When did maturity become the ultimate taboo? Gary Cross, renowned cultural historian, identifies the boy-man and his habits, examining the attitudes and practices of three generations to make sense of this gradual but profound shift in American masculinity. Cross matches the rise of the American boy-man to trends in twentieth-century advertising, popular culture, and consumerism, and he locates the roots of our present crisis in the vague call for a new model of leadership that, ultimately, failed to offer a better concept of maturity. Cross does not blame the young or glorify the past. He argues that contemporary American culture undermines both conservative ideals of male maturity and the liberal values of community and responsibility, and he concludes with a proposal for a modern marriage of personal desire and ethical adulthood.
Cross slides through 20th-century culture in loping, eloquent paragraphs. He gives us informed wrynessas when he observes that the patron saint of modern manhood has morphed from Cary Grant (mature) to Hugh Grant (not)and then tells us what it means.