Tag Archives: King Ferdinand I

The New Yorker looks at “large adult sons”

This article in The New Yorker looking at the internet meme of “large adult sons” is both well-written and engaging. But it also left me questioning: what’s the point?

Two excerpts from magazine contributor Jia Tolentino‘s article: 

One of history’s most disastrous adult sons, King Ferdinand I of Austria is said to be best remembered for his command to his cook: when told he could not have apricot dumplings because apricots were out of season, he said “I am the Emperor, and I want dumplings!”

This seems to be roughly when the large-son meme went more or less mainstream. It had been germinating in arcane corners of the Internet for a couple of years by then. In 2012, the Twitter user @MuscularSon, who eventually deleted his account, started tweeting in character as a beleaguered father of several mythically rowdy boys. “i cant control my enormous nerd sons. they force me to cosplay as a police box from Dr Who and take turns paintballing my enormous nude torso,” he wrote. And later, “my two awful big sons got into the 20 quarts of hummus i have and now their heading toward The City.” In November, 2013, @dril, the ur-account for this genre of absurdist online humor, tweeted, “i have trained my two fat identical sons to sit outside of my office and protect my brain from mindfreaks by meditating intensely.” In 2014, he tweeted, “please pray for my sons Thursten and Gorse, who have just glued themselves to a curtain.” By then, the image—a tornado of havoc around a couple of big, rambunctious sons—had somehow solidified as a comic trope.

And: 

The large-adult-son meme takes wing from the idea that men overcompensate when they are humiliated, and that a primary source of this humiliation is interdependence—sons act out when they are defined by their fathers, and fathers are disgraced by the oafish flailing of their sons. But it’s memes all the way down with this Administration: Trump, the father of the large adult son of the summer, is himself, clearly, a large adult son. He is the loudmouthed, mischievous, and disorderly child of a presiding father. He loves to get behind the wheel of a truck and pose for the cameras like an important birthday boy. The Web site Gossip Cop recently ran an earnest post headlined “Donald Trump Does not Wear ‘Adult Diapers,’ Despite Speculation.” These are strange times we live in. The seas are warming, the summer is ending; each day lasts a century, and we are everywhere ruled by large adult sons.

It’s all well done and readable, and sometimes the art of journalism (and opposed to the craft practiced by hard news reporters) is simply to chronicle something in a truthful and informative way.

Yet after reading this I was wishing  Tolentino had acknowledged that  what is different is that now these sorts of self-centered, self-serving and puerile behaviors are becoming so commonplace. And that is where their biggest danger lies: they are beginning to normalize behavior that was once thought uncommon and boorish.

I hesitate to use the alarmist “what abou the children?” line because it has been used so often to excuse bigotry. But I think it is useful now.

What about the children who could once look up to the office of the presidency? What are we telling them when an office that was once, sometimes grudgingly, seen as the Leader Of The Free World, is forevermore seen as up for grabs by people whose only interest seems to be their self-interests?

And what are we telling them when the leaders of our country — and say what you will about Johnson, Reagan, Clinton and the Bushes, but at least they knew when to act presidential in public– no longer even care to act as if they presidency should be above certain levels of untruth and pettiness?

Those are the important questions about this internet meme unaddressed by the article.