1674: Adult

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Revision as of 16:27, 29 April 2016 by (talk) (Explanation)
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(1) That shopping cart is full of AirHeads, and (2) I died at 41 from what the AirHeads company spokesperson called 'probably natural causes.'
Title text: (1) That shopping cart is full of AirHeads, and (2) I died at 41 from what the AirHeads company spokesperson called 'probably natural causes.'


In this comic, Cueball performs several mundane 'adult' tasks, namely shopping for groceries, buying furniture, and applying for a mortgage. In each instance thought bubbles show his apparent surprise or bemusement at the fact that he is behaving like an adult.

In the last panel Megan is reading Cueball's will. Instead of containing standard legalese, the will instead captures Cueball's surprised or bemused thoughts when he wrote the will.

Alternate explanation: The idea of adulthood is grounded in society's scripting that adults "do such and such" or behave in a certain way, despite numerous studies showing that those aged past 21 still have trouble accepting they have grown up. Lacking any real milestone that adulthood has been achieved, we (like Cueball) convince ourselves of our adulthood all the while retaining an identity that could conflict with the image of an adult (death by overconsumption).

AirHeads are a tangy, taffy-like, chewy candy, predominantly known for its sweet taste and texture. The title text suggests Cueball still retains some more childish instincts, namely using the freedom of adulthood to indulge in AirHead candies, to fatal consequences.

The title text shows the AirHead marketing spokesperson trying to downplay their involvement in from Cueball's death. Referring to an obvious case of (AirHead) overdose as "probably natural causes" is duplicitous, though understandable, since the company of course would want to avoid the press coverage as "killer candy"

See also 905: Homeownership and 616: Lease, where Cueball similarly has difficulty accepting the reality of his adulthood.


[Cueball is holding onto a shopping cart.]
Cueball (thinking): Haha, look at me grocery shopping! I'm such an adult.
[Cueball is standing in front of a sofa.]
Cueball (thinking): Buying a sofa! Ooh, look how domestic I am!
[Cueball is sitting at a desk writing something with another Cueball on the opposite side of the desk.]
Cueball (thinking): Applying for a mortgage! As if I'm a real grown-up.
[Megan is reading from a piece of paper in front of a desk with Hairbun, Hairy, and White Hat behind it.]
Megan: ...And I, being of sound mind and body, am totally writing a will right now!
Megan: Can you believe this?

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I included an alternate explanation that approached the joke from a different perspective. The first explanation agreed that certain tasks identify one as an adult while I saw the joke to mean that we bestow adult-like properties onto certain tasks in order to convince ourselves we must be an adult when those tasks do nothing to mature us or bestow maturity.R0hrshach (talk) 15:39, 29 April 2016 (UTC)

I understood the joke to be that a large number of people, if not everybody, behaves like cueball when they become adults. They perform adult tasks out of necessity. They are surprised that they are doing such adult things because they have not felt any discernible change in themselves as they transition into adulthood and therefore assume that they lack the maturity necessary to be an adult. However, the irony is that doing such tasks is what makes others perceive them as adults. Their peers have no transparency into their inner thought process and simply assume those performing adult tasks are mature and have something they themselves don't, when in reality this is far from the case. The joke is then that Cueball takes it to the extreme and even verbalizes it in his will, which is an extremely serious document and in which such a joking remark is unexpected. Alephprime (talk) 15:54, 29 April 2016 (UTC)

This is well written. Especially the last about the will should maybe be included in the explanation. I'm a little worried given that I will turn 41 in less than a week ;-) However, we do not have AirHeads here, and I have never tried them to that appeases me a bit :-p Kynde (talk) 19:32, 29 April 2016 (UTC)

The explanation says that Cueball is engaging in "mundane" adult tasks. I'm not convinced that they are all so mundane, especially if we think of Cueball doing each of them for the first time. Taking out a mortgage, certainly, involves taking on long-term responsibilities. Buying a sofa implies deciding how to furnish one's home, and committing a substantial sum of money to this. Even with grocery shopping ... I remember, as a young adult, the shock of realising that for the first time I would get to choose what I would buy and eat! (And no, I didn't buy nothing but Airheads....) (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Additional meaning

Isn't this also a kind of concealed critique of the AirHeads company? Randall clearly has some grudge against them if he included a comment on company issuing an official statement about Cueball's cause of death. Either Cueball was going to far with the condiments use or there's something more about candies' effect on health. Or both - he is worried that comic's story could become a reality because of the too much sugar he is eating? :) user:PIPIVOJ 08:41, 30 April 2016 (UTC)

Well... Since Cueball only and presumably only ever bought AirHeads, he has likely died of the effects from the resulting malnutrition. This might be poking fun at the fact that, even though this is clearly caused by his own irresponsibility and not the product on itself, the company has to deny that the product had any connection at all to the death in order to avoid bad PR or even legal actions. 12:15, 02 May 2016 (UTC)