I am not sure how the whole generation labeling thing works. I know there was a Generation X, but I don’t think there was a Generation W. I’ve been told that I was part of Generation Y, so I’m assuming that today’s tender teenagers are Generation Z. But, from what I’m seeing, Generation ZZZZ seems more appropriate.
I suppose I should clarify that a bit.
Young people are the biggest group of media consumers, so much of our media culture is a product of their whims. Films, television shows, and music are created according to what we decide we want, and once we’ve decided, producers of these media quickly crank out as many clones of it as they can before we inevitably decide that it’s not cool anymore.
Historically, our media has been, if not unique, at least different through each cycle. We can clearly identify the music of the ‘50s, the ‘60s, etc. We can easily tell if a film was made during the ‘70s or the ‘80s.
But today’s culture is alarmingly lethargic in innovation, and especially so in music.
For centuries, music has evolved as an art form and an entertainer.
In the scope which most of us at the University of La Verne can readily remember, the ‘80s gave birth to and refined new wave and heavy metal. Hip-hop also took its first steps toward becoming the powerful cultural force it is today.
The ‘90s spawned electronic music, which, as the decade progressed, was moved from underground raves to soundtracks and commercials. This era also gave life to modern rock as we know it, which we pissed away during the rap-rock fiasco that closed the decade.
And what has the next millennium brought us? Today’s mass consumed bands are content to recycle the past, and each other.
We have retro-rockers like Jet and the Vines cranking out garage tunes that were played much better in the ‘60s, and actually recorded in garages.
Puddle of Mudd, and too many others to name, simply rewrite Nirvana songs, while Hoobastank and Trapt are around because we can never have too many bands that sound like Incubus.
Mainstream hip-hop has settled into a time-tested formula, and lyrical prose has largely taken the back-seat to loud choruses.
The most talked about emerging band this year is arguably the Darkness, who merely reiterate the pomp and fist-pounding arena machismo of Poison and Motley Crüe. Do we really need another generation of hair bands?
Even the fashion emerging around these scenes is stagnant.
Consider the androgynous, black lipstick, AFI sect. They’re just miming the Siouxsie and the Banshees/Cure worshippers that haunted shopping malls in the ‘80s.
What about our emo kids? Let’s see: tight t-shirt stretched to belt level, hair intricately matted to look like nothing’s been done to it…. Dude, they’re Mods.
Music is not alone as a seemingly lost art. Our biggest multiplex grossers are either sequels of far superior films, or remakes of them. We’ll get more into that next week.
Television hasn’t had a new idea in eons. Teen dramas like “The O.C.” are just updates of “Beverly Hills, 90210,” and the undying reality show trend continues to loop itself.
The business of entertainment has overshadowed the creation of it. No one’s breaking any new ground because the old ground is more profitable.
Ultimately, it’s our fault. Since we buy Strokes records, go see “50 First Dates,” and watch “Fifth Wheel,” we send the message that we don’t want to be challenged, enlightened, or inspired; we just want to mindlessly consume.
Our art is dying, which doesn’t bode well for the next wave of artists who will be on the forefront in the future.
I have no grand solution, because it’s not just up to me. We simply need to recognize the cultural lobotomy we have given ourselves and make something substantial happen.
Stop seeing the sequel when you can just watch the first one on DVD instead. Don’t buy the new Jet record, go pick up “Aftermath” by the Rolling Stones. Turn off your TV and read a book, a magazine, or a rant by some obnoxious columnist.
We are all capable of being talented people and contributing something important to our culture, but only if we build from the past, not over it.
So, I’m looking at you, Generation Z, to turn this thing around. It’s us in Generation Y who dropped the ball, but I hope we can turn the tide together. Here’s hoping that Generation A, or whatever we decide comes after Z, can be inspired to inspire us.
I must admit, I’m not entirely optimistic. Something tells me this has all been written before.
Taylor Kingsbury, a senior journalism major, is a columnist for the Campus Times. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.