"What is an X? An empty set, a place-holder, a nothing..."
May 14, 2019 10:54 AM   Subscribe

The New York Times Style section has published a multi-article package on Generation X -- its style talismans and its impact on the wider world.

Gen X Is a Mess -- "As “Reality Bites” celebrates its 25th anniversary; as groups like Bikini Kill, Wu-Tang Clan and Hootie & the Blowfish reunite for tours; as generational idols like Ani DiFranco and Liz Phair publish memoirs; and as the first real Gen X candidates make a run for president, Gen X is in the air."

Actually, Gen X Did Sell Out, Invent All Things Millennial, and Cause Everything Else That’s Great and Awful -- "For Generation X, anarchy was a business model. The 'New Economy' was our economy."

Evan Dando Knows He’s Lucky -- "The Lemonheads frontman was the poster boy — and prettiest boy — of Gen X. At 52, he’s still enjoying a life of drugs and rock ’n’ roll, on Martha’s Vineyard of all places."

1994 Was a Prison of My Own Making -- "Why are we remembering 1994? Good question. It’s one I asked and was asked many times over the course of my experimental week attempting to live in 2019 like it was 1994."

When Grunge Made Blue-Collar Culture Cool -- "More than its fresh sound — a fusing of metal with punk — more than articulating a generation’s disillusionment with capitalist culture, the appeal of grunge, for me, was this: It reflected and ennobled the blue-collar world I knew."

It Smelled Like Gen X Spirit -- "In its first 10 days, CK One made more than $5 million, according to the company. Twenty bottles were sold every minute. It was available at all 85 Tower Records stores, next to Nirvana albums."

All Black Everything -- "With the optimism of youth, I thought that the wave of black filmmakers in the ’90s meant the doors marked a permanent, intractable win: a kind of creative Civil Rights Act. Instead, as so many have noted, in film at least, it’s been a zigzag process of steps back and steps forward."

Stuff Your ‘Rules’ -- "A hunter has to believe his prey doesn’t want to be feasted upon, right? (Right?) So how do you pretend you don’t want something you do want? “The Rules” was the answer."

And finally ...

Are You Secretly a Millennial? -- "Xennials live in the cusp between Gen X and millennial. We can sort you with this quiz."
posted by sobell (142 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
 
Sounds like the NYT totally sold out, man.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:03 AM on May 14 [15 favorites]


As with most coverage of 'Gen X' since its first mentions, I recognize none of these markers, memes or tropes among mine or my peers' experiences. Poor NYT, nice try at swerving the conversation away from our current national crisis again.
posted by Harry Caul at 11:03 AM on May 14 [15 favorites]


Which is more GenX, to snark or to feel righteous while pointedly not snarking?
posted by carsonb at 11:05 AM on May 14 [18 favorites]


harsh realm, lamestains
posted by entropicamericana at 11:06 AM on May 14 [47 favorites]


*sets R.E.M.'s Automatic for the People on repeat*
*turns up the volume*
*reads articles and comments*

posted by Fizz at 11:08 AM on May 14 [8 favorites]


I took the "Are You Secretly a Millennial" quiz and found out that I am secretly a Millennial, which is pretty funny, because I was born right in the middle of Gen X. Some Gen Xers text and have anxiety, too, you guys!
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:09 AM on May 14 [16 favorites]




nice try at swerving the conversation away from our current national crisis again
You realize that this is in the Style section, right? Pretty sure they haven't stopped publishing national news to bring you this.
posted by neroli at 11:11 AM on May 14 [23 favorites]


you can’t really talk about gen-x without talking about beatrice
posted by entropicamericana at 11:11 AM on May 14 [4 favorites]


the quiz did not ask me whether I published zines or raged against machines, not sure the results can be trusted
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:11 AM on May 14 [50 favorites]


I recognize none of these markers, memes or tropes among mine or my peers' experiences.

