Memories of Generation X

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic
Felt like a rant. If you don't feel like reading one, there's plenty of serious literature you should be reading.

Submitted: March 02, 2007

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Submitted: March 02, 2007

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I don't think I'm exaggerating either to say that my perception of and pleasure in life is routed in cultural memories of the early nineties or that, successful though I have sporadically been since in convincing myself otherwise, that's when life was most daunting and exciting for me. Maybe that's because I didn't yet have sufficient physical or emotional maturity to understand it (that's what my dad would say) but also because of a willingness to confess to- and having confessed to, endeavour to express- a confusion and feeling of intimidation and fear that that generation had not only the right but, historically, the duty to express. Not only the aftermath of the eighties and the deeply mean cultural ideology that decade inexplicably fostered, but the gradually mounting cultural inheritance of every clique, political perspective and manifestation of increased social liberty that had evolved following the unprecedented freedom of the post-World War Two years.

Yet the central memories I can call to mind don't actually lend this interpretation of history any weight I can convincingly- or unconvincingly- explain. The main memory is a song with the chorus "I said hey, hey, hey, what's going on?" and how it played when I was walking around the Milton Keynes bowl, but there are many other memories. The unifying factor is a childish half-understanding of their meaning and importance. It worries me a little- as worried as a good complacent child of modern consumerism gets- to think that this is what I need to enjoy life: an aura of awe-struck bafflement. This fundamentally unreliable perspective aside, the American military-industrial complex and the international mass media seemed, to me at least, to be engaging with a number of dilemmas and decisions, the outcomes of which would determine their destinies and thus those of the western world. I recall vaguely a number of controversies over issues which seemed childish and triviail to a five year-old boy, issues which haven't been raised since, presumably because they were resolved to everybody's satisfaction. But the atmosphere of nihilism and resignation which tempered even the most mainstream cultural product- I remember lame teenage sitcoms with dissatisfied and rebellious characters at their centre- that these development all played out against form my abiding my memory. It could even be that I'm only pessimisitc and cynical (which I am on those increasingly rare occasions when I think and feel) because I subconsciously feel the need to live up to the memory of the nineties. My sense of humanity is such a distant memory as to make me view its height as a magical age. As such, any song, TV show or movie from 1992-94 has a status that things from other decades can't but aspire to.

What is the magical element that sets it apart? Mainstream films are still made in the same manner, a lot of television is the same (the miracle of HBO not withstanding) and rock, which is what I listen to, has a lot of overlap with its incarnation of a decade ago. I think about it a little while and what I arrive at is the aura of defiant uncertainty: we haven't got a fucking clue and nor does anybody else. That aura is everywhere in the nineties of my mind (and no two nineties are alike: somebody else could tell you all the things I'm saying are true only of today) and it comforts me. Kurt Cobain's self-pitying rock songs weren't just masturbatory: they captured the zeitgeist and goddamn if I don't give him credit for it, him and the poor young stoners who thought his uncoordinated wailing was the sign that the ship had come in.

You know what I'm thinking about right now: an MTV animated series called Daria that ran from 1997-2001, about a smart, cynical female student at an American high school. After having a flashback to catching a bit of it on the television of my college's cafeteria in Spring 2001, and then reading a synopsis of a feature-length episode of it in the radio times, I looked it up on the internet, read some memorable quotations from it and will now not rest untill I have found some episodes on video. MTV haven't released it on DVD over here: too Generation X for the mass public, too pesimistic. Now Beavis and Butthead, that's another matter: throw a stone and you'll hit a DVD. Just the right ballance, I suppose: "I Hate Myself And I Want To Die" playing as a background to the exploits of two ammusingly stupid young men.


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