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An open letter to the youth of today
[CC'd to the entertainment industry and marketing geniuses everywhere]

Dear kids,

You know how every generation has a catchy name? Gen X, The Me Generation, The Pepsi Generation, whatever. You know what yours is going to be? Generation Repeat. Why, you ask? Because everything about your culture, with the exception of some emo songs, is stolen from us. And by "us" I mean people old enough to be your parents. People who actually are your parents (and it is with creative liberty that I refer to "generation" here as "anyone coming of age in the 80's, 90's or 00's.).

I know it's not your fault. You can't help it if the marketers and PR guys and TV heads put out entertainment and fashions that act as the call of the siren for you. You can't buy or like what's not out there and I'm sorry your choices are so limited, but I think it's up to you, the kids who are being spoon fed this regurgitated crap, to come up with your brand of cool.

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. You even stole swing. Who the hell would think to repeat something like that? Blame Brian Setzer all you want, but you bought the records, you danced the dances.

Since the 80's ended, it's been nothing but pop culture on repeat. You had your bellbottoms and tie-dye shirts. A million tv shows dedicated to going down on the past like an old boyfriend you're trying to win back. That 70's Show. That 80's Show. We Love the 70's. We Love the 80's. We Love the 90s? Are we going to be nostalgic for the future next?

I take a walk through the local mall and it's like I've reverted back to 1976. I went through this once, why are you forcing me to do it again? The haircuts are straight out of my high school year book. The t-shirts are all Led Zeppelin and AC/DC. The girls are wearing Hukapoo shirts and tube tops, the boys constantly flitting the hair out of their eyes, looking for all the world like Matt Dillon in Over the Edge. Even your emo music and punk fashion isn't new. Hello? Is this Dashboard Confessional? Morrisey called, he wants his act back. And if you see Good Charlotte tell them Black Flag wants to kick their asses.

You're even stealing our movies. You tried out Rollerball and Planet of the Apes and when they failed, you went for the jugular. Bad News Bears. Longest Yard. Amityville Horror. That's our stuff. And your predilections for eating up anything that came from a culture 20 years ahead of yours is what's feeding the entertainment and marketing industries, it's what's making them hungry for more, more, more and that's why they are remaking Poseidon Adventure and that's why REO Speedwagon has reunited. That's right folks. It's your fault Poison is still touring. Stop buying into the whole "retro is cool" thing and they'll stop throwing our leftovers at you. But, no. I think you're content to listen to The Song Remains the Same as if you're the first one to hear it. I think you're content to wear those ridiculous handkerchief skirts as if it's a blazing new fashion. Oh, and while I have your attention: Jessica Simpson in Dukes of Hazzard? My god, what an abomination that is, and I've only seen the video.

To be fair, I can see why you want to rip us off. I mean, what do you have? Does your generation really want to be known for R. Kelly's five part Trapped in the Closet? Are you going to spend your 20 year reunion looking at pictures of a pregnant Britney Spears or reminiscing about Paris Hilton's sexcapades or cracking up at pictures of your old boyfriend sporting a Gotti Brothers headband? If this is all you've got, then it's no wonder those Def Leppard CDs are still flying off the shelf. It's no wonder you are buying Transformers toys and wearing vintage Journey t-shirts and playing vector-based Atari games on a $2,000 computer.

Maybe I should be happy. Perhaps I should even be proud that my son is obsessed with Zeppelin or my daughter has an affinity for John Hughes movies. Maybe her Hukapoo shirt and his Outsiders style hair cut are a testament to the fact that their parents' entertainment reigns far superior over what new products are available to them today.

Still, it's kind of sad. Years from now all of your pop culture memories will consist of either crappy horror movies and faux punk bands, or remakes of old movies, remasters of old CDs, re-issues of old video games and re-stylings of old fashions. We’ll be watching a marathon of I Love the 00's and at some point, we’ll realize that it’s just I Love the 70's, with some news footage edited in.