If you don't recognize Ani DiFranco, Reality Bites, the Wu-Tang Clan, grunge music, Calvin Klein, etc. then I'm just going to humbly suggest the problem is not with the NYT.
posted by ODiV at 11:13 AM on May 14 [75 favorites]


prize bull octorok, sounds like you only hear what you want to, don't listen hard, don't pay attention to the distance that you're running.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:14 AM on May 14 [27 favorites]


it was kind of amazing how much pop culture you could miss or opt out of in the 90s
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:14 AM on May 14 [17 favorites]


Opting out of pop culture was definitely the Gen X thing to do. We were all pretty big on it.
posted by ODiV at 11:16 AM on May 14 [31 favorites]


This is totally swinging on the flippity flop
posted by ShawnStruck at 11:16 AM on May 14 [20 favorites]


it was kind of amazing how much pop culture you could miss or opt out of in the 90s . . . .Opting out of pop culture was definitely the Gen X thing to do. We were all pretty big on it.

Zackly. Especially after having lived through the 80s.
posted by Harry Caul at 11:17 AM on May 14 [7 favorites]


I only saw Reality Bites in the last month, because spouse insisted that I ought to. It...is a product of its time, I guess.

still love me some Melvins and Tad
posted by salt grass at 11:18 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]


For my money Gen X is a competent generation. That's the legacy, being slightly more competent than boomers and millenials. Gen Z will be the next one like that.
posted by chaz at 11:20 AM on May 14 [8 favorites]


Just yesterday I complained that if we called the current thirtysomethings their rightful dull moniker of Gen Y instead of millennials, maybe they would get over themselves. Not sure whether this bitterness is Gen X related. Perhaps in the end we all become part of the Get Off My Lawn generation.
posted by Flannery Culp at 11:20 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


the quiz did not ask me whether I published zines or raged against machines, not sure the results can be trusted

After reviewing the quiz, I was also concerned I was not being asked what sort of animal inside of what kind of enclosure I felt like despite all my rage.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:20 AM on May 14 [30 favorites]


If you don't recognize Ani DiFranco, Reality Bites, the Wu-Tang Clan, grunge music, Calvin Klein, etc. then I'm just going to humbly suggest the problem is not with the NYT.

Sorry, I'm aware of them, just don't remember coming across them, or hearing about my friends come across them. They're all pretty much tropes of the 90s and later though right? My experience as 'Gen X'er was solidly 80s centered. After that it was just trying to not end up homeless again.
posted by Harry Caul at 11:21 AM on May 14 [12 favorites]


If you don't recognize Ani DiFranco, Reality Bites, the Wu-Tang Clan, grunge music, Calvin Klein, etc. then I'm just going to humbly suggest the problem is not with the NYT.

I have a Wu-Tang Clan name, but I've never heard their music.

I've also never seen Reality Bytes, but I can sing all of "Once More with Feeling".

/the problem is not with the NYT.
posted by jb at 11:21 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]


I’m just glad I got to live through that brief time when the Cold War ended, there was peace in Israel and Palestine and Northern Ireland, and it seemed like the world was becoming a better place. The Jesus Jones moment, if you will.
posted by rodlymight at 11:24 AM on May 14 [91 favorites]


Which is more GenX, to snark or to feel righteous while pointedly not snarking?
The Gen Xers on this site all have sock puppets so they can do both! If they can be bothered. Which isn't often to be honest.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 11:25 AM on May 14 [4 favorites]


millenials are fine, actually
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:26 AM on May 14 [8 favorites]


"What is an X? An empty set, a place-holder, a nothing..."

Well, I'm a Gen-Xer, I'm literally X, and I'm agender, so...
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posted by XtinaS at 11:27 AM on May 14 [9 favorites]


But enough talk... Have at you!
posted by Reyturner at 11:29 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


I’m just glad I got to live through that brief time when the Cold War ended, there was peace in Israel and Palestine and Northern Ireland, and it seemed like the world was becoming a better place. The Jesus Jones moment, if you will.

The funny thing is, I do remember the early nineties as a time of relative optimism. Partly I was pretty young and naive, partly I didn't have really good access to media so I didn't understand what was going to happen, but partly things did seem to be looking up after the long night of the Reagan-Bush era. "Multiculturalism" and third wave feminism get a lot of justified criticism now, but believe me, they were a fresh balm in, like, 1992. The canon was being revised! You could see a movie in the theater by a Black film-maker! We didn't understand that rather than a smooth, fair transition to a market economy Eastern Europe was being gutted by our oligarchs working with theirs! Backlash was a best-selling book!

