July 21, 2005

The Kids Are All Right

I know what she means about "Generation Repeat," believe me. It's an accurate moniker, and I feel terrible for the kids today who'll be stuck with it.

I only take issue with two points, really. First:

We never stole from other decades. You didn't see us suddenly showing up for prom in flapper outfits or hanging out at the arcade with a pack of cigarettes rolled up our t-shirt sleeve.
Oh, no? Sure, there's no cigarette pack tucked into a rolled-up sleeve, but that's only because Setzer eschewed sleeves entirely for most of the 80s, the better to torment us with the nauseating worm-white glare reflecting off his hideously wizened deltoids. But the look of the group harked back to what decade? The genre of music played had last been popular when, now?

We didn't just strip-mine the 50s, either. Say! Whose face is that on the cover of Dramarama's 1985 release Cinéma Vérité?

The Sedgwick look was all over the 80s. It's who Siouxsie Sioux is aping in this photo:

Doubt me? I give you again La Sedgwick:

Name nearly any fashion trend of the 1980s, and odds are it first appeared in the 1960s. Miniskirts? Check. Big hair? Check. Day-Glo? Check. Kohl eyeliner, geometric patterns, an absolutely raging love affair with black and white--check, check, check.

Let's face it: We ripped off everything we could get our greedy little hands on. What didn't come from the 60s came from the 40s (crimped hair, shoulder pads) or the 50s (denim jackets, skinny ties). We ripped off everything, adding a few new things along the way. Unfortunately, few of those new things were actually any good. Anyone want to bring back fingerless gloves? Leg warmers? Yes, that's what I thought.

Oh, but we had original movies and music, right? It's not like every 80s band cited the Velvet Underground as an influence or borrowed heavily from them in style. It's not like the album Rolling Stone named as numero uno for the decade took its cover art from the 1950s. It's not like one of the best-selling soundtracks of the era took all its music from the 1960s.

The 1980s were one big love letter to the 50s and 60s. So I definitely think you've got to count us guilty on charges of ripping off decades gone by.

The second thing:

Stop buying into the whole "retro is cool" thing and they'll stop throwing our leftovers at you.
Can we cut the kids a break here? First of all, kids are never an important demographic to the powers that be--because kids don't have any money. What money they do have comes partly from minimum-wage, part-time jobs, or . . . mom and dad.

Not only that, but we've done our level best as a society to rob kids of any freedoms we enjoyed growing up. Kids used to have time to make up their own goofy senses of style, develop their own taste in music, pick out their own movies, because we used to give kids more than 5 minutes at a time away from mom and dad. Kids used to walk to school by themselves. Get dropped off at the mall by themselves. Go out to concerts by themselves. Hang out in the park by themselves.

I never see teenagers walking around by themselves anymore, and I spent easily half my teenage years doing exactly that. Now? Never. Can't remember the last time I did see 'em. Even if they are out and about on their own, they're tied to home with cell phones. We never give them a moment's idleness. We never let them become independent.

To top it all off, when something new does blow in, we mock it mercilessly. Emo music? Hahaha! Hip-hop? Hahaha! Jailhouse fashion? Pull your pants up, young man, and get a job--and take that do-rag off your head while you're at it. No, you may not grow dreadlocks.

Plus, thanks to that 80s concept of greed being good, we own everything. And everything we own, we're consolidating. We're putting the squeeze on the little guy, the independent guy, every chance we get. So who's really to blame here?

You know what we've become? Baby boomers. We won't shove the hell off the stage and let kids have a chance to define the culture. We won't let go. We still think of ourselves as the stylemakers. We're in that 35-50 demographic, that categorically-no-longer-hip demographic, and we still won't shut up!

I mean it: I think if I were a teenager today I'd murder us.

If you grew up in the 70s and 80s, think back for a minute. Were you ever disgusted by the incessant nostalgia? The Big Chill. Happy Days. The secular canonization of John Lennon and all the rest of the Beatles. Aretha Franklin guesting on Murphy Brown. Hell, just the fact that Murphy Brown, starring 60s B-lister Candice Bergen, was on the air in the first place. I grew up thinking, These people will never die. They'll never go away. I will be hearing James Brown's "I Feel Good" in every movie soundtrack for the rest of my life.

