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Hollywood Mid-Life Crisis

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"The best years of my life are gone. ...And they sucked."
C.C. Babcock, The Nanny

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 people of any gender, although it doesn't seem to be present in all cultures and not all psychologists accept it even exists. Even in cultures where such a thing does tend to exist, it usually only affects about 10% of middle aged adults; most individuals actually experience a mid-life satisfaction, reconciling with the path their life has taken and beginning to shift focus to lighting torches for the newer generations.

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).
  • Adopting new religious or spiritual beliefs.
  • Engaging in high-adrenaline activities such as skydiving.

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.


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    Comic Strips 
  • 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.
  • FoxTrot
    • Parodied twice, with Andy and Roger each suffering one at 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.
    • Roger went through another one after discovering a guy he lorded over in high school became highly successful. This eventually leads to him, among other attempts at becoming successful, trying to write a potential best-selling novel — to give you an idea of how that turned out, the ensuing arc was the Trope Namer for Her Code Name Was "Mary Sue".

    Fan Works 
  • The Bolt Chronicles: Mittens experiences a midlife crisis in "The Kippies" when it finally hits her that she will never have kittens. Lampshaded by her, including references to the Mid Life Crisis Car and an Age-Gap Romance.
    Mittens: Sheesh — look at me, Bolt. Who'da thunk it? I'm a card-carrying midlife crisis cliché. If I were a bank CEO, I'd have bought myself a shiny new red sports car and dumped you for a studly tomcat half my age.
  • My Little Pumpkin: Delia yells at her husband Victor that he's having a mid-midlife crisis. In his 20s he decided to quit his job and run off on a Pokémon journey, leaving his wife to take care of their son Ash.
  • Restraint: Referenced when Ty Lee tells Azula that "when most people reach a certain age and panic about their life, they just take up painting, or buy an expensive second home or date younger women".

    Films — Animation 
  • The Incredibles:
    • Part of the reason for Bob / Mr. Incredible's odd behavior, but his story is also a Civilian Life Crisis, because his day-to-day life is now so drab and boring compared to the glamorous and exciting life he had as a superhero.
      Edna Mode: Men at Robert's age are often unstable. Prone to weakness...
    • When it turns out he's taken up superheroing again, his wife is actually relieved because he wasn't having an affair as she'd feared.
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox: Mr. Fox, a former thief, feels inadequate after becoming seven-and-a-half in human years, due to having to give up his exciting capers after settling down with his wife and son. He feels that the domestic life is keeping from satisfying his "wild" side, being an animal and all. It starts with buying a new house, then to sneaking out at night to raid from farms, and escalates from there.
  • Madagascar: A rare Funny Animal example. The plot is kicked because Marty is ten years old and realizes half of his life is gone, and he doesn't even know if he's black with white stripes or white with black stripes.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • American Beauty is one of the most famous movie examples. A stressed-out 42-year-old drone with an unhappy marriage quits his job (with large pay-off), buys an expensive car and lusts after a teenage girl.
  • You have to feel sorry for Richard Sherman in The Seven Year Itch. His wife's away. He's stuck at home editing a book about the mid-life crisis and marital dissatisfaction at the seven year mark. And Marilyn Monroe has moved in upstairs...
  • Lost in Translation. An aging actor at a loose end in Tokyo gets involved with a much younger woman, including an attempt to dress to fit in with her friends. Upon meeting him, she even asks if he's bought a Porsche yet. He replies that he's considering it.
  • After hearing that he's about to become a grandfather in the second Father of the Bride film, George Banks buys a fancy car and dyes his gray hair dark.
  • City Slickers is about three friends who are each going through their own respective mid-life crisis. Mitch is bored with his job and frightened by how quickly the years seem to be flying by. Phil's Sexless Marriage prompts him to have an affair with a younger coworker, resulting in him losing his job and his wife leaving him. Ed is a successful businessman and womanizer who is frightened by the prospect of settling down and starting a family. The three friends go on a cattle drive vacation, during which they all begin to figure out their lives.
  • The Oranges has David (played by Hugh Laurie) going through one of sorts; he has an affair with the daughter of his neighbor (and best friend), who is approximately the same age as his own daughter and is kinda-sorta dating his son (their moms are trying to set them up together; the son is okay with this as she's pretty hot, she's less okay with it as the son is, while handsome enough, pretty dull). When her mother finds out, the fallout prompts all four of the two older couples to go through one.
  • Santa Claus goes through one in Santa Baby 2. He even joins a touring band!
  • Star Trek:
    • James T. Kirk in most of the movies suffers from a bad case. Starting with Star Trek: The Motion Picture, in which he struggles with the question of whether he is too young to be an Admiral or too old to be a Captain. This leads him to take back command of the Enterprise as soon as a major threat to Earth is spotted, shamelessly ousting its current (younger) Captain. Subsequent films would have him agonizing, sometimes to the point of Wangst over his age, career, life in general and missed opportunities. Notably, he is the only character who seems to suffer from this.
    • Star Trek: Generations tries to revisit this with Picard, being the last to carry his family name, and once again with Kirk, who wants to stay in the Nexus with an old love interest we'd never seen before.
  • In The First Wives Club Morty is specifically said to be leaving his wife Brenda for a younger woman due to a mid-life crisis, the other husbands are likely as well. Though he, unlike the others, eventually comes back to Brenda in the end.

