Apr. 6th, 2014

fengi: (Mr. Fengi)
If one accepts the demographic fiction of Generation X for a moment, a defining element for me was meta annoyance. At least among my peers, rebellion and critique was tempered with the recognition of patterns in history and human behavior. We had just enough self-awareness to be self-reflexive, to admit things which bugged the shit out of us also lurked within ourselves.

At least some of us: others continued to genuinely believe in youthful specialness. The difference is many more of us couldn't stand those fuckers. Even as we were young and rebellious, some were making jokes about how eventually we'd be old and nostalgia for these days would make us insufferable.



In case you can't see the clip the key exchange is this:
Max: I'm too nostalgic. I'll admit it.

Skippy: We graduated four months ago. What can you possibly be nostalgic for?

Max: I'm nostalgic for conversations I had yesterday. I've begun reminiscing events before they even occur. I'm reminiscing this right now. I can't go to the bar because I've already looked back on it in my memory...and I didn't have a good time.
In my social circle, rage against those older than us wasn't necessarily a rejection of their values, but anger at having to live by those values without the means. Which led some to understand such values were even more empty than it first seemed.

Then as now, much of the population, especially recent college and high school grads, struggled with lingering effects of financial disasters while those responsible faced few consequences. Those worst off, particularly the young, were dismissed as self-entitled whiners. Fear of a diminished future (always renting, mounting debt and no idea of how to afford getting sick, let alone a family or retirement) was part of pop culture.

In 1996, Homer Simpson told the Smashing Pumpkins: "Thanks to your gloomy, depressing music, my children no longer hope for the future I can not afford to give them."

In the same episode there's this oh-so-Gen-X joke (in that it's one they'd make about themselves): "Oh, here comes that cannonball guy. He's cool." "Are you being sarcastic, dude?" "I don't even know any more."

Early Gen-X culture (as a demographic fiction which emphasized white urban cultural producers) was self-critical even as they indulged in the usual sense of youthful superiority and hope.

At the time, this criticism was mostly how one is still a participant in the system one criticizes. In retrospect, Gen-X complicity is more direct: the earliest members could vote 1984 and of the 11% who did, a reported 67% supported Reagan; in 1988, 53% of Gen-X went Republican (according to exit polls, so take it with a grain of salt). Many who didn't vote were just distracted, rather than consciously apathetic.

I think grunge was more ephemeral than many musical/cultural categories (in as much as it existed at all). Many grunge bands sound like they were composed for the moment classic rock stations added a 90s playlist. I could argue it was classic rock's midlife crisis, if played by young dudes [around this time the slogan "it doesn't have to be old to be a classic" arose.]

As cultural term, particularly for fashion, grunge described how young people can seem cool even while wearing used clothing and plaid. This was not new (see every Rockabilly craze save the first) and something which resonates now (see normcore and Macklemore).

Theory of Late Capitalist Angst Rock. )