I often think about all the maps that were briefly on fashion items - shirts with map prints, sweatshirts with globe prints, bags with world maps, etc. Looking back, I see that those maps really meant that American capital was going to do its best to eat the world, but at the time they seemed so full of possibility - you'd be able to go anywhere now that the Cold War was over, everyone could be friends, the world would be all sweet and no bitter. Not, as it turned out, the way things worked.
posted by Frowner at 11:30 AM on May 14 [78 favorites]


I hope this NYT write-up gets a scathing takedown by Polly Esther.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:33 AM on May 14 [13 favorites]


Mid-late boomer here, and everything they're blaming Xers for appears to me have been created either by us boomers or on the cusp of boom/X... as if we of the Baby Boom created a void and GenX accidentally stepped into it.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:36 AM on May 14 [6 favorites]


Another thing I feel lucky about? I worked in China at about the turn of the millennium - back before the pollution and the surveillance state got so bad, and back before political relationships went to hell. I had an experience that you absolutely could not have now - blue skies over Beijing, biking past the Forbidden City, Xinjiang people able to come and go. Wonderful, wonderful times.
posted by Frowner at 11:37 AM on May 14 [10 favorites]


(Eventually they'll have to start blaming Gen X for everything, because the Boomers will be too old and/or dead and the endless game of "it's a generation's fault, it's about character flaws and not systems" must continue lest there be any actual change. Should complex human civilization last long enough, Millennials, it will eventually be your fault too.)

(I am a secret Millenial per the quiz, but I think that's wrong. I was old-fashioned in the nineties even.)
posted by Frowner at 11:39 AM on May 14 [22 favorites]


DS9 was the best Star Trek.
posted by BeeDo at 11:41 AM on May 14 [16 favorites]


thre is some good stuff here. BUT HANG ON A SECOND:

We all remember sitting in front of a TV wheeled in by the AV department in 1986, the whole class looking on in rapt anticipation for the 73 seconds of flight before the Challenger exploded. Thanks to Ben Lerner’s novel “10:04,” we now know most of us couldn’t possibly have watched it live. The broadcast network footage was only shown after the fact. (CNN, then in comparatively few households and schools, was the sole network to carry the launch and explosion live.)

WAIT HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE? i VIVIDLY remember watching this in school, in my 3rd grade classroom. I also seriously doubt that St Peters school in New Brunswick NJ had a CNN subscription. But maybe??? I can't imagine why they'd show us a REPLAY of it...I have to get to the bottom of this.
posted by capnsue at 11:45 AM on May 14 [5 favorites]


73 seconds of flight before the Challenger exploded

We weren't watching it; our principal came into the room and told us what had happened.
posted by salt grass at 11:46 AM on May 14 [4 favorites]


Well my school (ODU) had some CNN going on then I guess. It was around 11:30 in the morning, watched it happen with about 100 other students ln the commons area. It was pretty uncomfortable trying to figure out what we just saw. But was CNN some kind of rare thing in 1986 at all? To me it was just another channel.
posted by Harry Caul at 11:52 AM on May 14


WAIT HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?

I was born in 1981 and I have a strong, clear memory of watching the Challenger explode in 1st grade, despite the fact that I was not yet in school in 1986. So, you know, memory is a funny thing.
posted by penduluum at 11:52 AM on May 14 [10 favorites]


Gen X sits among the dust
of broken dreams and shattered trust;
the now-dead hopes that it had seen.
Rest in peace, Yitzhak Rabin.
posted by grumpybear69 at 11:58 AM on May 14 [9 favorites]


Yeah, I think a distinction could be made between early-Gen-Xers and late-Gen-Xers.

I was born at the end of the 60s, came of age in the 80s, and identify much more closely with the Golden Age of MTV pop and the classic rock from the 60s and 70s that was on heavy rotation in the 80s. I recall when Pearl Jam and Nirvana became popular with younger co-workers in the 90s, and having the realization that I was already behind the curve in modern music.

