The result? Large numbers of kids raised to be like adults have concluded that they want to stay kids, or at least teens. People my age hate being called "Mr." or "Mrs." by kids. Grown women read idiotic magazines, obsess over maintaining a teenager's body and follow the exploits of Lindsay Lohan. Grown men have been following professional wrestling and playing video games for 25 years.
I'm part of these trends. Not only do I still enjoy "The Simpsons," but I'm addicted to shows like "House" and "Grey's Anatomy."
Consider that in the old days, Marcus Welby and Ben Casey were the ideal: selfless father figures in surgical garb, dispensing not just medical advice but authoritative life counseling. Modern-day "House," by contrast, is about a defiantly drug-addicted doctor who admits week after week that he doesn't care about his patients, but merely about the personal satisfaction of solving a medical mystery. In "Grey's Anatomy," horribly wounded patients are wheeled through each episode to serve as metaphors for the relationship problems of the residents. Impaled by a steel rod? That reminds me, my boyfriend hasn't told me he loves me today! The patients often die, but at least the doctors learn important life lessons about dating.
Another result is that the generation taught to share and care beyond all precedent has become the most singularly concerned in history with making a buck. A recent UCLA study found that nearly 75 percent of college freshmen think that it's important to be rich, compared with 62.5 percent in 1980 and 42 percent in 1966.
Americans, young and old, are better than these surveys and TV shows would suggest. (Just as you might say they were "worse" than "Marcus Welby, M.D." and "I Love Lucy" suggested.) Even the most arrogant kids learn that they aren't the most important people in the whole wide world and that there's more to life than money. They usually learn these lessons when they have kids of their own. Indeed, one could say we're learning nationally what parents have been learning personally for millenniums. You can't live your kids' lives for them.