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The Fear of Turning Lame

In my rush to get "I Need a Job" published and to sort out a project pipeline to make sure I don't slack off, I keep running into the same mental block.  It usually comes up via the same offhanded comment either online or in person:

"You know, [insert famous person here] did all their best work in their twenties."

The idea that aging = crappier work is a universal one and certainly not confined to the area of creative arts.  When we think of a clueless person, who do we picture by default?  Some old guy, naturally.  It's a stereotype and can probably be disproved if I bothered to do another thirty seconds of Googling.

But there does seem to be a noticeable trend toward pablum among aging artists.  It's most obvious with actors, I think.  Consider Robert De Niro.  The guy started with The Godfather, Part II and Taxi Driver and built up steam with The Deer Hunter and Goodfellas.  But as of late you really only see De Niro in groaners like Last Vegas or Little Fockers.

Usually I have no fears of aging.  (I quite like the idea of being a wise old man - probably I'll still be as clueless as I am now, but at least I'll give less shits about it.)  But this one specific part of growing old freaks me out.  Will I one day be so lame that I'll write "dark" comedy like The Big Bounce?  Will my idea of "risque" be so out of touch with social norms that when I think I'm dancing on the edge, I'm actually swinging in a hammock near the center?

It almost sounds like I'm afraid of losing touch with what's hip, but that's not really it. I've never been "in," so who cares if I'm "out?"  I've never understood trends, never understood why things are popular, never been cool. It's more a fear that my brain will warp and suddenly I will fail to understand why things are or are not funny.

Today I think a funny scene would be a serial killer who slips in his victim's entrails, then falls of a cliff and dies.  I'm worried that in ten years I'll think that scene is just too mean and would work a whole lot better if instead of a serial killer, he was an ice cream man, and instead of entrails, he slips on a sundae, and instead of falling off a cliff and dying, he's trying to babysit two mischievous little kids.

To be fair, it has worked before.

I'm worried that (assuming I am at all successful) I would start as a Blazing Saddles and end as a Dracula: Dead and Loving It.  I'm worried that I will write a Louie now and then, after raising a bunch of kids, settle into Two and a Half Men.

Hell, I just saw Red 2 over the weekend, and that movie is almost a perfect metaphor for the banality I'm talking about, and its aging cast is in and of itself the lame joke I'm worried about telling.  It's kind of like an ouroboros of my worst fears.

Is it inevitable that people just lose their teeth and grit when they grow older?  Do all sixty and seventy year-old men and women find the lukewarm beige of "mildly amusing" to be exciting?  Or is it just that we are falling victim to confirmation bias and we ignore the elderly who still rock?

Maybe the problem is that we don't believe the elderly are capable of doing good work, and therefore we don't give them any opportunities to good work - which leads them to take the only (shitty) opportunities available.  Certainly this would make sense when you look at actors, as they are necessarily constrained by their appearances.  People who do their work off-camera, though, should be free to keep doing whatever they want.  (After all, Scorsese is still doing amazing work.)

Maybe the lesson in all of this is just to keep doing the things you enjoy and hope that other people like them, too.

Or, I don't know, maybe things are just shitty.

Damn.  I felt like I was about to learn something there for a minute.