I’ve heard Ani DiFranco’s name, but without googling her, I couldn’t tell you what she’s famous for. Music? Acting? Similarly, I’m assuming Reality Bites is a tv show?

Anyway, to the questionable degree that “Gen-X” is actually a thing, it’s probably more granular than monolithic.
posted by darkstar at 11:59 AM on May 14 [11 favorites]


Cable was still rare and expensive in (at least my) 1986. IIRC there was some kind of special educational satellite broadcast from NASA that schools could hook into as part of the teacher in space initiative, so some classrooms did watch the Challenger explode live, but not nearly as many of us as remember it.
posted by Flannery Culp at 11:59 AM on May 14 [3 favorites]


Really weird to see Gen X covered in the national media. For the past decade or so it's been the reptilian Boomer pundit class that has obsessed over their poor little babies, the Millennials.
posted by JamesBay at 12:02 PM on May 14 [9 favorites]


And you know what else Gen X is? Getting older.

Boomers and Millennials, too. Unless there's something y'all aren't telling us Gen Xers...
posted by chavenet at 12:03 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


Reality Bites is a movie.
posted by Clustercuss at 12:05 PM on May 14


Really weird to see Gen X covered in the national media.

Ehn, even on The Brady Bunch they eventually did like one episode about Jan because they felt bad about leaving her out, then they went right back to form. Eventually they'll be back to the "Marcia Marcia Marcia!" coverage of Boomers v. Millennials.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:06 PM on May 14 [11 favorites]


so I don't think genx/millennial is a generation difference so much as it's a dominant-medium difference. If you primarily grew up on the internet, you're going to read millennial. if you grew up on tv, you're going to read genx.

I'd wager that 80-90% of genx mefites would get "old millennial," because mefite is the "I grew up on the internet before everybody grew up on the internet" site par excellence.

(okay, so "genx/millennial is a distinguished by a difference in dominant medium" is my standard line, but I don't entirely believe it anymore. I think it's a difference in what societal structure existed when one was a kid, and what myths had not yet been debunked. genx grew up when it was possible to buy francis fukuyama's "end of history" nonsense, and also when liberal capitalist governments hadn't yet completely dismantled the welfare state. So when the 2000s and 2010s started hitting hard, genx had to disillusion themselves of illusions the millennials never had in the first place.)
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 12:08 PM on May 14 [21 favorites]


Reality Bites is a movie.


Yeah, I googled all of those names after I posted my comment. It appears that maybe Reality Bites occupies the same cultural niche for late-Gen-Xers as The Breakfast Club and related films occupy for us early-Gen-Xers?
posted by darkstar at 12:09 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]




Yeah, I think a distinction could be made between early-Gen-Xers and late-Gen-Xers.

It's almost as though any attempt to classify a demographically diverse group of people solely based on their year of birth is going to be about as accurate as reading their horoscope. Or tea leaves. Or the original Douglas Coupland novel that somehow spawned the name of the generation.
posted by Mayor West at 12:13 PM on May 14 [15 favorites]


Maybe not quite, darkstar. Like the former seemed to be for disillusioned young adults while the latter was for disillusioned teenagers. Or maybe it was all for 14-29 year olds and what do I know.
posted by ODiV at 12:14 PM on May 14


It appears that maybe Reality Bites occupies the same cultural niche for late-Gen-Xers as The Breakfast Club occupies for us early-Gen-Xers?
Or The Bad News Bears occupies for us early-early Gen Xers?
posted by Harry Caul at 12:15 PM on May 14 [3 favorites]


After that it was just trying to not end up homeless again.

I laughed, then cried.
posted by saysthis at 12:23 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Oh, and also, Polvo. Even if you're Gen X, you likely don't know (that's the point, it's Gen X, what were you expecting), but listen to that and tell me that's not the soundtrack of a generation.
posted by saysthis at 12:34 PM on May 14 [3 favorites]


It appears that maybe Reality Bites occupies the same cultural niche for late-Gen-Xers as The Breakfast Club occupies for us early-Gen-Xers?
Or The Bad News Bears occupies for us early-early Gen Xers?


