Should Fandoms Have an Age Limit?

Or, perhaps a more fitting question – can you be too old to be a fan of something?

Here at FWHQ, as you may have noticed, we love our Disney and our Dreamworks and other ‘children’s media’ so much that we have a separate GUST (Grown-Ups Should Try, if you’ve been living under a rock) review every issue. But even with these, we take a ‘children’s’ show or book or movie and say “Okay, it’s aimed at children, but these are all the reasons adults might like it.” Often these things are different to what the children will get out of it – maybe it’s the adult humour Disney are so fond of using, or maybe it’s the scenery or the special effects.
But sometimes that’s not it.

Sometimes, when I’m channel-surfing, I come across something like Blue’s Clues. Nine times out of ten, I stop channel-surfing and continue watching. It might come as a surprise to you, but I’m not doing that for the scenery or the adult humour.

Now, in this case, the word ‘fan’ is probably too strong. Looking back to one of our earliest articles about the difference between a fan and a viewer, in this case, I’m a viewer.
I’m not saying I run off and write fanfiction about Blue and Magenta, or that I spend ages producing a theory about how exactly they jump into that little painting, or that I have a headcanon that Mr Salt and Mrs Pepper were married by Reverend Vinegar. Although they probably were.

So maybe the initial question shouldn’t be ‘can you be too old to be a fan of something’ but ‘can you be too old to enjoy children’s media?’ My dissertation tutor would be very proud of me. That’s twice I’ve refined the question. And the basic answer to the question, in my opinion, is yes. You can be too old for children’s media… but that isn’t dictated by society. Don’t get me wrong – society likes to think it is, but it isn’t.

To illustrate this, allow me to resort to a popular example that has circulated the internet on pretty much every social media site out there. If you were to show a Disney movie to a primary or elementary class, assuming they were under ten, most would be bouncing off the walls with excitement. I say ‘most’, because of course it might be a movie that one child doesn’t like, or there might be a child or children that don’t like watching movies. I’m like that – it’s brought ridicule and almost-panic attacks since I was nine. But I digress.

I’ve noticed ten seems to be the cut-off. Between ten and fifteen, or thereabouts, kids start becoming more aware of society’s expectations. They’re ‘not kids’ anymore, and they demonstrate this by reverting to a maturity equal to that of a three-year-old. These ‘adolescents’ simultaneously reject anything connected with their childhood and embrace anything they view as ‘grown-up’ whist at all times shunning any kind of responsibility whatsoever. Once again, I must reiterate that this is not the case for everyone. I am talking about the vocal majority. That’s ‘vocal’, not ‘vast’.

Since I’m not carrying out my dissertation research on the views and experiences of adolescents, I can’t state with absolute certainty that it is the majority. For all I know, the kids-that-aren’t-kids-anymore-but-sure-as-hell-act-like-it all really want to watch a Disney movie in class, but one or two popular kids start whining about how it’s for babies, and the rest decide to participate in something called ‘self-preservation’, otherwise entitled ‘go with the status quo and you won’t get socially slaughtered at school’. So, yes, the vocal majority decide that Disney movies are far too young for them. Pass fifteen, however, and you suddenly have a room full of young adults bouncing off the walls again, because ‘OMG Disney!’

It’s quite a bizarre state of affairs. The same example tends to also apply to colouring books, but I’m not quite sure of the connection. Unless they’re Disney colouring books. So why do we suddenly revert when we become adults? Again, without carrying out research, I can only hypothesise. My theories – because I do have two – are nostalgia and responsibility.

Nostalgia is obvious. Going back to my channel surfing, if I come across a children’s channel, I may find a show I used to watch.  My housemate, her boyfriend and I spent an evening last month discussing all the shows we used to watch as children, and looking up the theme songs on YouTube. You may have done this yourself, and we all say as one, “Oh, I remember that!” Those characters, dancing around your screens, were your first television friends. That book you just found under your bed was your favourite bed-time story for three years – in fact, if you ask you parents or grandparents or whoever used to read it, they can probably still recite it. It gives you the same warm fuzzy feeling you get when you talk about ‘real’ people you used to know and love.

Responsibility is a bit more obvious. We spend much of our adolescence trying to be adults – and, again, I use ‘we’ here lightly, because I spent much of mine clinging to my childhood for as long as possible. When we do become adults, we suddenly realise that being grown up isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I can’t help but think of the song ‘When I Grow Up’ from Matilda: The Musical, in which the children sing about  all the things they’ll be able to do when they’re adults – go to bed late, climb trees, eat all the sweets they like. As children, that is how we view adulthood, but the truth is we suddenly get landed with a lot of responsibility that many of us were never taught how to handle. Sure we can find the value of x in any given equation, but how exactly do you balance a budget? And, in times like these, it’s not uncommon for people to look for escape somewhere else. Some go running (I never did understand those people), some paint, some write, some curl up with a childhood favourite, or pop in a Disney movie. Because you don’t have to think, you don’t have to formulate theories or catch red herrings or wonder if it’s going to have a happy ending. You don’t have to any responsibility for your own entertainment.

However, I did say that you can be too old for children’s media. There may come a time for you – yes, you – when you’re watching a children’s television show or movie, and you think “This just doesn’t do it for me anymore. It’s too young for me, and it’s boring me now.” It may have already happened. And that’s okay. But there may come a time when you want that nostalgia or that lack of responsibility. And then, you might find that book, or that show, or that movie.

And no matter how long it’s been, they will always be there to welcome you home.

Roxanne Williams (is a big kid at heart)

This entry was posted in Issue Forty-Eight, Wildcards and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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