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What’s the matter with men? We don’t encourage them to grow up, that’s what.

September 23, 2010

What? Why's that funny? I don't get it....

I’m looking at this reasonably amusing feature, “The 20 Worst Children’s Book Covers,” at, but I keep getting distracted by pop-ups for things like “The Hottest Girls!” or “The Best MMA Coverage!”, which leads me to conclude that horny lad mags may not be the most reliable place to go for advice on children’s lit.

I mean, good Lord: “The 20 Hottest Girls in Jeans and a Bra!” “Poker News: In the Octagon!” “Bikini Bike Wash with Lucy Pinder!” “Family Guy Characters in Real Life!” “Christine O’Donnell’s Craziest Moments!” Exclamation points added to denote my personal amazement.

I stumbled across this stuff by accident, in search of some high-minded literary news to write about. But it arrested my attention because of the light it sheds on a long article in the current issue of Newsweek that examines the question “What’s the matter with men?”

I say five minutes on will supply the answer.

This is what young men are interested in? Soft porn? Games of chance? Manufactured gladiatorial contests? “Humor” so base and smug and stupid it’s an insult to the word “adolescent?”

Just take a look at this comedy video, “CNN Reporter or Porn Star?” in which three intolerably superior young dolts ask random people on a city street just that question: Kitty Pilgrim, porn star or CNN reporter?

At first I wondered why the purveyors of such swill thought their audience would be interested in children’s books, even as an object of mockery. But after a quick tour of the site, I came to two conclusions:

1. Both the creators and consumers of this stuff probably read at about the second grade level.

2. Pre-teen boys of all ages are highly amused by bodily functions, which is also the subject of a number of the children’s books held up for our amusement.

I find I do have to give writer Luke Koz credit for a pungent witticism here and there. Of Where’s the Poop?, he observes, “I have a feeling they’ve given away the ending with this one.” The Moose with Loose Poop, by Charlotte Cowan, M.D.: “Dear Charlotte Cowan, M.D. Why did you do this to me? Sincerely, Everyone on Earth.”

And in response to a book called I Wish Daddy Didn’t Drink So Much, he writes: “Me, too, kid. Me, too.”

As the parent of three children, I can say from personal experience that books that seem tasteless or risible to adults appeal to children in ways that we cannot fathom. Poop books, believe it or not, actually help children navigate the dread potty training stage.

Otherwise, online atrocities like or print mags like Maxim and it’s many imitators should shock no one. They are what we get after 30 years of flattering 14 year old boys into thinking they are the acme of creation, the apex of human evolution, and making it cool to remain ignorant, immature and mindlessly libidinal.

And why have we done this? For the profit of adults.

Yeah, I’m talking about you, John Landis. MTV. Judd Apatow. Will Ferrell. Sascha Baron Cohen. I was a young male when I saw Animal House for the first time, and I laughed like everybody else. But it made me nervous — where will this end? I wondered. Now we know.

I’m aware I’ve never seemed such a fogey and a geezer as I do in this post. Back to our regular literary programming tomorrow. But first: Time was, sonny, maturity and learning and responsibility were what kids were taught to acquire, as early as possible.

Can we regain that? Probably not — too much money to be made in stupid.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 23, 2010 9:04 pm

    You’re always good, Chauncey, but this time you’ve outdone yourself in nailing the behaviorists and the bonehead media who feed this infantile pabulum to the perpetually stupid who want to stay babies because the world is too much with us and you have to think really hard to make it through even one day without being overwhelmed. It’s always been that way. The sideshow is such a welcome distraction from the nasty adult world out there waiting to test your mettle. And, of course, it’s worth a fortune to those who give the performance, like Wormwood, wormwood. “You must go on.” “I can’t go on. I’ll go on.”

    Lordy, I wouldn’t be a 20 or 30 something for a million dollars these days.

    Well, maybe a million, but that’s the bottom line. I got me principles.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      September 23, 2010 10:36 pm

      Thanks, Duff. I wouldn’t mind being 20 or 30 if I could keep my brain and experiences….but otherwise, I’m with you. The cultural decks are stacked against the always difficult project of finding a way to live an authentic and worthwhile adult life.

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