Or Strictly Ballroom occupies for those of us who like good movies?

Sorry/Not sorry.

Vivir con miedo, es como vivir a medias!
posted by BeeDo at 12:35 PM on May 14 [6 favorites]


Also, you know what really shaped Gen X? AIDS and then the discovery of the new drugs around 1996. Some people experienced the era before meaningful treatment as mostly about the fear that sex would kill you; I remember it mostly as a sense that people just a few years older than you were dying, and that the life of the GLBTQ communities was totally shaped by AIDS activism.

You talk about being cynical? What I remember was abandonment of gay people, the hatred and the stupid fear (when it was apparent even to me, the world's greatest hypochondriac, that it was actually very, very difficult to get HIV without sharing needles or having unprotected sex), the "you deserve it, you deserve to die".

I think that between the extreme bullying that I experienced as a kid and the pervasive sense of the AIDS epidemic, I really grew up socialized to believe that other people - "normal" people - were against you always, and that they'd get a kick out of it if you suffered and died. In some ways this actually prepared me for the rebirth of American fascism, because it turned out that my perceptions were basically correct.
posted by Frowner at 12:36 PM on May 14 [67 favorites]


Atari Wave vs. Nintendo Wave. This set of articles is very much of the latter. I mean, it's a 20-year long generation, we don't "all remember sitting in front of a TV wheeled in by the AV department in 1986" if we were already in college then.

A unifying feature of Atari-wave Generation X youth is that we grew up in the same institutions as the Boomers (like public schools as the default), and we more or less expected our lives to have the same kinds of experiences (like college as a big funtime), but everything seemed to be breaking down, malfunctioning, and getting dismantled while we were going through it. There was a LOT of "nostalgia" for a '50s-'60s past we never had but which we all knew about in great detail. "Classic Rock" was pretty popular among people who were 2 years old when it was recorded, and even discussions of Punk drew heavily on ideals of the rebellious Rock And Roll era & the Sixties.

My experience of Gen X life is that it's always been steeped in a story of what the previous generation got to do, but by the time me and my friends get to each of those life stages, the ride is closing down and only a few lucky ones get on board. How's that Social Security lookin'?
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 12:38 PM on May 14 [32 favorites]


Sighhhhh, Evan Dando is still so gorgeous. He sounds like a real mess, but the 16-year-old inside of me doesn't care and just wants to look at pictures of him and listen to that dreamy voice.
posted by something something at 12:40 PM on May 14 [3 favorites]


I dimly recall 'grody to the max' from my high school years
posted by hugbucket at 12:41 PM on May 14 [5 favorites]


Today, 'gag me with a spoon' would be an ephemeral meme, as short lived as a mayfly
posted by hugbucket at 12:41 PM on May 14 [4 favorites]


The problem with these generational cohorts that someone (?) defined and named is that they're far too broad. I'm an early Gen-Xer. My jam was 1978-1983 punk and new wave. I have absolutely nothing in common with supposedly fellow Gen-Xers who grew up with late '80s - early '90s pop culture.
posted by rocket88 at 12:45 PM on May 14 [7 favorites]


Re Challenger, it's also worth remembering that the ill-fated mission was the 25th Space Shuttle mission and the novelty had well worn off by that point. It did get more attention then the ones just before it, due to the Teacher in Space, but nowhere near as much as the first.

I was in high school and learned about it when a friend came up to me in the hall and told me, and said "Mr. [Physics Teacher] has the news on in his office, let's go." So we went and watched the awful footage, but I wasn't watching live.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:47 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


I'm aware of them, just don't remember coming across them, or hearing about my friends come across them. They're all pretty much tropes of the 90s and later though right? My experience as 'Gen X'er was solidly 80s centered.

