Cowboy Bebop, Elf, and a Fumikage Tokoyami cosplayer.

Joy Is Enough

Hello and welcome back to My Geekology! I’m Ash and today we are going to talk about joy! We are going to talk about age ranges and genres of media and look at criticism people bring to those who they think have “aged out” and illustrate how those arguments are often rooted in judgment. We hope you enjoy it and always pursue the things that bring light to your life!

Written For Children

Every year around the holidays I read the same book. Mary Pope Osbourne’s Magic Tree House: Christmas in Camelot. It is a vehicle of joy and adventure and makes me feel like the holiday season has begun in earnest. It is a book that also made me want to become a writer. I have gifted the illustrated versions to friends over the years in the hope it could bring them a similar joy, or at least remind them they are thought of. This year I came across an article from 2014 published in Slate. In this article, Ruth Graham argues that adult readers should “Read whatever you want. But you should feel embarrassed when what you’re reading was written for children.” This obviously struck me and a part of me worried about how my literary gifts were being taken and if that mentality was universal.

Christmas in Camelot by Mary Pope Osborne.

The conversation around age ranges and media participation can be particularly caustic. Texas and Florida are currently leading the charge in book banning currently and there has been a toxic dialogue around adults reading young adult literature for some time. Beyond the world of literature, the conversation of “nerd culture” has been under a similar critical microscope for decades. People have had their strong opinions on cosplay culture, adults who game, and adults who like to take trips to Disney (categorized as “Disney adults”). My goal in this article is to, hopefully, remind you that when someone says you should not be reading a book or watching a movie, or making a cosplay, that actually has very little to do with you and has a lot more to do with them and their worldview that has been shaped by a number of things.

Everything Requires Context

“Computer animation is one way to liberate people from their circumstantial gravity, and it is one way to give them mental freedom.”

               -Cai Guo-Qiang

Something that is important to understand is that everything, especially cultural contributions (art, music, etc.) requires a corresponding cultural context. The reason that matters is that not every country or even every person will view things in the same light due to their background and greater cultural surroundings. One of the greatest victims of this is animation. In places, most notably Japan, animation is not viewed as something that has cultural age brackets around it. However, in the United States animation is often viewed as a medium for children’s stories.

Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name (2016).
Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name (2016)

This has likely come at the cost of beautiful art. Japan, meanwhile, has produced absolutely incredible films like Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name (2016) and the array of outstanding works by Hayao Miyasaki. In addition, without the self-imposed cultural restriction, they have created influential genre-bending works like Cowboy Bebop (2001) and Satoshi Kon’s psychological thriller/ drama Paranoia Agent (2005). The point is that our views on something (in this case animation) could have nothing to do with us, and everything to do with what we are taught to think. In order to open your heart, it helps to open your mind.

Good Storytelling Breaks Boundaries

“A good story transcends boundaries, breaks barriers, and opens doors.”

                                    -Blake Mycoskie

A simple answer as to why people connect to these stories (regardless of age) is simply, great stories do not care how old you are. Elf (2003) is a children’s movie, but its spirit is one so many people revel in around the holidays. The newer Star Wars films are for children, but they have messages about real-world perversions of power. These stories whether wide-reaching like Star Wars films or small-scale love stories are vehicles of the human experience. It is ultimately weird to disqualify groups of people who are marrying and settling from stories about love. It is ultimately weird to disqualify people who may be becoming career politicians from stories about a government’s interactions with populations across a galaxy. We do not even have to get that deep. We are people living life which can often be difficult. Finding something you connect with, that you can put a piece of your heart into, is one of the best things that can happen.

The Elf movie released in 2003.
Elf (2003)

In an article published by Bookish Santa, it is argued that “Children’s books have no boundaries…These books will keep your creative side active and will open your mind to endless possibilities.” That sounds pretty cool to me. Jane Austen in her influential novel, Pride and Prejudice, instructed the following: “give a loose rein to your fancy, indulge your imagination in every possible flight which the subject will afford.” These books, which some close themselves off to for one reason or another, could help you break the barriers we talked about earlier. That’s pretty interesting and pretty cool.

It Is Your Right to Pursue Joy

“A flower blossoms for its own joy”

                                  -Oscar Wilde

Joy is worth it. Joy is the currency of life. It is a beautiful gift that can make so much of the stress, pain, and work that comes along with our journey worth enduring. Things like reading, watching movies, and cosplaying only enhance. That is the beauty of them. They hurt no one, but they enhance our lives by giving us excitement, heightening our imaginations, and possibly most importantly, they give us a community. The stories we take in and sometimes live through, become a part of ourselves. We often feel we have to share them with others, and hopefully, they make others feel the way they made us feel. I think that is pretty extraordinary. It is also harmless. You should not be embarrassed. You should feel happy. You do not have to justify carrying those stories in your heart, joy is enough. It will always be.

Thank you for coming on this journey as we explored this topic! We hope you had fun, and we’ll see you here next time at My Geekology!