It used to be, the best you could do was be a good person, and not die too young.

There's something elemental to that life, and while modern life is a bit odd, it's undoubtedly better.

Most classic literature is structured around people facing problems, being shaken up, and needing to overcome something just to get back to normal. This is not an exhaustive description of all "hero's journey" style stories, but it's close.

We lived in a world with unexpected challenges, that you had to overcome, and you'd come back to something similar to normal life, if you made it through, but you'd be changed. That was what everyone did.

But these days, I see a more common pattern. People, sometimes young people but not exclusively, have opportunity. They have to choose a path, dedicate themselves to it, grow as a person as a part of both coming into their own power and building relationships with their chosen family.

I think the reason so many modern stories don't match older formats, and lose a lot of prestige, is because they most superficially resemble coming-of-age stories. But I'm not sure Tony Stark is "coming of age" in the first Iron Man movie. We can pretend this is a story speaking to the moral choices of children, but I, as a child, did not need to contemplate my complacency as my work had been slowly and subtly warped against my true values. As a kid, I had no body of work. So, Iron Man would have said little to me.

Power Fantasy stories are derided, pretty consistently, but I think there's a case to be made that, in an era of unprecedented wealth, like, we do have power, and the literary value of exploring that could be immense. My struggles don't look like trying to escape a Terminator until I melt it in a factory. My struggles look like Captain America, feeling like he's doing well in the comfortable role at work, but feeling unfulfilled by it until he defines a new profession for himself. And I think it's weirdly hyper-high-brow to make stories about that stuff. My Hero Academia is deeply sincere – and in an ironic age, that can be seen as childish – but it endorses a proactive search for comparative advantage (where can I, specifically, be of value? Not my best skills, but my best opportunity to help?) that no child in America actually experiences, and many adults come to relatively late in life, if at all.

When you read a story, think about it. If you get something of value from it, that's great. If you enjoy a story, that's great. If you don't like a story, that's okay too, there are plenty of others to choose from. But if there is any point at all in having a status association to what fiction people enjoy, the status of reading Catcher In The Rye should be extremely low compared to watching... well, just about anything, that's some insane red pill incel stuff, and its dysfunction is on display pretty transparently in real life.

A child needs a story for "don't put your hand on the stove", and that's the level of subtlety in a lot of classics. These works came from a less wise society, the authors hadn't seen much, and society hadn't innoculated themselves against nearly as much nonsense. These days we have a chance to learn new lessons, for a new era. And I think we should pay attention to what people get value from – they're probably right about what speaks to them.