For me, Ani DiFranco, Reality Bites, the Wu-Tang Clan, grunge music, Calvin Klein, etc., are all filed in the post-undergrad/grad/making-a-total-mess-of-things part of my life. These are all things that I or my friends would've had some opinion on at the time—along with, say, The X-Files, shoegaze, the YBAs, Kids In The Hall, and Heroin Chic. I mean, shit, I can mark off a space of a few years ('91-'93ish) where I lived very much like one of Richard Linklater's characters in Slacker. That's partly because I was privileged enough to be able to be aware of/concerned with those things—poverty jet set!—partly because being in collegiate towns kept me connected to everyone else aware of/concerned with those things.

Also, you know what really shaped Gen X? AIDS

Yeah, it's remarkable how much my adolescence/youth was shaped by a pervasive fear of either dying in a nuclear holocaust or dying of having sex. It scarred me in ways that I'm still uncovering, tbh.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:08 PM on May 14 [32 favorites]


My only hope in life is to live long enough for society to realize that "generation whatever" is just horse shit ginned up to sell books. You'd think that since every time of of these articles comes out, 95% of the discussion, from the very people the article describes, is that the article is wrong, we'd be there already. But alas.

Signed, 38 year old a GenX GenY Generation Internet Millennial Who-Fuck-Knows Dude.
posted by sideshow at 1:18 PM on May 14 [7 favorites]


My only hope in life is to live long enough for society to realize that "generation whatever" is just horse shit ginned up to sell books.

this is, by several orders of magnitude, the most Gen X comment in this thread
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:21 PM on May 14 [36 favorites]


Just yesterday I complained that if we called the current thirtysomethings their rightful dull moniker of Gen Y instead of millennials, maybe they would get over themselves.

Snark all you want, but eventually one of you is going to have to answer for Pauly Shore.
posted by gc at 1:26 PM on May 14 [9 favorites]


Also, you know what really shaped Gen X? AIDS

The first time I viscerally understood the generation gap between myself (college in the early 1990s) and my cousins (college in the early 1970s) was when a bunch of them were fresh off their first round of divorces and complaining about how unreasonable women were now for expecting them to wear condoms and go get tested.
posted by sobell at 1:28 PM on May 14 [5 favorites]


Anybody else thinking of Darkwing Duck and Liberation Theology?

No?

Just me?
posted by clawsoon at 1:31 PM on May 14 [4 favorites]


WAIT HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?

Because you were in middle school Science class with me at St. Thomas Academy, and Mister Basset (R.I.P., you amazing man) strode in with the TV cart, turned on the news, and stood silently watching the replay until class ended. None of us said much besides gasping.

I don't think we had cable, the broadcast channels must have showed it.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:32 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


Also, you know what really shaped Gen X? AIDS

Even as an older millenial, the cultural differences between us and younger millennials who weren't around for the aftermath of the AIDS crisis is shocking. The number of otherwise sensible, practical, boring (law school!) people who I know who think it is totally fine and normal to have sex with a stranger without a condom is...really high. YOU ARE GOING TO DIE FROM THAT is basically all I can think when I hear about it, but they don't really think that way.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:34 PM on May 14 [11 favorites]


Anybody else thinking of Darkwing Duck and Liberation Theology?

What, combined? Hell no.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:36 PM on May 14 [3 favorites]


Well this disconnect in references has led me to discovering the term 'Generation Jones', the description of which has now made me doubt how much Gen X I actually am, LOL. Lots of cultural touchstones and events that made me shiver remembering them, here.
posted by Harry Caul at 1:42 PM on May 14


I was going to start commenting about being born in 1967 and the difference between early and late GenX -
-then I realized someone was actually talking about Generation X.
I had to sit down to let the shock wash through me.
posted by doctornemo at 1:54 PM on May 14 [9 favorites]


I can maybe remember watching the Challenger disaster live, but also convince myself it's a false composite memory mashed up of replays of the disaster combined with a live watching of the Discovery launch later.
posted by pykrete jungle at 1:55 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


My memory of Challenger is my Scottish soccer coach and Vacation Bible School leader making jokes about it.
posted by clawsoon at 2:05 PM on May 14


I'm OK with this, as long as I don't have to do anything.

***
I'm pretty sure I accurately recall hearing about, not watching live, the Challenger disaster.
posted by thelonius at 2:30 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


Also, you know what really shaped Gen X? AIDS and then the discovery of the new drugs around 1996.

