Hollywood Mid-Life Crisis
The term "mid-life crisis" was first coined by psychoanalyst Elliott Jacques in 1965 to describe a period of major self-doubt felt by some individuals of middle age as the result of the passing of their youth. Symptoms may include depression, feelings of remorse and searching for some undefined dream or goal. It can affect both sexes, although not all psychologists accept it even exists and it doesn't seem to be present in all cultures. Also, even in cultures where such a thing does
tend to exist, it usually only affects about 10% of middle aged adults. It has also been theorized that a mid-life crisis may be triggered by a man's wife approaching menopause age, as the mid-life crisis does not happen with men who are married to women significantly younger than themselves.
In fiction, by contrast, a mid-life crisis tends to consist of several pieces of behavior carried out by middle-aged men in a rash attempt to recapture lost youth (it being limited to men is probably because Most Writers Are Male
- The purchase of a Mid-Life Crisis Car - souped-up, expensive and flashy.
- The romantic pursuit of a much younger lover. Depending on the nature of the work, either hilarity or drama will ensue, and the "younger women" (or men) in the fictional version have often been played by performers famed for their beauty.
- Adopting inappropriately youthful hairstyle or clothes. If he has children, this is guaranteed to embarrass them (though they may well approve of the Cool Car).
- Adopt new religious or spiritual beliefs.
As can be seen from the examples, some works have a mid-life crisis as the main engine of their plot; in others, such as soap operas, Status Quo Is God
, and so after an episode or two of his crisis, the man will basically go back to normal and behave as if nothing ever happened
Live Action TV
- In Rabbit Is Rich, a novel in John Updike's Rabbit series, Rabbit Angstrom has become rich, middle-aged and dissatisfied, which includes him becoming enamoured of a friend's younger wife.
- Erast Fandorin goes through this before and during All World's a Stage (when he is 55). He tries to take the thoughtful approach (resolving to learn a new form of art or a new language every year), but he also ends up falling in love with a much younger woman.
- In the Jeeves and Wooster story "Indian Summer of an Uncle", Bertie's Uncle George tries to initiate a May–December Romance. Jeeves diagnoses the problem as an "Indian summer" and notes that it's common for elderly, wealthy Americans to run off with chorus-girls.
- Mentioned in, of all places, Judge Dee, when the judge suspects this may be the explanation for a middle-aged man's conduct, explaining that such men have a moment in their lives where they end up harming what they'd spent their lives building up, then snap out of it and laugh it off.
- Hank Moody in Californication is pretty much the poster boy for this trope. He has been a talented and acclaimed writer since his early life, but he often suffers from Writer's Block and his happy family life went to toilet. He sleeps around a lot and tries to reconnect with the love of his life and his daughter.
- Tony DiNozzo from NCIS has been seen going through one.
- Doctor Who
- The story "Pyramids of Mars" starts off with the Doctor striking poses in a flashy new outfit and sulking about how he's reached the big 7-5-0 and, as a trained Time Lord better than this, is going to quit his stupid job. He also makes a point of reminiscing about his gorgeous past female companions in a Continuity Nod peculiar at this time. Sarah teases him by saying he's "almost middle-aged", and he snaps back "Yes!". Midlife crisis issues become a little theme for his character from this story onward - It's worth noticing that these issues are introduced in an incarnation played by an actor who was, at the time, the youngest man to take the part, which is apparently the Gallifreyan equivalent of dressing too young.
- The Sixth Doctor is often interpreted along these lines. After wearing beige and getting really interested in cricket in his Fifth incarnation, the Sixth Doctor goes back to wearing a ghastly pastiche of the outfit and hair he wore in his Fourth incarnation, becomes suddenly rude and confrontational, starts insulting his female companion for not being attractive enough for him (despite her being drop-dead gorgeous by any reasonable standard) and even fixes the TARDIS's Chameleon Circuit to make it look cooler, causing it to become a massive organ.
- Sarah also lampshades the trope when they meet up again in the new series. "I can tell you're getting older, your assistants are getting younger."
- Martha's father was going through one, having traded both his car and his wife in for younger models when we first met him.
- That '70s Show had Red buy a midlife crisis motorcycle.
- Girls has Jeff, the father of the children Jessa babysits. He dates the young and "free-spirited" Jessa with the hopes that he'll regain lost youth with her.
- Pretty much the entire premise of the Brit Com Manchild.
- In the episode of Friends when all the characters are shown turning thirty, all six consider it a major issue and turning point. Ross bought a red sports car, but his fun is spoilt (the car got stuck in a parking place and once it's freed, he sees a much older balding guy in the same car).
- Word of God has called Walter White's life of crime in Breaking Bad "the world's worst midlife crisis". There's obviously a lot more to it, first and foremost being his cancer diagnosis, but he does buy a fancy new car more than once, and at one point makes a laughably ineffectual pass at a younger woman.
- Kel Knight has one in Kathand Kim. On his 50th birthday, Kel gets a sports car, starts listening to music that's clearly aimed at teenage girls and dresses in whatever was considered trendy at any given point in time.
- In Community, Vice-Dean Laybourne's otherwise inexplicable decision to suddenly grow a ponytail and a goatee and join a jazz band was hinted to be something to do with this trope, given his sheepish insistence that he was "going through some stuff right now" whenever anyone alluded to it. In reality, it was because John Goodman was filming his scenes around his role in Flight where the ponytail / goatee combo was required for the character and couldn't be shaved off, so the production team decided to just Throw It In.
- In Red Dwarf, Kryten experiences one of these. Kryten is a service mechanoid who has existed for approximately three million years. Turns out his series is built to last six million years. As a result, Kryten starts wondering if he could have done more with his existence, and he later upgrades his chasis to a goofy-looking "sporty" model. If a mechanoid mid-life crisis isn't absurd enough, later in the episode the crew discover that the universe itself is sentient and Kryten accidentally gives it a mid-life crisis.
- In one Calvin and Hobbes Sunday comic, Calvin's dad thinks long and hard about how short life is, and how much time he spends working at a job that he doesn't like at all. He tells his wife that he's thinking of quitting his job and biking full-time. She replies by sarcastically asking if she should ask the bike shop if they'd be interested in sponsoring his mid-life crisis.
- Parodied twice in FoxTrot where Andy and Roger each suffer one in different times. Roger gets over his when his wife gives him a "Shut Up" Kiss and several more, while Andy finds out that acting young leads to her daughter asking for a belly piercing.
- Midlife Crisis The Musical has the pursuit of younger women, the purchase of fancy cars, the insistence that you can still "hang" on the basketball court, dealing with exaggerated menopause...