Kitschy Kitschy Coup
It’s here. A time that I thought would never come. A time that reflects to the world the true heart of my generation, and, perhaps more importantly, the value of it to our money driven society. It’s going to be an interesting next few years for my generation. We’re giving the world a new panoramic snapshot of ethos, one which is imbued with sentimental fragments lurking in the distance—cultural aspects that are at the same time familiar and forgotten, but somehow still, all so very, very… dull.
Please don’t hate us.
It seems, after all is said and done, that Generation X has finally grown up, and we’re finding our childhood memories foisted into a giant Jungian collective and marketed back to us in a time-honored Capitalist right of passage. At the onset of this passing of the torch, the one where the ex-ruling Baby Boomers, known in certain circles as Mom and Dad, pass to our generation the proverbial ball of marketing demographics and subtle sale techniques, there seems to be little we can do but graciously accept.
Here I am at the not-so-tender age of 28. I’m sitting in a restaurant and eating lunch with my wife on her birthday. Billy Ocean vibes across the atmosphere of the faux art deco architecture. It’s actually more a la Miami Vice than the art deco I’ve learned about in Art School, but I’m not really thinking about that. I’m listening to the 80’s music that’s playing from a specially burned CD or perhaps piping in from the outer reaches of space via satellite. It’s maybe the third place I’ve been in this week that seems incapable of playing any music outside the recorded realm of 1987 and 1991. Overnight, it appears to me, the 70’s Classic rock that was once the ubiquitous norm has been instantly and unceremoniously replaced with music from my generation.
“Good,” I told myself, “Elton John is so overrated.”
Until I stopped to realize that my generation did absolutely no better. In fact, we surely did far, far worse. We gave popularity to the most uninspired music next to the Backstreet Boys (we called them the New Kids on the Block back then), thereby laying down an unthinkable and unbearable karma-packed responsibility. The reality, unfortunately for my friends and me, is that our generation’s youth culture sucked big hard ass.
But at the same time, the Marketing wizards who study every facet of our spending society know all too well that our time has come. They have decided to start recycling bits of yesteryear, no matter how fraught with mediocrity, for the sake of proper demographic reach. We’re a big sales pitch now and we speak a different vocabulary from our parents, as god awful as it all sounds in hindsight.
Suddenly, the entire phase of our teenage rebellion, if we ever really had such a thing, seems shallow and ineffective. But we can’t stop the bus now. We’re headed for Camp Duran Duran.
With this new status of Gen X “spenders” we get all of the unconscious perks designed to make us feel like we belong. My generation can now walk into open markets with debit cards and PDA’s in hand and rest with the assurance that an uncontrollable impulse to spend money will overtake our better judgments. For it will never be the same again. Fleetwood Mac is now being permanently replaced with Bananarama in restaurants, discount stores, groceries, and shopping plazas all across the country. The zombification process has begun.
Realizing this all at once (still back at the restaurant with my wife), I might have been right to suffer a panic attack. Instead, I start singing along and tapping my fingers to the lackluster beat of Caribbean Queen. In my mind, I’ve already taken the only route possible. I’ve simply given in. This type of denial will go on for the next ten to fifteen years. It’s going to be a long ride and I know it.
I guess when things you made popular in your youth look terribly uncool to you in adulthood, you have a hankering to pass it off as kitsch, thereby elevating it through de-elevation. It’s a complicated move, but one I’m anticipating a lot more of in the future.
But I don’t think it’s all going to be that bad, at least from certain cultural standpoints. There are some attempts to bring about recycled past times that actually make better than the original. Take the Cartoon Network’s Justice League for example. This prime time cartoon is obviously just a recycled version of the after school staple my generation used to know fondly as SuperFriends. Take a look at the old show and you’ll see a weak looking Batman trotting about with a curiously half-naked Robin. However, the new version (sure, I’ll even call it Postmodern) is today being revived into something of integrity. Really, check it out. That gives us, and the generation behind us something that we all can enjoy. And that’s, well, kind of cool and totally un-kitsch.
That’s the kind of cultural afterlife I’m dreaming about.
Arguably, similar behavior is being practiced in music today, with more and more artists sampling old songs for repeat play on the radio and heavy saturation on MTV. But I tend to think of these attempts as cop-outs. I mean, do we really need a millennial remake of “Word Up?” Well, maybe that would be kind of cool, but we definitely don’t need a P Ditty re-mix of “Pac-Man Fever.”
And then there’s the inevitable up-and-coming generation gap smiling upon us, or rather just plain giving us weird looks. They come from ten-year-old boys who today don’t recognize a man as seemingly unforgettable as Mr. T. Well, they couldn’t possibly know who he is because they’ve never seen him before. Their unawareness of him seems as weird to us as his actuality must be to them. But stuff like that is just bound to happen—especially when a career is on hiatus for fifteen years, only to be suddenly yanked back in to active duty for the sake of selling us phone services.
And don’t get me started on that. I have yet to figure out why seemingly millions of advertising dollars get put into collect call promos. Seriously, does anyone make that many collect calls? I could count the amount of collect calls I’ve made in my entire lifetime on my right hand.
Sorry, back to the point.
So it seems our generation is growing up. We watch the Real World battle the Road Rules and it’s a rollicking fun time for us. After all, we’re probably the only ones old enough to remember Eric, Julie, Kevin, Norman, Heather B, and whatever the name was of that really bad-hair metal guy.
Jesus Christ, did I just rattle off five of the six original Real World cast members? Bow down, just in case. I may be the supreme alpha loser.
Anyway, I love a trip down memory lane just as much as the next guy. But the fact that we don’t have as much really good non-kitsch achievements as previous generations kind of bums me out.
But I guess there’s still time.
And besides, maybe future generations could take a helpful tip here and concentrate on making really good artistic contributions in their youth today. Maybe then, they won’t be as inflicted with bad karma when they eventually mature into the hustle.
Oh, that’s right. Oops, they did it again.