I'd add "the Cold War" to that list as well. Our parents may have been children during the existence of nukes, but there was the belief that it was survivable when they were kids; many of us in Gen-X found out about the catastrophic scale of nuclear war as children, and then we grew up like that. I firmly, firmly believe that that fucked with some of our heads but good.

I actually read Douglas Coupland's book in '92 and the part that resonated with me is when one of his characters talks about imagining what "the bomb actually finally falls" moment would be like, and then says "everyone I know has had this thought, trying to imagine what they would do when that happens." I read that and sat up and thought "...me too."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:31 PM on May 14 [31 favorites]


Danger Mouse, Count Duckula, Remote Control, Pre-Full-House-Dave-Coulier, Commodore 64s, 2400 baud modems, giant cellphones in cars, Night Flight, Oregon Trail, pre-Elmo Sesame Street, Lincoln Logs, latchkey kids, laserdiscs, Tiffany, Rapper's Delight, Angels In America, Iran Contra, Jams, Pac-Man, plastic cable boxes with faux wood decals, liking Kiss as a subversive act, switchblades, We Are The World, roller skating, BBSing, Wargames, hope.

That's GenX to me.
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:38 PM on May 14 [15 favorites]


As a cusp baby I got to choose and I've always felt more Gen X than millennial. Now I have a NYTimes quiz to back me up! I think picking Ethan Hawke over whatever his name from Daria clinched it. I still own the Reality Bites soundtrack. And play it.
posted by spamandkimchi at 2:38 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Also co-sign 100% to prize bull octorok's point that there must be zines.
Wait, do zines bridge early and late Gen-X? In my late teens/early 20s I had a tripod and a geocities account AND I published a print zine.

Gen X was the last gasp of analog media. I made so many mix tapes in high school I could look at a cassette and accurately gauge the remaining time left on the side I was finishing. And had a list of under 2 minute songs to fill those awkward last bits of the cassette.
posted by spamandkimchi at 2:44 PM on May 14 [16 favorites]


grumpybear69 didn't start the fire.
posted by fiercecupcake at 3:11 PM on May 14 [13 favorites]


I'd add "the Cold War" to that list as well. Our parents may have been children during the existence of nukes, but there was the belief that it was survivable when they were kids; many of us in Gen-X found out about the catastrophic scale of nuclear war as children, and then we grew up like that. I firmly, firmly believe that that fucked with some of our heads but good.
Not only that, we mapped the different radiation zones of the nearest nuclear targets in school. General consensus was that the lucky ones were those who died instantly.
When we were slammed by the "Slacker" label in the early 1990s (just as I was entering the workforce), I started compiling a list of how much of our popular culture involved nuclear holocaust. Because lack of direction seems perfectly reasonable if you don't expect to survive to adulthood.

BTW, I was born in 1970, and to echo what others in this thread have said: I have stronger memories of the music and movies of the mid-1980s than those of the mid-1990s. Atari wave, not Nintendo wave.
I found out about the Challenger explosion in high school, walking into the library over lunch, where the tv was on.
I also remember how I heard that Reagan had been shot: the principal announced it over the loudspeakers -- followed by a ten minute lecture from our teacher on how inappropriate some of our responses were.
posted by cheshyre at 3:19 PM on May 14 [10 favorites]


followed by a ten minute lecture from our teacher on how inappropriate some of our responses were.
Here too, I remember literally jumping and dancing in the street outside the school upon hearing the news. And we were far from alone out there.
posted by Harry Caul at 3:23 PM on May 14 [5 favorites]


I'm an early Gen-Xer. My jam was 1978-1983 punk and new wave. I have absolutely nothing in common with supposedly fellow Gen-Xers who grew up with late '80s - early '90s pop culture.