I’m afraid it’s too late to save your generation. But that doesn’t worry me as much as you think. After all, you’re doing us a favor. We can borrow your music. Save money by giving our kids old clothes we have stuffed in the attic. Kick your asses in video games. Laugh at your punk rock. Recite more lines from Airplane! than you. And make you insanely jealous by saying things like “Yea, I was at the first Lollapalooza.” Or “Oh geez, saw Zeppelin live six or seven times.” Or “I have an original Burger King Jedi glass. No, I didn’t buy it on eBay. I got it a Burger King the day it came out, babe. I was THERE.” What will you have to tell your kids? “That’s right, we were there for the Reunion of the Eagles Concert to Commemorate 20th Anniversary of the Farewell Eagles Concert!”

Go ahead, be Generation Repeat. It’s kind of working out for us, after all.


Generation Repeat.

Great concept. But it will inevitably be shortened to Gen Repeat...that's OK, but I think GEN ECHO, rolls off the tongue a little better.
How about GEN AGAIN?

Well - the irony is thick with irony.

The Song Indeed Remains the Same.

As NBC taught us, "if you haven't seen it, it's new to you."

Don't know what you're getting at bumper, but telling the kids of today to find something original to be remembered for is hardly akin to someone telling me that my life will be judged as worthless because I watch the Yankees.

Does your generation really want to be known for R. Kelly's five part Trapped in the Closet?

Truly. The only reason for this songs existence is as a diversion from his pedophilia trial. "Hey R. was screwing some teenager." "So what have you seen the Trapped part 1 video?" "OMG yes, that is so much worse..."

I'm thinking this isn't such a new phenom, but maybe it's just hitting closer to home because now it's our pre-covered ground that's being rehashed.

Remember, we thought all that stuff was cool for a while too.

But my point is that recycling has gone on before - maybe not to such an extent, but it's happened. My mother once observed that she had a closet full of older clothes that she'd never get rid of because 'in 20 years, they'll be back in fashion'.

She had a good point. Look at the 80's for example - thin ties, harking back to the 40's, 50's and 60's. Don't even get started with the linebacker look, epitomized by Sean Young in Blade Runner. And the 70's - a certain 50's retrospection industry was quite popular until the Fonz climbed on that bike to do the shark tank stunt.

And all that is old, will be new once again. Maybe having such a cyclic cultural phenom is an offshoot of an overall tendency of having a public attention span not much longer than the character Tom from '50 First Dates'...

I see your point Windy, but I don't think it's ever been so all encompassing as it is now. It's become a cottage industry.

Maybe its my complete lack of imagination but what can be done that hasn't already been done? Music, to take an example, has done everything conceivable. Blues, Swing, Jazz, Rock, Rap, Techno, Electro, it gets to a point when there's nothing left to do . Anyway, I think its funny that my teenage girls' favorite group is the Beatles; their tastes are older than mine.

I agree with every bit of this. This HAS gone one before, but never to the extent that it goes on now.

I thoroughly await the next Strauss/Howe book so I can find out what this generation is all about.

This has to be a bummer, though . Because of your musical tastes, I can't ever see you yelling at your kids "TURN THAT JUNK DOWN!" . That, for most people, causes the self-revelation that one is getting on in years. But, this is close: comparing the next generation negatively to your own is a sort of rite of passage. Welcome to the club!

Eh, I have a bit of a different perspective on it. I don't think pop culture is actually the continual series of Maoist revolutions it would like to think it is, it really is cumulative with some tweaks and turns. A later generation always has more accumulated stuff to pick from. If something's good and hits you the right way, it doesn't matter whether it's current or not.

Now, retro for sake of being retro is lame, just as current for sake of being current is lame. But if you've got some good cards in the hole, I don't see the harm in using 'em.

I think it has more to do with the fact that good old fashioned rebellion has gone out of style. Kids in the fifties did the wife-beater shirts and rolled up jean cuffs to look tough and streety. In the sixties they grew their hair long and wore horrible clothes. In the seventies they cut their hair somewhat shorter. In the eighties it was bright colors, punk and other strange oddities. The nineties at least had grunge. Since then, though, rebelling against authority has been a ripoff of every one of those other generations. They haven't figured out who they dislike enough to rebel against and haven't figured out what is far enough outside the social norm to be cool but still close enough to the social norm to be accepted.