  • Older Than Dirt, as the second half of The Epic of Gilgamesh can be described as a supernatural midlife crisis spurred by the death of Gilgamesh's Heterosexual Life-Partner Enkidu.
  • 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 the 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.
  • Inverted with The Great GatsbyNick suddenly remembers that it's his thirtieth birthday right after the big dramatic scene between Gatsby, Daisy and Tom. This ultimately spurs him in the opposite direction, as he no longer wants to be involved with such vain, dysfunctional people.
  • Moomminpapa in The Moomins has always had a tendency to go off on "adventures" without always thinking of the consequences, but his sudden decision that the family is relocating to a lighthouse in Moominpapa at Sea is very much presented as this, and the family's reaction isn't their usual excitement at another adventure, but anxiety that their life has been uprooted and they're not sure why.
  • The Enchanted Files: In Diary of a Mad Brownie / Cursed, Alex Carhart's father undergoes one when he quits his job to focus on writing song lyrics. Which are terrible. It turns out to be a side-effect of the curse that Angus Cairns, the titular mad brownie, carries with him — any male of the family he's living with is bound to try to make beautiful poetry, rhymes or lyrics, but it'll always come out wretched (one intern finds the lyrics he wrote and sent to the company she worked for to be so bad that she outright quits her job after reading them). Once the curse is broken, the afflicted turn back to their original selves, and Mr. Carhart reclaims his job and gives up trying to write song lyrics.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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!.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "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 production staff was playing with this idea during this period, as the show itself had gone through several shifts in format and focus that took it is a considerable distance from its origins, and even from its previous incarnation. A well-known unproduced story from this period was a Douglas Adams story idea involving the Doctor quitting his job for real and going into seclusion to have fun for a change, griping when he's pulled out of retirement to save the universe again; the producer thought this was too much like Self-Parody, but elements of this concept were used later in the 1999 Comic Relief special "The Curse of Fatal Death" (which involved the Doctor quitting and marrying his obviously much younger companion) and in the Eleventh Doctor's season 7B starting with "The Snowmen" (which had the Doctor quitting as well, but more out of grief after losing Amy and Rory and the associated frustration of his high-stakes responsibilities).
    • 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 Jane also lampshades the trope when she meets the Doctor again after decades in "School Reunion". "I can tell you're getting older, your assistants are getting younger."
    • Martha's father Clive Jones is going through one, having traded both his car and his wife in for younger models when we first meet him in "Smith and Jones".
    • "The Day of the Doctor": The War Doctor is not impressed by his Hotter and Sexier successors Ten and Eleven. "Am I having a midlife crisis?!"
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • In The Good Place, Michael goes through a parody of this, with a Mid Life Crisis Car, a tattoo ("It's Chinese for 'Japan'!") and having Janet, a holographic AI, pose as a vacuous Trophy Wife for him. It's not and can't be the actual middle of his life, because he has Complete Immortality, but he was having an existential crisis and Eleanor suggested this as a way to paper over it.
  • Kel Knight has one in Kath & 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.
  • A good chunk of Brock's actions over the course of Reba are the result of one of these, including quitting his dentist practice to be a pro-golfer, a brief stint as a biker, considering moving to Las Vegas, to even the affair he had with Barbra Jean before the events of the series.
  • 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 chassis 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.
    • While trying to console Kryten at the end of the episode Lister admits that he too had a mid-life crisis a few years earlier. Apparently Lister's crisis only lasted five minutes before he got over it.
  • That '70s Show had Red buy a midlife crisis motorcycle.
  • The Rookie has Nathan Fillion's John Nolan accused of being a walking version of this in the pilot episode by his commander, training officer "Sgt. Grey" (Richard T. Jones).
  • Dorothy in The Golden Girls calls out Stanley when he buys a sports car and starts dating a much younger woman. By contrast, Dorothy took up Jazzercise.
  • Frasier:
    • In an episode of season 1, Frasier starts feeling self-conscious about his age after experiencing weight gain and memory problems, and he briefly considers a romantic relationship with a much younger woman before they both decide against it. In the same episode, we find out that, when he turned 50, Cool Old Guy Martin dyed his hair jet-black and bought himself a leather jacket and a motorcycle.
    • In the episode "Back Talk," Frasier once again starts feeling his age when he suffers inexplicable back pains around the time of his birthday. While he admits that he feels self-conscious about his age, it doesn't bother him as much as everyone else thinks it does, and what he's really upset about is all the changes happening to the people in his life (such as Niles meeting and marrying another woman shortly after his divorce with Maris, and Daphne getting engaged to Donnie Douglas and potentially moving out of the apartment) while he's stuck in the status quo.
  • My World… and Welcome to It:
  • Ultraviolet (1998). This time is said to be a primary recruiting age for Vampire Vannabes.
    Harman: It's when you start realising that one day it's all going to end. No matter how many times you go to the gym.

