Sunday, March 04, 2012

Talking About My Generation

A recent study by Comedy Central looked at Millenials (commonly born between 1982-2000) who are now one of the most important "target demographics" of advertisers. The study found that Millenials tend to find humour to be of central importance to their lives, more so than sports and more so than music, which was much more the provenance of my generation (Generation X). I remember so well the unbearable snobbiness of many of my fellow students, who segregated themselves into little tribes, based on which music they liked. The dance-floors of student nightclubs would be a constantly changing parade of styles as there'd be a "metal" set, followed by some Kylie, followed by some indie, followed by some retro, followed by house music. After each song, everyone who had been dancing would pull a disgusted face at the new song and rush off the dance floor, while others would be pushing past them to take their place. I spent a lot of 1991 unsuccessfully trying to find common ground with the boyfriends of my female housemates, who liked and looked like Nirvana or Faith No More, and naturally disliked me because I didn't.

The fact that this study was conduced by Comedy Central (and found that comedy was important) raises questions about its validity, but it is an attractive theory, and when I listen to popular music these days, it sounds over-processed and based more around what the singers look like, rather than their ability to sing. A lot of it comes across as quite grim, and voices appear robotic as poor singing just gets auto-tuned. There is no "buzz" around the top 40 any more, and Top of the Pops only exists in our collective memory on BBC4. Even the music channels like VH1 and MTV don't play music videos any more. If younger people no longer define themselves primarily by their music tastes it is because the music aimed at them just isn't very good any more. Thank you Simon Cowell et al.

Generation X is seen as a rather dour generation, eschewing hilarity in favour of irony and sarcasm. Our comedic pin-up was Daria...

...and a lot of 1990s humour was based on making fun of earlier generations - particularly the excessses of our parents who came of age in the flamboyant 60s and 70s, and left behind a wealth of loopy fashions for us to mock. The Brady Bunch movie is a good example of this - with the characters of a wholesome 1970s sitcom, transported to the present day (1995 in this case) with hilarious consequences. In this sketch, they perform a musical number called Keep on Moving (which is almost identical to the original episode), the only difference being that comedy comes from the non-plussed reactions from the modern-day audience.

That superior 1990s sneering at primary-colour, monotone, spangly outfits, upbeat happy music, naive, syncronised dance sequences, big hair and "niceness" is contrasted by what the "cool" teeenage audience are wearing: down-beat casual wear, heavily featuring navy blues, greys and blacks, topped off by gelled-down hair cuts that make everyone look like young Republicans. Ironically, of course, those teens now look just as naff to us as the unknowing Bradys (one is in a backwards baseball cap even!)

And it is perhaps no wonder, that all of this sneering led to some of us embracing those despised fashions of yesterday - hence "retro". Although even this (which I loved), became another kind of snobbery.

Keep on Moving...

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