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Boys Will Be Boys or: The Time That Teenage Alien Crashed A Spaceship In Pennsylvania

November 20, 2012

Part of a continuing series I’ve dubbed, “To Be A Young Necromancer In Love,” updating Tuesdays and whenever the hell I feel like it.

The Pulp Game was a game that I ran shortly after returning to New York with the same group of players that are now in the Pirate Fantasy game. The game was supposedly set in 1936, and presented by Lifebuoy soap. The characters were encouraged to be larger-than-life and over-the-top, the sort of colorful mystery men that would serve as precursors to superheroes (like Clark Kent of the New York Times, but that’s another story). Many of the players were unfamiliar with what pulp stories actually were, were new to the Hero system, and ultimately just whacky people in general (case in point, the last installment of this series).

Needless to say this game regularly reached whackiness levels that rivaled the College Superhero Game, or the Dark Fantasy D&D game. Whether the party was battle Nazi dinosaurs, towns controlled by antennae concealed by hats, or wondering if things that don’t have character sheets can be real, it was a whacky ride. The group was composed of two super scientists (one an opium smoking, Iron Man-esque foreigner, the other an American successor to Nikola Tesla who possessed a number of electricity based inventions including a lightning cannon), a defected German Jewish diplomat (who also had stolen a really awesome Nazi gun), and the former inmate of an insane asylum who possessed psychic powers.

The party members were established agents working with the Office of Naval Intelligence fighting threats to national security, whilst also investigating things that may be pertinent to either national defense or the advancement of science within the United States. This gave them a fairly large purview to look into anything vaguely weird or different that might be going on. In addition to this, as their adventures progressed, they would occasionally meet up with other people they had met in their travels, such as a southerner who dressed in all white who never seemed to sweat, and a two-fisted black PI from uptown.

In this particular adventure, their group was summoned from their laboratory-headquarters in the Empire State Building to visit a small town in Western Pennsylvania. They were there to investigate reports made by a local barnstormer that he had seen a bunch of strange lights zooming around in the sky, followed by a strange explosion. This story, plus his supposed location at the time of the flight lead the characters to the small agrarian settlement of Farmton.

The Farmton Sheriff was welcome to their investigation though he seemed skeptical that they would find anything. What the party did discover however was a crash site that had been nearly picked clean of any craft remnants except for a small sliver of an alloy that they couldn’t make heads nor tails of. When the group returned to town, they encountered two FBI agents by the names of Dulmer and Lucsly. Dulmer and Lucsly were also responding to reports of a suspicious aircraft. Meanwhile, the town was shocked that the federal investigators were not only sticking around but multiplying. The Sheriff felt it important to buy them all a slice of Martha’s, “world famous,” cherry pie.

Dulmer was found dead after exploring the woods near the crash site, and an autopsy performed by Lucsly revealed that he was killed at point blank range with some sort of direct energy weapon. This lead the party’s expert in electricity to travel into the woods alongside Lucsly to try and determine what had happened. The rest of the party remained in town, putting the pressure on the local sheriff who finally, in light of an FBI agents’ death, confessed what had happened.

Several years prior to this incident, another series of strange lights and explosions had occurred above Farmton. An alien spacecraft had crashed in the town, and when the townspeople learned that the aliens weren’t invading but merely lost, they embraced them in a moment of kindness. The alien family, the Mougs, settled an abandoned farm using the last of their technology to flash-clone species native to their planet so they could survive. Overall, no one in the town thinks much of the Mougs. The strange light show the other night was caused by their teenage son who had been tinkering with one of their ship’s escape pods. The Sheriff wrote it off as boys being boys, and the town assumed that if no one responded to the last crash, no one would respond to this one.

It was at this moment that two FBI agents knocked on the Sheriff’s door. The group was met by a male investigator named Dulmer, and his partner, a lady-doctor named Lucsly. They had been dispatched by FBI headquarters to investigate some strange goings on.

As the party quickly learned, the Dulmer and Lucsly they had met were actually Nazi agents investigating the possibility of an experimental aircraft made by the US Armed Forces. The Nazis, finding aliens, considered the mission a success. The party eventually saved the aliens, and drove off the Nazis including their arch-nemeses The Baroness and Rocket-Man.

The group all agreed to keep the secret of the aliens, and Dulmer and Lucsly decided to write it down truthfully in their report as no one believed them anyway…

 

What I think was one of the most interesting concepts that came up in this session was that no one balked at the Sheriff’s decision to write off an alien spacecraft crashing as, “boys being boys.” I’m not sure if it just properly fit the concept of what the Sheriff trope allows people to get away with in small towns, or that this revelation was too close to the climax with the Nazis but it has always surprised me. I suppose this is because whenever this logic comes up, it surprises me. Even in the instances where it has directly benefited me.

To me what is intriguing is the circumstances in which boys being boys can become invoked. It’s a clear social construct to defend the youth, who may or may not know any better, from our supposedly blind legal system. Once again, on the sideline I see the question of whether not blind justice being the best justice rising, or perhaps being answered quite clearly but I digress.

However, the concept of “kids being kids,” shouldn’t be viewed as carte blanche for young people to run amok. The schoolyard, for example, is a place where children will experiment and grow socially yet does kids being kids cover bullying? Is the near psychotic-like abuse that has been inflicted on many children still bullying or is it something worse?

What if a girl claims she’s been sexually assaulted? Is she just “regretting it?” Does she maybe not understand how, “boys act?”

I think this goes back to the way this social construct has been created and what it seeks to defend our youth from. We write off young people doing stupid stuff where no one gets hurt. The analogous situation to the one described here would be a fourteen or fifteen year old tinkering with a moped that he crashes into a tree, or accidentally driving a car through the garage door. As long as no one is injured, or at least not seriously injured, it’s ok.

It’s there to defend children not from the moral dimensions of their actions but the legal dimensions. As we’ve discussed before, there’s a difference between the moral and the legal. Even though our laws should be guided by our morals, they aren’t always, and sometimes part of a functioning society requires laws that are purely economical. In many cases where one would invoke the concept of, “boys being boys,” (or the gender neutral “kids being kids,”) we’re talking about accidents that solely affect property either of a singular person or the community itself. The young person isn’t spared punishment, but they may be spared the blind eyes of lady justice.

In situations where the young person’s actions do have clear moral dimensions, it becomes a very different story. Of course, it also becomes a more complicated one because of this strange moral classification that we put young people in. At what point do we transition from being a kid who can sometimes be allowed to be a kid, to the adult that must be aware of their actions. Is it simply the age of majority? Or is it more than that?

Is the true loss of childhood when we realize that we must take moral responsibility for our life? For that is when we are no longer, boys being boys.

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