Tag Archives: The New Yorker

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.

Boy wrongfully imprisoned for three years takes his own life

Tragic news out of New York.

Kalief Browder, the young man profiled in the article excerpted below, killed himself.

To understand what a waste this was, you should first read Jennifer Gonnerman’s star reporting on the issue from her New Yorker article last October: KAliefBrowderScreencap

In the early hours of Saturday, May 15, 2010, ten days before his seventeenth birthday, Kalief Browder and a friend were returning home from a party in the Belmont section of the Bronx. They walked along Arthur Avenue, the main street of Little Italy, past bakeries and cafés with their metal shutters pulled down for the night. As they passed East 186th Street, Browder saw a police car driving toward them. More squad cars arrived, and soon Browder and his friend found themselves squinting in the glare of a police spotlight. An officer said that a man had just reported that they had robbed him. “I didn’t rob anybody,” Browder replied. “You can check my pockets.”

The officers searched him and his friend but found nothing. As Browder recalls, one of the officers walked back to his car, where the alleged victim was, and returned with a new story: the man said that they had robbed him not that night but two weeks earlier. The police handcuffed the teens and pressed them into the back of a squad car. “What am I being charged for?” Browder asked. “I didn’t do anything!” He remembers an officer telling them, “We’re just going to take you to the precinct. Most likely you can go home.”

He would spend the next three years in jail until the charges were eventually dismissed.

They stole his teen years from him. That’s a time he could never do over.

Guards beat him. Other prisoners abused him.

And, as happens so many times with so many others, his time in prison — including long stays in solitary confinement — played tricks with his head that either created or exacerbated mental illness.

A Democracy Now! video on his death and life can be found at the link below, during which they interview Gonnerman.

The video below is a news clip from the day he was released.

An update: Gonnerman has a piece on Browder’s death that is so sad as to almost be unreadable. Yet she fills in some important details. Last link below.

Via: Before the Law: A boy was accused of taking a backpack. The courts took the next three years of his life | The New Yorker

Via: Traumatized by 3 Years at Rikers Without Charge, Ex-Teen Prisoner Kalief Browder Commits Suicide| Democracy Now

NEW: Kalief Browder, 1993–2015|The New Yorker