Posted August 15, 2018
But this creates a taboo, a barrier between two identities, and the desire to transgress it, to peek over it, or to identify oneself with the category deemed able to cope with it. So, you've got the whole array of smuggling devices, from uttered naughty words giggly giggly, to horror movies, and glimpses of tits or blood here and there. A side effect of all this is that "Mature" becomes a value in itself. Like a status associated with a free-pass badge. So, sticking in your product any bit of material that is deemed taboo-for-kids makes your material look more "advanced", "daring", "real-lifey", and desirable, especially to kids.
So, you get the most immature (in the first sense) products, filled with the most "mature" (in the second sense) material. And it tends to look embarrassingly dumb, trying too hard, showing its immaturity in fetishizing the "mature" element in a way that jaded people don't. And it becomes a bit cringeworthy in the way that it claims "maturity" because of this content which tends to demonstrate the opposite of it.
A typical exemple is the first season of Torchwood, which tried ridiculously hard to be the "mature" version of Doctor Who, by shoehorning sex and violence in it, and ended up all the more transparently juvenile for it (and an easy target for parody). It was Doctor Who for teens who want to distinguish themselves from kids, while adults were mostly enjoying Doctor Who itself. Another, slightly most subtle, illustration of the term's ambiguity, is Moore's contempt for the attempts to makes James Bond movies more gritty, dramatic and "realistic". He considered there was more maturity in accepting and embracing how silly James Bond's world was, than in taking it seriously and pretending to realism. In a way, I consider Saints Row as slightly more mature than GTA, because of its self-awareness (although there is the trap of expecting self-awareness to be always worn on one's sleeve, which would make everything look perpetually super redundantly postmodern and all). I consider assumed immaturity -in its many contradictory forms- more mature than wonky attempts at "maturity" (for the label's sake).
Because the main trap is to value "maturity" in itself. I don't like C.W. Lewis much, but I appreciate a lot his oft-quoted rant about grown ups being the ones who don't really care about their adult identity - the ones who aren't embarrassed anymore by fairy tales. I feel this a lot when I see people trying to justify their videogames, their superhero comics, their cheesy scifi series, as "mature". Often by stressing the elements in them that "would not be suitable for kids" (which is often their only function : serving as markers to allow the consumer to prove that this product is distinct from a kid's product). And I'd argue that the videogame format, its obligatory structure, is childish in itself - without it being a bad thing. They are games, they are power fantasies, they are empty passtimes, they are most often pretty lowbrow (even when they are cerebral puzzles), and a tit won't change that. Even if it makes it less suitable for kids, having a quest for XP and levelling up framed by some gory rape revenge against a drug lord doesn't make the gameplay more "mature", nor the story (Tarantino is no Scola). At least not in all the implied (non-bureaucratic) senses. In front of our computers, we're still kids playing kid toys in our kiddy hobby. And if anyone feels disturbed by that thought (to the point of hiding it behind unsuited-for-kids taboos), well, all the more then.
Underlying this is the idea that videogames are to movies what movies are to books, in the sense that they trim and dilute a content to fit their format, and lose much of its depth in the process. The Brothers Karamazov book is richer than the Brothers Karamazov film that is richer than the Brothers Karamazov action platformer. Videogames are a very limited media to develop mature themes, and when they try to, they get decried as non-games (walking simulators, interactive documentaries, etc). Because gameplay gameplay. Because toy toy toy. What I'm saying is that "toy toy toy" + "maturity maturity" = awkward. "Toy toy toy" + "tits tits tits" = easy. But it's not the same thing. And the (complaisant) confusion is a tad embarrassing.