The Alabaster Sock

We Will Fight the Threat with Fighting

Posted by Matt on February 21, 2010

The Worst Words #1

Mature

This is a horse that has been beaten dead for many a year, but I feel like giving my take on it, even if it isn’t significantly different from others’.

‘Mature’ is one of those words that should be banned from all sources of nerd information until they can prove that they actually know what it means. ‘Maturity’ in nerd media has become a joke, and it’s all because of the overuse and misuse of the term since nerd media really began.

Real maturity indicates many things. It means you have embraced the responsibilities associated with adulthood. It means you can think rationally, you can empathize with others, you exit the black and white morality of childhood, you realize that life is both good and bad. You can see, then, why most nerds have no idea what maturity really is.

But they know it must be important, because they see intelligent people using it (despite the fact that they always talk about how much they hate those intelligent people, they want to look smart too, so they also emulate them). What happened, though, is they looked at what was being described by others as ‘mature’ and got the wrong idea about them. For them, ‘maturity’ meant the violence, the dark storylines, the sex…you know all that. And thus started the ‘grim n gritty’ trend that has mostly been associated with comic books, and most forms of entertainment in the nerd sphere.

The comic book connection is a strange one. Most people trace the 90s (and even today’s) grim n gritty trend back to the 80s, with the success of Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns, both of which were darker, more violent take on a prior to that kid-oriented genre. There was darkness and death before in mainstream superheroes (see most of Uncanny X-Men, a comic that honestly surprises me was really that popular with the youth set back in those days, considering its soap opera melodrama), but not only were these REALLY dark and violent, but they were also critically acclaimed. But they were critically acclaimed for their ideas, their satire, their take on the genre as a whole (DKR a little less so on all accounts; it’s still pretty good, but I’d say Frank Miller has his own maturity issues). But what did a lot of the fans, and even the companies who produced those comics, think of them? They were dark, violent, and had nudity and swears and stuff, and that’s what makes them mature and important! And that is what they’ve been basing their reading/writing on for the past twenty years.

Although not all forms of entertainment have such a clearcut origin, the effect is the same. Not only was maturity debased in the minds of the many, but its debasement meant that nerds who thought themselves the arbiters of good taste began to use the term to justify their current obsessions with things they really shouldn’t be taking part in (mostly cartoons), to say that they are ‘mature’ as well. I’ve seen the Wikipedia entries for shows like Darkwing Duck describe aspects of the show as ‘mature’ because they may not gloss over death or have ‘themes’, which is ridiculous, and I’m sure the creators of those shows would agree. This misuse of the term is very popular among nostalgic and anime nerds.

That, of course, is one extreme. The more common abuse of the term is when it is applied to ultra-violent pieces of juvenile junk, especially in the worlds of video games and comics. Everything from GTA to Metal Gear Solid is called mature, even when they most certainly are (in the case of MGS, many mistake pretentiousness for actual maturity). While video game media has evolved over the years, and for the most part we no longer need to worry about them calling Gears of War a ‘mature’ in ways other than its ESRB rating, it still ends up being on the negative end of usage. I cringe every time I see some blog call (or dumb major website) for Zelda to become more ‘dark and mature’. But at least they’re making progress, right?

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