Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The New Twenty

Upholding the family tradition of displaying the birthday bounty for the camera.

As of 5:43 this evening (Hawaii Standard Time), I am thirty years old. So why am I still smiling? Because I realized today that I simply needed to adjust my standard. See, I was a little worried about turning thirty because my entire life I've heard from old people who wish they could have stopped aging at 29, so I was under the impression that 29 is the pinnacle of human perfection, and then it's all downhill from there. And perhaps that was once the case, but things have changed. This is the twenty-first century. This is not your father's Oldsmobile. Don't believe me? I present as evidence examples from the two most important measuring sticks of American culture: hip-hop music and superhero comics.
  1. In the song "30 Something," rapper Jay-Z declared that "30's the new 20, nigga." And who can argue? Ten years ago, hip-hop was a young man's* game, and today we have people like Jay-Z, Wyclef Jean, Common, the Wu Tang Clan, who are all pushing forty, still putting out albums and being pretty successful. If these old men are still cool, then clearly I am too.
  2. For a good forty or fifty years, Batman and Superman were both generally considered to be 29 years old--the aforementioned pinnacle of human perfection. But by the time I started reading superhero comics in the nineties, that age had been pushed up to 33. Batman's young ward, Robin, was by then in his early twenties, so it simply didn't make sense for his surrogate father to still be 29. In current comics, these brightly-clad ideals of manhood seem to be in their mid-to-late thirties. A product of ever-growing backstories that need to fit in chronologically, but also an acknowledgment that the readership is aging. A couple decades ago, the prevailing logic was that comic book readers wouldn't want to read about protagonists old enough to be their fathers, but the fact now is that most comic book readers are in their twenties and thirties, so it's a non-issue. Finally these men can age. By the time I catch up to Batman and Superman, they'll be at least forty. And if they can still look good in tights, then by golly, so can I!


In conclusion, I may be thirty, but I am still younger than Batman and Jay-Z. Any questions?

*No, I'm not ignoring women, just acknowledging that hip-hop for the most part does.