  • "Middle Aged Crazy" by Jerry Lee Lewis.
    But today he's forty years old going on twenty
    And he hears of sordid affairs
    And he ain't had any
    And the young thing beside him
    He knows she understands
    That he's middle aged crazy
    Trying to prove he still can
  • Five For Fighting's Age-Progression Song "100 Years" references mid-life crisis:
    I'm 45 for a moment
    The sea is high and I'm heading into a crisis
    Chasing the years of my life
  • "Once in a Lifetime" by Talking Heads is about the mentality that leads to one. Of course, the obtuse nature of the lyrics don't make it obvious right away, but once you know the meaning it's pretty easy to tell.
  • "Overchewer" by Anthony Newley from his 1972 album, Ain't It Funny, which also doubles as a Rock Star Song.
    I'm just a middle-aged, silent-majority, geritol rock'n'roll star.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • Theseus and Bellerophon of Classical Mythology both go through this, and both end in tragedy.
    • After a long and mostly stable reign as king, an elderly Bellerophon attempts to recapture the adventurous days of his youth by hopping on Pegasus' back and flying up to Olympus and become a god. Zeus, not appreciating a trespasser into the world of the gods, sends a gadfly to sting Pegasus, causing him to buck and throw Bellerophon from his back, either to Bellerophon's death, or leaving him permanently crippled and shunned by gods and mortals until his death.
    • For Theseus, he was in his early 50's and, after enduring the loss of both a son and two wives, began to feel his age. In order to relive the adventuring days of his early reign, Theseus joins his friend Pirithous in finding daughters of Zeus to become their wives. Theseus takes Helen, who is so young that he starts a Jailbait Wait after stealing her away from her family. After that, he aids Prithious, who wanted to kidnap Persephone away from Hades. All of this winds up backfiring horribly as Theseus winds up trapped in the Underworld for years. After he is eventually released he is forced to leave Pirithous behind, he finds out Athens had been raided by Helen's big brothers while they were getting their sister back, and the Athenian people no longer supported his rule. Not long after returning, he's overthrown and dies in exile after being pushed off a cliff.
    • One version of Jason And The Argonauts fame) holds that in his old age, Jason felt dissatisfied with his life. He ended up coming upon the moldy, rotting wreck of a ship on a beach and realized it was the Argo, the ship that had carried him and his men to glory. He fell asleep under the ship's stern, which finally fell off and landed on his head, killing him.

  • MID-LIFE! the Crisis 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...
  • In Noah Smith's stage version of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Utterson and Jekyll show signs of midlife crisis in the opening scenes, lamenting how pedestrian their successes are in their middle age. Only Lanyon seems content with his lot in life.

    Video Games 
  • In the Generations expasion for The Sims 3, sims that are in the Adult life stage have a chance of going through a mid-life crisis, based on what they accomplished and their experiences overall as Young Adults and prior. While on a mid-life crisis, a sim will get a moodlet that generates new wishes, from more "basic" ones (buying new clothes, getting a new car) to more extreme ones (getting a divorce, quitting work).
    Visual Novels 
  • In the “good” Lily ending of Daughter for Dessert, this is pretty much what the protagonist goes through when deciding to leave the diner to Amanda and travel the world with Lily.