Or something like that...

I think the problem is that copying something successful from 20-30 years ago and remaking it as your own is much easier than using creativity and talent to create something new. Many times younger audiences don't know or care that their new favorite song/movie/tv show is just a remake. There's a teen-pop type singer on the radio now (I don't know her name) that has covered classic songs from Bryan Adams and Roxette. I'd bet that most teens think that those are those singer's original songs.

Sorry 'mam, we'll try to keep the ball off your lawn from now on...

You have to add another one to the list. Since those Live8 concert, my high school students have been singing old Pink Floyd songs everyday.

One kid actually asked me if I knew who Van Halen was.

Marketers already have a name for them: Echo Boomers. Pretty much sums it all up.

Damn, and I thought it was a flashback from all that LDS I did at Berkley...

I know what you mean about walking through the mall. I see these retreads and wonder, "Jeez, didn't we beat this shit down years ago?"

And if you think Blag Flag is pissed, imagine the Misfits....

I view as more like the people marketing this to the kids are trying to re-live their youth. The kids consume it, but they don't produce it.

Nobody is marketing Led Zeppeling and Van Halen to them. They're picking that up on their own.

And, let us not forget the flashback phenomenon that occurs when walking through a toy aisle! Have to admit, I do kind of like that, though. Sort of- comforting.

Michele, this is brilliant.

There's an explanation for this phenom. It's a basic principle of evolution that one thing is critical for systems change and become divergent from their parents, for diversity to appear: isolation.

In a biological system, it's physical isolation. The marsupials of Australia became so freaking weird in large part because they were cut off from the rest of the world.

Cultures operate in a similar way. There's a reason that New Orleans culture was so bizarre -- you couldn't get there from the rest of the US. They were cut off geographically. Same thing with Japan -- culturally isolated for centuries, so they develop their own unique language, social structure, etc.

Black culture was once cut off from white american culture. It was during this period that black culture developed jazz, soul food, blues, etc.

Youth culture was once cut off from adult culture. That's when it develops its own language and values.

It's when these once-separated societies are re-introduced to one another, they seem strange, and start to assimilate and merge.

Now, we have television. We have the Internet.

As a result, forms of isolation have been greatly reduced. The result is homogenization. We were brought up on TV, of course, in the 70s, but TV was not nearly as sophisticated then, and it was not nearly as targeted toward teens as it is today.

Generation Repeat is seeped in constant media bombardment. They are the least isolated generation in human history. Until they become culturally isolated for some reason (and how can they, when they are all striving desperately to become media stars?), there is no way that youth culture will be anything but a synthetic imitation if uniqueness.

I'd disagree on that Michele since those bands are the reason all these dinosaur rock stations exist.

Yeah, so some kids find it on their own. But I think saying everything is ripped off misses the point. I'll disagree with your comment that everything was original way back when. Everything is a ripoff, just on different levels. Hell, most everyone thought Elvis was original until they heard the "black records" he lifted everything from. I will agree that most stuff out there now doesn't even try to repackage or put a new spin on things, though.

"We never stole from other decades."

I think Vanilla Ice might have. Just maybe. Beastie Boys, too.

Might just be a Gen X thing, though.

If you look hard enough, a youth culture is forming in certain areas. One of these I think is in the explosion in popularity of both manga and anime. They may be borrowed from Japan, but at least they're different.

But you're right about TV, music, and the movies. Thats what happens when you don't turn over the creative talent, or talent recruiters for a long period of time. Since the same people are at the top, they continue to pick things that interest them. The shame is that their taste don't change, and new ideas aren't being promoted.

"Echo Boomers"?

Looks like I may have to break out my old Songs to Learn & Sing LP in commemoration of this sobriquet's malpropic name-sake.

Michelle, I agree to an extent, but I think it's dishonest to claim that we did not borrow from other generations. You list two great examples here:

"Nobody is marketing Led Zeppeling and Van Halen to them. They're picking that up on their own."

