The drama of the actor Will Smith’s lapse in self-control which resulted in his slapping a host at a recent Oscar ceremony was only exacerbated by his crying emotionalism shortly after the event.
Whilst many may have sympathised with the idea that he was acting in anger out of some sense of defending his wife against Chris Rock’s joke, the resulting tearful self-justification only served to make many of us squirm with an unspoken sense that Will, so often previously identified as a decent sort, had now taken on the demeanour of a self-indulgent child.
Grown-ups don’t physically attack people because they feel upset, nor do they follow up their out-of-control behaviour with weeping self-justification.
What gave this whole episode such weight was the fact that putting the Hollywood image aside, Will had always been seen as the sort of person who would not resort to such childish behaviour.
But what has happened to adults lately? They’ve become indulgent kids.
And moreover, what does that change mean for the people who probably have some genuine right to act in immature ways? I mean real children and teenagers who now and then, due to physical and emotional immaturity, can definitely be excused some lapses in behaviour.
Yes. Surely children and teenagers can have some leverage when it comes to acting out. Any sensible adult would conclude in those circumstances that these young un’s have a right to not do the right thing at times.
It’s their hormones, their self-doubt, their irrational moments of defiance etc etc. It’s what we expect.
However, it’s not, in any sane world, what we should expect from adults.
Has anyone else noticed that increasingly, and especially in the world of celebrity - the adults are acting like children and the children have to summon up all their powers in stressful circumstances (whilst witnessing such behaviour) to try and become mini ‘adults’ themselves?
It’s become the norm in showbusiness and the media to see grown up people squealing and crying very often and publicly vocalising about their so-called ‘mental health issues’. Also, in a mixed bag of grievances - their fights with their partners, peers or public. And generally, just sobbing about how unfair life is.
Add to that the boring list of addictions adults go on about - sex, food, drugs or drink - you name it, some well-known adult is always whining about their journey, their crisis and their bleating need for more understanding and ‘support.’
What about the children?
I know someone who works as a school mentor and they report that by and large, kids have enormous personal resources of untainted hope, resilience, civility and potential trust - and that incredible potential is enhanced if they are relating to any truly grown up adult whom they identify as stable, respectful, steady and possessed of decent boundaries.
Removed from the drama of adults who behave like kids, most real kids are entirely impressive human beings.
It may be time to stop paying attention to adults who act like feral kids - and give real kids the traditional safety, respect and boundaries under which they can flourish. Kids who feel safe in the knowledge that some adults they encounter are not going to act crazy - and by having self-control, are going to perform the miracle of taking most of the insecurity and angst out of the lives of the young.
It’s hard enough being young without the adults going mad.
One morning I turned on my television to see an interview taking place. The programme presenter was asking a mother with two pale faced anxious young children in their home, tired and worried just before going off to school, how they felt about Daddy who had gone through a hard time on a game show on television. I haven’t forgotten the pallor of worry on the face of those kids. Daddy had after all, been seen crying on television.
Daddy had experienced a meltdown on a game show and let’s absorb this fact - this was the subject of these exhausted kids’ lives as they sat, incoherent and upset as their mother attempted to answer fatuous questions from the breakfast news studio.
Why do this to children?
Why undermine their mental security, their happiness, their basic sense of whether they live in a sane or a mad world? And all in the name of celebrity culture?
When adults go mad pursuing fame, it takes away the idea of the sunny uplands of what childhood should be. It robs the kids of their birthright.
To all the famous adult ‘kids’ out there who are acting like children remember this - your ego gives real kids a lifetime legacy of anxiety.
And the truth is quite simple.
If you don’t act like an adult - they can’t be children.