” but I’d like to propose a different opinion. Truly adult themed stories and games are not focused on sex and violence, but instead on themes that can best be appreciated and understood by adults, themes about selflessness, parenthood, money struggles, and so forth.".

Me, I have a slightly different opinion: For me the difference between adult and immature behavior has a lot to do with dealing with the consequences. Sex or violence are not inherently adult or immature themes, but when they are depicted as having no consequences, that description is immature. Sex and violence in games often follows that pattern. But there are books and movies that deal in a very adult way with the consequences of sex or violence. In fact most recognized literary works are about the consequences of sex and/or violence. Remove all sex and violence from let's say Shakespeare, and there is nothing left. But by focusing on the consequences instead the act itself you get something adult instead of immature.

I think it's useful to have a definition you can look at and immediately know that it's ok for a 10 year old to see, by most every standard. Everything else you need to screen and apply your own standard. Kid-safe vs not kid-safe.

On that scale, simple consequence-free sex and violence is not kid-safe. I'd say that it is even more not kid-safe than sex/violence that DOES have consequences. So I think your proposed consequences-based scale would not be a very good way to decide how kid-safe something is, as it puts the kid-safe and the immature stuff next to each other, when that's what I want to be farthest apart.

Also, there are some shockingly adult themes in some kids movies. I watched Nightmare before Christmas recently and that's basically about a guy who hates his life/job and aspires to something beautiful and happy, but his own horrid nature corrupts everything and ruins it all. It ends with him accepting that he can never have anything better or more beautiful, but that's ok because he gets a girlfriend. o.O

I like your definition, too, and I think it fits with my point about "adult" themed stories being valuable to young adults; learning that actions have consequences is a huge lesson for kids.

Hmmm, a Shakespeare with no sex or violence... hold on... How about Timon of Athens? It's mostly about the perils of generosity in a dishonest climate. There's a teensy bit of violence at the end (someone shows up with an army to burn down all of Athens... so only a tiny bit, right?), but that's just Will's lazy writing; the ending in which the generous dude is remembered and the dishonest jerks punished could have easily been achieved in a more believable way that does not involve raising an army to burn down a city, but he had to give his paying customers a spectacle.

I mean Shakespeare is such an easy target; all the comedies have sex, all the tragedies have violence, and all the histories have to do with war or the consequences thereof, so that's a bit cherry-pickish, after all. (;

It may be easier to identify Shakespeare plays that have sex and violence in the same scene: Hamlet and Othello come to mind immediately. Probably Titus Andronicus, though I don't remember any specific scenes. Spoiler Alert: they eat people in that one too, if memory serves!

Thanks for the link, and nice continuation of the conversation!

Definitely agreed!!!!!

Regarding Nightmare, hey, you're forgetting that Jack also learns that there is no better or beautiful, just different, so he fulfills his role :)
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