Armagideon Time

Amy Carter Week: Day 3

August 28th, 2013

To be a child of my generation meant growing up sandwiched between hyper-sensitivity and stone cold avarice, page where “free to be you and me” made a jagged transition into “greed is good.” Trapped in the long demographic shadow of boomer generation, symptoms we had to listen to our immediate elders boast about the Summer of Love as they marched to the ballot box to vote for Reagan in droves.

While lip service continued to be paid to “traditional” values and expectations, empirical evidence abounded to the contrary — skyrocketing divorce rates, culture wars, diminished expectations, and an economic decline masked by the fleeting pseudo-prosperity of capital concentrating upwards.

It’s no wonder that an apathetic “whatever” became the signature catchphrase of the so-called “slacker” generation, an imposed tag but one affected with willing collusion by so many of my peers. Nothing meant anything anymore, and the cultural topography took on the characteristics of a massive landfill of artifacts awaiting appropriation. Even the “Gen X” designation was secondhand goods, pilfered from Robert Capa’s description of the children of post-WW2 prosperity (i.e. those motherfucking Boomers) and used as the name of the punk band Billy Idol fronted before his solo days.

While some — such as the hip hop and electronic dance scenes — turned this dumpster driving toward innovative ends, it mostly played out as a hollow form of gnosticism where symbolic worth was measured in units of nostalgic familiarity and ironic detachment. It was retro for retro’s sake, with facile references serving as ends in themselves. (“Hey, that comedian mentioned Lidsville! I remember that show! This guy is brilliant!”)

It’s a plague that persists to the present day and no one — including yours truly — is completely immune.

Related posts:

  1. Amy Carter Week: Conclusion
  2. Amy Carter Week: Day 1
  3. Amy Carter Week: Day 2

2 Responses to “Amy Carter Week: Day 3”

  1. TG

    A solid, if depressing, analysis, as usual. Somewhat along these lines, but perhaps a bit more positive, is the way our generation straddles a distinct technological divide with deep experience in the before, during, and after.

    In the 1970s, everyday technology wasn’t too far removed from that of the 1960s, or even 1950s, so most people over the age of 35 have actually used rotary dial phones, TVs where you changed the channel with a big dial, etc. For that 35-50 bracket, our coming-of-age corresponded with significant technological advances. Pong in grade school; VCRs, cable TV and Ataris in Jr. High; the rise of the PC in High School and college, and the advance of the Internet through young adulthood. So we’re neither left behind nor alienated by these changes–we grew along with them, but have clear(ish) memories of “before.”

    Plus, in the ’70s, much of the pre-Boomer pop-culture was still floating around. Especially in the variety shows on TV where comedians and singers from the ’40s, ’50s and early ’60s were winding up their careers. So our generation is really the last to remember and experience the “Old World.” I think the times when we’re at our best–and we sometimes are– are due to this.

    But we do need to drop the irony. The fact that I know who Red Skelton is, is not some sort of ironic hipster marker, it’s the result of me living in a particular time and witnessing a marked cultural and historical change. That’s to be marveled at.

  2. bitterandrew

    I’ve written a few pieces about the how the lines of (pop) cultural transmission have been flooded out by the opening up of niche market programming. As kids, we watched the Match Game and ancient sitcoms because there were maybe six broadcast stations, tops, in a given market.

    You knew who Paul Lynde was because of Hollywood Squares, Bewitched repeats, and Sunday matinee showings of Charlotte’s Web and Bye Bye Birdie. I wouldn’t call this osmotic exposure wasn’t a sign of generational superiority, but it certainly affected kids of our age group.

    My wife keeps leaning on me write a book about it, but I’m not sure what I could say in 100+ pages that I couldn’t express in five hundred words.

    And you are spot on about the technological divide. Analog to digital in the space of two decades.

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