    Web Comics 
  • Summer Winter's tattoos, bleach job, piercings, and search for an actual romantic relationship (as opposed to her quarter-century-long string of casual hookups) in Moon Over June is best described as this.
  • In Sinfest, Percy suffers an attack when shedding, because he thinks he's going bald.
  • In Arthur, King of Time and Space, Merlin self-diagnoses with a midlife crisis when he buys a new car and says he's trying to recapture his youth. When Nimue points out he's bought a Cadillac, not a sports car, he explains that he bought it because the commercial has a Led Zeppelin soundtrack.
  • Kevin & Kell: Marty briefly has one where he dresses like a biker and asks to go back to hunting, instead of training the new recruits. Kell talks him out of it by appealing to his pride, saying that the recruits would not respect him if they saw him trying to hunt, due to his age and being out of shape. Kell also notes that she's not worried about Frank having a midlife crisis because he's dating Kell's thrill-seeking cousin Sheila, and Kell herself isn't having one because her life up to that point had already been plenty eventful and seen so many changes that she'd rather just stay the same for now.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • Papa Smurf in The Smurfs (1981) episode "Papa's Wedding Day" goes through his version of this when he keeps being reminded of how old he is by his little Smurfs. Sometime after he meets the young and beautiful Flowerbell the woodnymph, finding himself falling in love with her, he dyes his beard a youthful shade of brown and has a dating relationship with Flowerbell that would have resulted in a marriage had not the Smurfs figured out that she was an infiltrator sent by the evil sorcerer Balthazar to capture the wisest Smurf of all. After the relationship had ended, Papa Smurf's beard goes back to being white, but he gains wisdom in knowing from the song that he sings to Flowerbell that "you're only as old as you think you are."
  • Fathers in animated sitcoms often fulfill a lot of these requirements. Examples include Homer Simpson, Randy Marsh, and Peter Griffin. All three are depicted as immature, overactive and wilder than their kids.
  • The A-Plot of "Lois Comes Out of Her Shell" in Family Guy focuses on Lois going through a mid-life crisis after Peter compares her to an old plow horse on her birthday. She starts speaking in l33t and text message abbreviations, wears skimpy clothes, gets a lot raunchier with Peter, and culminates with her trying to have sex with Justin Bieber. As is expected in this kind of show and Family Guy in particular, Lois is back to her old self by the end of the episode.
  • Played with in Phineas and Ferb in an episode set in the future (which even has a song dedicated to the midlife crisis): Dr. Doofenshmirtz hasn't had a mid-life crisis and feels left out compared to other men, so he invents a device that induces a mid-life crisis in the wearer! He concludes that he prefers the boring middle-ager stuff so he takes it off. It lands on the titular characters' father Lawrence and causes him to do something crazy and reckless; switch out his Earl Grey for Darjeeling!
  • Babar's episode "Conga the Terrible" has Cornelius going through a crisis as all characters, except Babar, consider him too old for doing almost everything. Yet he proves that he's still pretty badass when he faces the eponymous giant ape Conga.
  • Ed Bighead goes through one in the Rocko's Modern Life episode "Old Fogey Froggy" after getting passed over for a promotion for being too old.
  • Happens to Mr. Krabs in the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Mid-Life Crustacean", which prompts him to spend the night out with SpongeBob and Patrick doing wild (yet childishly lame) activities. Things start to get interesting when Patrick mentions the "panty raid". Unfortunately, what Mr. Krabs doesn't realize until it's too late is that the panties they're raiding belong to his mother!
  • Timmy Turner's dad goes through this in The Fairly OddParents! episode "Engine Blocked", which leads to him buying a used sports car and spending more time with it than Timmy, so Timmy wishes that he was the car so his dad will unknowingly spend time with him. Meanwhile, Cosmo tries to have a mid-life crisis of his own, despite being immortal and several centuries old.
    • His mom later goes through this in the episode "Teeth for Two" when she sees that Timmy's front tooth is falling out. In response, she steals the Dinklebergs' sports car and drives off, which causes Mrs. Dinkleberg to rapidly age.


Video Example(s):


Kryten's mid-life crisis

It's Kryten's creation day, and he's been thinking about the fact that he's halfway through his life, so he gets a new red paint job and tries to act young again.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / HollywoodMidLifeCrisis

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