Occasionally there is a ‘mainstream’ article about hobbies in general or our hobby in particular. Generally speaking, these recent peeks into this thing of ours tend to be positive.
But it wasn’t always this way.
When it came to Hollywood from the 70s through to the 90s, the common theme was that only disturbed or at least very strange people would engage in model building as adults. Back then, if a director wanted to depict a fictional character as a scary anti-social adult, all that was needed was some built Airfix models hanging from the dingy ceiling in his messy bedroom. To show a truly disturbed character, the director only had to start the scene with a character building a model in a dank basement. Preferably with a naked and flickering pull-chain bulb overhead. Throw in an oversized visor over coke-bottle glasses and you got yourself a mass murderer!
For the most part, audiences accepted those portrayals. This is because hobbies, especially for adults, were not seen as healthy pursuits. It was generally believed there was a very fine line between enthusiasm for such ‘childish pursuits’ and an unhealthy pre-occupation with them.
During this same timeframe, when we were not considered scary and potentially dangerous, we model makers were lumped and ridiculed with other hobbyists in the persecution of all things labeled “geek”.
All that seemed to change with the millennium and what some have called the new ‘geek chic’. All of a sudden it was socially acceptable for adults to have hobbies. Adults could play video games and not lose their jobs. Adults could dress up as comic book characters, attend comic book or sci-fi-related conventions, and not be hauled off to mental institutions. Adults could freely collect and display action figures. Making models may not have been as cool as phone app development, but it was no longer something to be ashamed of.
Quite the opposite.
And now we find ourselves amid the strangest decade in recent memory. Things have truly been turned on their head. Even before the pandemic, I noticed a growing focus on the importance of “mental health”. Plenty of experts have stressed the need for everyone to decompress and find outlets to be creative. Mental health experts have unanimously agreed on the benefits of having a hobby like model making.
Imagine that. What used to be considered to be unhealthy to the point of community concern has now transformed into something healthy with societal benefits.
Getting More out of Hobbies as an Adult
I’m amazed a blog post about adult hobbies was re-posted on Google News. More importantly, the content is well worth the five-minute read. Elsie Larson has some very interesting things to say about having a hobby and all of it can relate to this model-building thing we do.
Under the heading ‘Lower your standards’ the key takeaway is that one can still enjoy the benefits of a hobby despite not having a lot of time to pursue it. Thirty minutes at a time at the bench is still worthwhile if that is all the time you can devote. Over the course of a week, it can still move a project along.
We often hear the line ‘I’ll tackle that project when my skills improve’. Well, ‘Keep Learning and Keep Making’ is all about how to keep your hobby fresh and improve your skills. It is something that I have talked about before. This is the only way to get better at anything and making that the focus of your hobby time is well worth it. Even if winning awards is not the ultimate goal of your hobby (and it shouldn’t be) trying new things and learning from mistakes keeps things fresh and fun.
However, I believe ‘Remove the Guilt’ is the star of that blog post. Maybe someone starts a model but shelves it for a few months. Maybe that builder goes out and gets all the supplies and aftermarket for a model, but keeps it in the stash for years. Not starting, not using, not finishing… these can bring a misguided sense of guilt to us builders. Especially when others remind us of our building shortfalls.
Elsie Larson finds it helpful to ‘remove guilt altogether’ from her hobbies. She goes on to state:
The point of hobbies is usually not some kind of end goal, it’s usually a creative experience. It helped me to think of my hobbies as an ongoing lifelong project. If I don’t achieve the goals I set, I make new ones and move on. My biggest goal is to live a creative life. It’s OK to be sporadic and imperfect with your hobbies…Elsie Larson
Wow. Very well said.
I don’t remember specific instances of this but I can recall that being a pre-teen into scale models (or worse, model railroading) was definitely not something to advertise back in the mid-1980s. I don’t know any pre-teens today but it wouldn’t surprise me if that is still the general feeling in that age group.
I have only seen a few episodes of “Stranger Things” on Netflix. I had to laugh at one scene where the kids were playing Dungeons & Dragons. In the context of that show, that scene was probably put in for nostalgic reasons and I am sure audiences thought nothing of it. That very same scene in a 1980s movie would have had a completely different context given the D&D ‘scare’ of the 1980s when the talking heads scared everyone into believing that game was a cover for devil worship. Good lord.
Will model making eventually be elevated to the highest pinnacle of coolness within our society? Yeah, that’s not going to happen. But who cares? At least visiting a hobby shop or attending a model show won’t get you on some 1980s watch list.
I read your post to my wife and she said, “what movies?”. Fair question. Please state your sources! By the way, I enjoyed the AARP article on how modeling can reduce cognitive decline.
On the other hand, I was managing a team of senior Project Managers in 2020, and in a social Zoom, I said I was modeling again. The snickers escaped before the mute buttons were hit. Then the most fun-loving of the bunch (they were all women by the way, all over 45) asked WHAT I was modeling….. Then I presented one of my early “2nd phase” builds (a Ki-45 1/48 scale) and they all fell out of their chairs laughing (with relief). Safe to say I’m not heading to Hollywood regardless of how the grey hair helps my appearance.
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Fair points – I remember scenes but I will have to back this up with references.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind definitely had a pretty deranged model railroader.
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Doesn’t “Die Hard” have a line from the Bad German (another cliche), something about planing with models as a child?
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As a pre-teen in the 80’s D&D was my salvation. It filled the void of model making and model railroading that had passed me by by the time High school rolled around. Over the following decades, hobby pursues tented to follow various sports endeavor – of which only cycling has stuck; then came an introduction to war gaming. Painting miniatures, quickly lead to getting back to modeling.
I still feel like my skills don’t match my desires, but they are light years beyond what my work peers can even think of doing. Getting back into the hobby after decades away I will show off images of my models, figures and dioramas to anyone who seems even remotely interested or asks what hobbies I enjoy.
Again, great read, and uplifting for a fellow modeler who hasn’t hasn’t really felt the mojo lately – thank you for putting this post up!
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Modeling was my salvation as a kid in a disfunctional family environment to keep my sanity. Today it’s keeping it in a disfunctional world environment.
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Yes, thanks for this! To confirm your thesis, I immediately recalled a scene from the 1998 movie Ronin with Robert DeNiro in which the chief bad guy is working on a huge 1/72-scale medieval Japanese diorama: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPg6D9D_GW4 , looking like a psycho-genius criminal… I hesitate to share many/any links in a comment, especially to articles from my own blog — don’t want to foist it on anyone! — but there are a couple of times when I’ve mused about this topic, too, and and so if I may offer: https://schopenhauersworkshop.com/2014/08/06/the-way-of-the-hobby/ (about the meditative/psychological benefits) and https://schopenhauersworkshop.com/2015/04/06/chicks-dig-models-not-usually/ (about how girlfriends and wife have viewed the hobby).
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I have never felt any guilt building model kits, maybe some for impulse buying.
Great post again Model Airplane Maker.
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Oh, yes — the impulse buying!! Much worse now that it’s online! 😉
You have nailed it with this…
However, I believe ‘Remove the Guilt’ is the star of that blog post. Maybe someone starts a model but shelves it for a few months. Maybe that builder goes out and gets all the supplies and aftermarket for a model, but keeps it in the stash for years. Not starting, not using, not finishing…
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Recently pulled out a balsa wood, rubber band powered, submarine hull begun in 2008 then put away for a decade, worked on a bit, put away again. Have built more of it and figured out some things for it, like how to do the rudders, this last week. And that makes me a happy camper. 🙂 It is a much larger and more sophisticated model than the one made in 2005.
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