You know why I like P.J. O'Rourke so much? Because he knew who to blame, and it wasn't the Kids in America:

But I suspect it's my generation, the forty-year-olds, who are dragging this mummified decade back into public and presenting it to everyone in the cheerful gift wrap of nostalgia. Are we psychotic amnesiacs, maybe?
Please, let's not be like that ourselves. Please. It's not the kids' faults they're borrowing everything from episodes of Behind the Music--we gave them Behind the Music. How old do you suppose the executive producer of that execrable Dukes of Hazzard movie is? Given the dates in his filmography--there are no projects listed before 1992--I'd have to guess he's one of us too.

We're stifling the kids these days. We snoop through their LiveJournals and drive them to parentally-sanctioned events and just generally bother the daylights out of them. How and when are they supposed to come up with anything new when we're constantly popping up to cram our tired old crap down their throats?

No. I, too, feel bad for Generation Repeat, but I can't fairly blame them. We're the ones who refuse to grow up and get off the stage.

Posted by Ilyka at July 21, 2005 12:44 AM in trivia | TrackBack

My peer group during my entire seventh grade year (1975-76) was totally obsessed with the Fifties. This was due, of course, to the popularity of Happy Days and then later (I think) came American Graffitti and Grease -- in fact, there were a lot of movies made in the Seventies about the Fifties, because most of the new and up-and-coming directors and screenwriters had "come of age" during that decade. The Seventies were when the Baby Boomers succeeded in cementing their death grip on Hollywood. Anyway, when I was twelve everyone was into poodle skirts and saddle shoes and doowop. Even I succumbed, and made my parents buy me a pair of those hideous black-and-white saddle shoes. Michele is my same age, so all I can figure is this fashion craze either inexplicably bypassed Long Island or she is in denial.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at July 21, 2005 01:41 AM

I'm a little younger than you two, so I missed the 50s nostalgia, at least fashion-wise--but the 60s? Particularly the early, pre-hippie 60s? I was loathesome that way. My prized possession as a teenager was a vintage brocade minidress, the kind with the waistline just below the bust (there's some more technical fashion term for that, but I'm not enough of a fashionista to recall it right now). Cost me $5.00 at Canal Jeans in NY.

Leather miniskirts, fishnets, Mary Janes--it was all one big throwback in my closet.

Posted by: ilyka at July 21, 2005 02:11 AM

The dress cut would be called a princess waist, I believe.

Posted by: Lauren at July 21, 2005 02:33 AM

Yes! That's it! Trust the knitting goddess to know this stuff.

Posted by: ilyka at July 21, 2005 02:39 AM

My grandmother made most of my clothes. But still I managed to wangle a few pairs of bellbottom jeans out of my parents (my grandmother said only "white trash" wore "dungarees"). I was not a dress girl anyway, except under extreme duress ("Wear this: your grandmother made it for you!") -- I preferred jeans and those picture-printed button down Qiana shirts. Or better yet, my dashiki, which I kept until it fell apart. See, after the fifties craze wore off -- it was brief -- disco hit, and I bugged out into Sixties-land. I didn't come out until 1982, when they finally started playing stuff on non-oldies radio that wasn't either disco or boogie-rock.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at July 21, 2005 03:51 AM

Originality is overrated. Who wants credit for disco or leisure suits? That’s from my generation. Every generation disappoints the previous generation and is disappointed by the following generation. Today’s generation has a better attitude towards that phenomenon, though. Whereas I seethed every time I ate shit about how great the 60s were and how crappy the 70s are, today’s generation just ring it up as “Yeah, whatever”.

Posted by: Rob at July 22, 2005 04:09 AM

But. . . but . . .but

We made that shit look GOOD.


Posted by: Margi at July 24, 2005 04:42 AM

Altho I myself never boomed a baby, I was in fact born in 1950. I was unfashionably wearing what was later labeled the "grunge" look in the late '60s, and still wonder why poodles were the only dogs appliqued onto skirts.

Posted by: triticale at July 27, 2005 03:02 AM