‘Coming of Age’

November 28, 2012

At National Review Online, one Betsy Woodruff has an interesting discussion of two authors of the current popular culture, Judd Apatow and Lena Dunham.

Apatow and Dunham have a lot in common . . . .

But there’s an important difference between Apatow’s work and Dunham’s, and that is that Apatow tells and re-tells stories of growing up, while Dunham shows a group of women who stubbornly refuse to do so. Apatow shows characters learning the importance of responsibility and morality, while Dunham’s characters are largely devoid of the former and uninterested in the latter.

She warns that if this is our culture, it’s not a good sign for our culture.

That’s because if Dunham’s vision is prophetic — if it’s helping to forward a larger cultural shift, rather than just depicting a self-contained subgroup — then I think it’s safe to say it’s all over for us.

As I think she knows, she’s joking, but also not—you know?

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2 Responses to “‘Coming of Age’”


  1. I have two favorite lines from that article.

    First: The “ache of growing up.”

    We have made it very easy to avoid that ache, and at the same time, we have probably made the ache even greater, because we’ve all been fooled. We’ve been fooled into expecting that adulthood would look like college, or sometimes even like high school. We’ve been fooled into thinking we don’t grow older each year. We’ve been fooled into waiting for “the one” to come around, some time, maybe when we’re thirty. We’ve been fooled into expecting that all jobs line up directly with someone’s dreams. So deciding to grow up means surrendering the feeling of infinite possibility, marrying some one person for reasons the movies don’t talk about (but that our grandparents sure do!), shrinking your world substantially before you can re-build it upon an adult foundation. None of that seems fun. And maybe it is hard to imagine that the other side of it is better. (It really seems to be better, though, if you talk to people who have made the jump.)

    Second: She writes that the show is an “examination of a group of people who stubbornly refuse to grow up and are lucky enough to be able to pull it off.”

    These days, it is not so hard to be lucky that way. Most prolonged adolescence doesn’t look like that show. It looks like an unmarried thirty-year-old trying to find a place for himself among people younger than he is. He isn’t immoral. But having moved all the way through what they call “young adulthood”, he has nowhere else to go, and hasn’t quite yet let go of the lifestyle he had in college, before even the long years of stalling in “young adulthood”. He has refused to grow up. But will he even notice the problem? Can’t he fill his life with distractions? Can’t he rationalize that he “just hasn’t found some one”? Doesn’t he have the freedom to treat his most important relationships as if they were iphone apps or playthings? Can’t he justify “fazing out” nearly anyone or anything? And won’t it all feel like things are fine–or good enough–until it is too late? It’s been provisional living for years, but provisional fills a gap! A lot of people “pull it off”! And they are caught totally by surprise when it is finally too late, because they were able to pull it off for so long.


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