The manchild is a very comic trope in fiction over the years. It's the kind of person who is an adult physically, but have not accepted adult responsibilities in some parts of life…or maybe any part of life. They are irresponsible in relationships or work or life in general. It's great fodder for conflict, especially comedic conflict, to have this person bumping into a more “standard” environment or group of people.
Bill Murray in his early movies was one of these guys, as well as the slacker goofball heroes who followed his lead.
Movies like High Fidelity and Beautiful Girls are some of my favorites that deal with characters dealing with leaving their youth behind and moving forward. Comedies with Adam Sandler and Chris Farley, and the Kevin Smith films of the 90's are good examples of the more permanently-immature types, bless ‘em. And there are endless other examples of course.
Even in more dramatic stories, the Manchild is usually funny. One of my favorites is Paul Newman’s ‘Sully’ character in the movie “Nobody's Fool”. He's 60, a blue collar worker, and a rascal who never grew up. Still, he's a tough guy, and an honest person. He reminds me of my Dad actually.
Sometimes these characters are wealthy, via their parents, and that allows them to not grow up. Or they're insulated by their parents even into adulthood. Sometimes they're just the way they are and don't quite fit into regular society. Just never made that transition. Sully from Nobody's Fool is probably my favorite example of that, as I mentioned.
The manchild accepting adult responsibilities - or SOME sort of responsibilities, even if they remain their eccentric selves in other ways, is a very concrete character journey in a movie or book. An alternate plotline is to have the manchild bend the world or environment to their own way of doing things.
It can be done well, or poorly. I wonder if the trope is overdone. The thought has crossed my mind. And our real world, some might say, is overrun with adult children. In a way, I think it might be time for our popular fictional heroes to change it up. And grow up. Maybe so!
In any case, it's a character type that can be done brilliantly, or ham-fistedly. They can make us laugh, or break our hearts, or make us roll our eyes in annoyance.
Any manchild characters you love? Any you despise?
Banes at 12:00AM, July 28, 2022
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