Like it or not, but those two bands stole plenty from past generations. "Ice Cream Man" is a 1953 recording lifted from John Brim. "The Lemon Song" is Robert Johnson's 1937 recording of "Traveling Riverside Blues" with the name changed.

These are only two examples, but the theme permeats popular music of the fifties, sixties and seventies. Hell, nearly all of Led Zep's catalog is a ripoff of previous generations. By derivation, then so are the works of subsequent bands influenced by Zep. At least in the musical realm, there is a pretty steady continuum from the dawn of the 20th century through today.

With regard to fashion, I recall our generation resurrecting fifties fashion, forties fashion, maybe even thirties fashion. Remember the modern incarnation of zoot suits in the 80's? We're guilty--maybe not as guilty as our kids, but guilty nontheless.

I do agree that there is a clearer line of demarcation between our generation (I'm 45) and that of our parents, than there is between the generations that followed us. But, we really were not as original as we (at least I) like to think.

I don't remember EVER seeing anyone dressed in fashions of the 50's or in zoot suits.

And cover versions of songs has nothing to do with what I'm talking about. I'm talking about listening to - near exclusively - music from a previous generation.

Well, from my experience, you're right about listening exclusively to music from another generation. I certainly never did that. My 15-year-old daughter spends as much time listening to music of the 50's through 90's as she does listing to todays's stuff. We've even talked about the difference between my attitudes toward music at 15, and her acceptance of music from my time today. Maybe I'll coax her to submit a comment here.

Really? You never saw people wearing saddle shoes, bobby socks and that crap? Not even around the release of Grease? Happy Days fads? Really? I wan't a fan of it, but I recall seeing it everywhere on the west coast for a while.

I'm a little ashamed to admit this, but I actually read some GQ's in the 80's, and I recall reading about a resurrection of Zoot Suits. I saw them out at clubs, too. This may have been around the Stray Cats days, and the other 80's versions of swing.

Also, to clarify, cover songs are not really what I'm talking about either. I'm talking about a hundred year history of rehashing themes in popular music.

"turn that up!"


Does that mean I will have someone to pawn my Journey records off to?

I long ago came up with the theory that "new" fads reach back 20-30 years in the past. I see I'm not alone.

For the past few years while shopping with my daughter, I've noticed that the new "hip" fashions even in so-called upper-class stores (Meyer&Frank here) and, in fact, just about everywhere else, have the definite flavor of 1970s K-mart: those gawdawful, stretchy polyester, quasi-paisley-print tops that snag on everything. Babydoll/maternity tops that tie in the back are also coming back in vogue.

Just wait 'til disco music actually makes a comeback...

(gag and shudder)

It should be noted that Transformers never really went away, so their current popularity is not a comeback.

The toy line had a couple of lean years in the late 90s. Only in the US, though. In Europe and Japan they were still pretty popular.

By the mid to late 90s the Beast Wars line had revitalized interest in TFs and become a top 10 toy line. The popularity of TFs has only grown since then.

The TF movie in development owes as much or more to the current popularity of TFs as it does to nostalgia.

I don't blame the kids, I blame us elder Gen-Xers (I'm 41). It is people of this generation that are churning out all these horrible re-hash movies. We're also the ones responsible for the Swing revival, not the 16-25 year olds. As for kids getting into classic bands like LZ or DLR Van Halen, thats news to me. I can't wait for Limp Byzkit or Insane Clown Possee to become popular again in about 15 years. (rolls eyes)

I was at the first Lollapalooza (first tour that is, not the first show), and ... I walked out on Jane's Addiction.

I'm going to be proud of that forever.

made concrete: One of my friends is 13 years younger than me. a few months ago he bought a nice studded leather belt, and i've wanted one for a long time... ok since he was 2 i guess... and so i went and got one that was similar but not the same. he sees me in it and goes "Copycat!", and, after a moment of sort of cognitive disconnect about it, i almost wet myself laughing at him.

