Talking about their g-g-generation

I wrote several  posts which I never set live for some reason.  This post is 5 years old, which makes it a period piece now in its own right.  But as a snapshot of March 2008, it’s interesting.  

There used to be a thing called a “Generation Gap” separating Squares (who’d been alive during WWII and many of whom had fought in it) from those who were cool or hip, or both. It went away for a while, but it’s back and this time it’s the Baby Boomers who make embarrassing attempts to get it, or else don’t realise there’s anything there to get.

TV from the 1960s and early 1970s is full of brylcremed men in suits and ties trying hard to dig the scene while being blandly humiliated by clever, scruffy young men in their early 20s. The kids got it and their elders didn’t. Punk said it again, but the first of the Punks were the last of the Boomers.

The gap is wider at some times than others and in the early 1980s, the gap narrowed for a while. Yoof cultcher took over the asylum: Jools Holland and Paula Yates presented the Tube, Janet Street-Porter Janet Street-Pontificated, Tim Bell and the Admen (now there’s a name for a band) told us Labour Wasn’t Working, and Ben Elton gave us his “little bit of politics”.

However, if we measure the width of the gap using the ludicrous questions that judges ask, then the gap is clearly broadening again. Less than 12 months ago, [2007] more than a dozen years after Netscape was launched, an English judge said: “I do not understand what a website is” during a criminal trial for cyber-crime. It may have been an attempt to clarify the issues for the court, but didn’t he realise just how much of a plonker the question would make him sound?

By the time Kurt Cobain killed himself in 1995 the Boomers had in fact lost their grip. There was a commentary piece in the Sunday Times about parents who thought that they were the Zeitgeist being bewildered by the global tidal wave of adolescent grief about someone the parents had never heard of. What goes around comes around, daddio. You dig?

The Boomers and the eldest of the Gen Xers try hard enough, but their pages on MySpace or FaceBook (my pages on MySpace and FaceBook) are as wincingly embarrassing as the brylcremed presenters trying to ingratiate themselves with Lennon or Morrison or Jagger. The the generation gap is back, but this time  the younger generation is simply ignoring their elders and slipping into electronic places and spaces their elders don’t even know exist.

Last night I watched a scaffolded and bouffant Peter York take us on a whistle-stop tour of the London advertising industry from the 1960s to the 1980s in The Rise and Fall of the Ad Man. Bloated and wrinkly boomers sat there claiming “they shall not see our like again”. As if we care. Old admen never die, they just become uncreative.

But no-one  made the point that there is astonishingly creative, innovative and clever stuff going on, but it isn’t on TV or print media any more.  It’s in games [and Apps] and on YouTube. These guys – or whoever edited their interviews – appeared not to have noticed. They seemed entirely unaware that they no longer has their finger on the pulse. A heart monitor, more like.

2 responses to “Talking about their g-g-generation

  1. sonofrojblake

    Years ago (1995) I read a column in “New Scientist” in which some “social commentator” made the radical suggestion that, in the future, there might be such things as advertisements IN computer games. “Imagine”, he said, “playing a game like Doom where the walls are advertising hoardings”.

    I wrote a letter to the magazine, which they published, in which I invited him to imagine a purveyor of fast food sponsoring an adaptation/ripoff of an already popular game, altered to include their mascot as the hero and their advertising jingle as the constantly-playing background music. I then pointed out that precisely this game had been released over ten years earlier – “Mr. Wimpy” by Ocean Software. I ridiculed him, basically. I pointed out that what he thought might happen in the future had already started happening, it was just that the advertisers weren’t interested in targetting oblivious old farts like him, which was why he hadn’t noticed.

    • Ha!

      As I get older, I am not entirely sure I can be bothered with the Zeitgeist. My godmother – the one who commissioned the Hitchhikers’ Guide – made a conscious decision when she retired not to try to understand computers. A good call at the time, but I do wonder how she’s get on with an iThing.

      In the meantime, she walks to the shops and buys herself a copy of the Telegraph and magazines like The Economist, reads serious and not so serious books, listens to the radio, goes to galleries and sees plays. She’s as cultured and informed as most people. MORE cultured and informed than most people. But I do wonder if she made the right call. And that being the case, and being a good 40 years younger than her, I am going to have to pull my finger out and keep current.

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