The Young and The Combless: Why Do Young Versions of Movie Characters Have Big Hair?

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The Young & the Combless

It used to be that you could put the word “Young” in front of the name of an iconic character and have a fair shot at the box office. Consider Mel Brooks’ 1974 smash Young Frankenstein, which remains the gold standard of the “Just Add ‘Young’” formula.

Director Barry Levinson would follow 11 years later when exploring the Edwardian youth of a super-sleuth with Young Sherlock Holmes in 1985. Lauded mostly for its then-groundbreaking CGI, the film did moderate business and pointed to the viability of the nascent “Youngin” genre. And, yes, I made that term up because no one else had – you know why?

Because an Aussie named Greg Pead killed it dead. Better known as the comedian qua conceptual artist Yahoo Serious (six long years before Jerry Yang flipped the switch on Yahoo.com), this one-man cultural wrecking ball wrote, directed, produced and starred in a tragical history tour of Albert Einstein’s early life entitled Young Einstein.

Serious’ effort was anything but, having removed all factual matter from the physicist’s  biography and replaced it with juvenile humor. As summarized on IMDB, in this film “Albert Einstein is the son of a Tasmanian apple farmer, who discovers the secret of splitting the beer atom to put the bubbles back into beer.”

The only “fact” that Serious included was that Einstein seemed to be in the midst of a perpetual bad hair day. Having tresses in tumult is, I’ve come to realize, the unified field theory (sorry Young Einstein) that unites these films. Why would all youngin films feature leads with biggish, bushy hair? Is it an earmark of their burgeoning genius, a signifier of greatness to come? Or did the hair and makeup department just phone it in with a rat-tail comb and a can of Aquanet? We may never know since no one has dared release a Youngin film since. Because of Yahoo. And his stupid hair.

Any thoughts?