I f-ing refuse to take any responsibility for the re-emergence of swing...that culpability belongs to the Xers who still cling to MTV in the hopes they may play their favorite Wham video...and the younger Baby Boomers who missed out on the fun in the 60s...and the older boomers who just won't friggin' let it go...

and people can call bands like Zeppelin thieves all they want...but 50 years from now, hacks like Spears, Lavigne, Limpdick Bisquick, and others of their ILK with be afterthoughts and entries in wikipedia...Zeppelin, Van Halen, Pink Floyd and their kind will still be a standard people can look to...

I dunno. It seems to me that the 70s was entirely given over to worship of past decades -- most notably the 50s, when the Baby Boomers who were finally in charge of Hollywood had "come of age." Most rock music was derivative of either the 60s music it had just left behind, or borrowed from old blues riffs. The exceptions seem to be disco and glam, but even those genres owed a lot to old European cabaret music. The fashions may have seemed unique, but they weren't really, except for the overuse of double-knit polyester and spandex. Everyone in my 7th grade class wanted to dress like the girls on Happy Days, including me. And what wasn't ripped off of the Fifties was the dead zombified corpse of the Sixties.

If you ask me the last time people were original in their fashion and musical tastes was the 18th century.

Again, I'm not talking about music being derivative. I'm talking about kids favorite bands being bands that don't even exist anymore. Maybe it's a Long Island thing, but you go into a middle school and ask a group of boys what their favorite band is and 80% of them will say either Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd or Van Halen.

And again, maybe this is a local thing, but we never, ever, ever wanted to dress like Happy Days.

Blue jeans. Long sleeve worn unbuttoned over a short sleeve shirt with some sort of picture or phrase on it. Shoes worn without socks. It's been the only style I've had since 1984. I think it's derivative of nothing in particular (except maybe Miami Vice, but never wore a sport coat or skinny tie).

As far as music goes, I thought my belief that there's been nothing good produced since '92-93 was just part of my natural progression to curmudgeonhood. I didn't realize that the kids thought the same way. Poseurs.

Oh, and I've taken to calling these kids The Latest Generation, because it strikes me as fairly bland and generic generation. I can't put my finger on anything about them that really sticks out.

I have fun occasionally singing along to the crap that kids listen to just to see the looks on their faces :) Then I pick out all the "samples" and tell them what songs they are from and what year (mostly before they were born) they were from. If I get the opportunity, I then play them the original and it freaks them out as I point out the hollowness and pointlessness of the music that they enjoy.

I'm waiting for the next musical revolution to arrive. Kurt is dead and that stopped grunge in its tracks. Radiohead are one of the few great innovators left. There isn't much after that.

I resent that. Just because pop culture sucks doesn't mean my generation sucks! It just means you made the mistake of assuming most of us give two shits about the newest release in Hilton's pr0n career, or any of that other bullshit you listed.

A lot of us actually don't even pay attention to any of that shit, because we're old enough to remember when MTV actually played music, when that music was actually put together by artists, and when artists weren't brand names. So instead of being subjected to this bullshit, we spend our time doing things like being the first generation to kayak the Tsangpo, making absolutely free music possible, and a host of other shit. It was stupid of you to lump an entire generation of people into what the lameass TV is saying we are. Bah!

Speaking of retro theatre; Here come the Smurfs in CGI.. jeez... what next...


Courtesy of Hubris (hubris.typepad.com)

i can think of something that sticks out about my generation. my middle finger.

how dare you corporate scumlickers assume that all members of our generation 'repeat' are bland and tasteless. you are simpleton americans who can't get over the idea that you spent YOUR TWENTIES idly spinning your wheels thinking you would never get old. boomers, gen-x, etc: you are old and grumpy. rearrange your wrinkles and get over it.

don't ruin my time being young and trying to help make the world a better place with your elderly cynicism and lewd blanket statements. i can't believe i read AND posted about this. what i total waste of my time.


You heard me. I said, Bah!

what i total waste of my time.

That's youth for ya.

and thank god for pro-lifers.
without them i would never feel my age.