This is the major problem with the pop culture media version of Generation Theory. That idea was intended to describe big-picture things like attitudes, political worldviews, stages of life -- things which were broadly shaped by the culture and economy of the country as each generation grows up. Because so much of the culture is created by the previous generations and where they are their own life stages at the time, there are some long-range repetitive cycles visible to a historian. Such is the topic of William Strauss & Neil Howe's Generations which is where we got the generation names like Millennials and Silents (except they called Generation X "13ers"). Characterizing a "generation" as a bunch of TV show memories and popular songs is missing the forest for the trees.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 3:37 PM on May 14 [7 favorites]


grumpybear69 didn't start the fire.

This touches a hot-button of mine. To my mind, We Didn't Start the Fire is a craptacular ripoff of It's the End of the Word As We Know It and I'm still mad about it.
posted by sjswitzer at 3:41 PM on May 14 [11 favorites]


I absolutely remember watching the Challenger Disaster live. I was in second grade, we went to the third grade classroom where the kids had all moved their desks towards the walls so that we 2nd graders could sit on the floor in the middle. (not enough TVs for every classroom, I guess). We watched. We didn't know what was going on. My teacher - Ms. Dahl - started to cry. That was 1000x more freaky than whatever was happening on TV, which we didn't really understand.

I guess I could have dreamed it all up? I was like 8 years old and I had/have a pretty vivid imagination. But the whole "sitting on the floor between the desks of the 3rd graders" is a really specific memory.
posted by Gray Duck at 3:53 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


The problem with these generational cohorts that someone (?) defined and named is that they're far too broad. I'm an early Gen-Xer. My jam was 1978-1983 punk and new wave. I have absolutely nothing in common with supposedly fellow Gen-Xers who grew up with late '80s - early '90s pop culture.

There are no significant X protest movements (he claimed boldly). There are significant B (Women's Lib, Civil Rights, Vietnam) and M (BLM, Iraq, Occupy) protest movements. That absence speaks to a kind of cynicism and detachment in GenX that, I think, most of us have in common.

(Aside: Conservative party talking head on the radio a couple of days ago said something interesting: Millennials see the economy as a moral issue, not a - well, economic one. Well I found it interesting, anyway).
posted by Leon at 4:17 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon: I'd wager that 80-90% of genx mefites would get "old millennial," because mefite is the "I grew up on the internet before everybody grew up on the internet" site par excellence.

Generation M.
posted by clawsoon at 4:26 PM on May 14 [4 favorites]


Leon: (Aside: Conservative party talking head on the radio a couple of days ago said something interesting: Millennials see the economy as a moral issue, not a - well, economic one. Well I found it interesting, anyway).

The economy is an economic issue when it comes to how to best distribute economic inputs among productive processes. It's a moral issue when it comes to how to best distribute the profits and losses of those productive processes.

There's a fight to be had where those overlap.
posted by clawsoon at 4:32 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


There are no significant X protest movements (he claimed boldly).
I remember attending some massive pro-choice marches in Washington DC during the first Bush administration.
The headliners may have been Boomers, but busloads of college kids filled the Mall.
posted by cheshyre at 4:40 PM on May 14 [8 favorites]


Was the 1999 Seattle WTO protest a Gen-X movement?
posted by clawsoon at 4:44 PM on May 14 [5 favorites]


I came out "old millennial" on NYT and "Xennial" on the other two quizzes. I don't really relate to any generation so well so ... I guess Xennial is correct?

Man, I hated The Rules sooooooooooo much. What shitty guys you would get if you had to pretend to be a mysterious creature 24/7? Who wants the asshole that you always have to play games with in order to keep? I ranted about it online and apparently I was bitched out on The Rules boards, but since they had their own boards, I never actually had to look at or deal with the fallout. Those were the days, man.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:47 PM on May 14 [4 favorites]


Was the 1999 Seattle WTO protest a Gen-X movement?

Reporting from the time says yes.
posted by clawsoon at 4:54 PM on May 14 [4 favorites]


My memory of Challenger is my Scottish soccer coach and Vacation Bible School leader making jokes about it.

I can remember the jokes starting the very next morning in school (we were on some kind of holiday or inservice day when the accident happened). Whatever the transmission route was, it was almost instantaneous.

There are no significant X protest movements (he claimed boldly).

What about ACT-UP, or the massive protests around the first gulf war?
posted by Dip Flash at 4:56 PM on May 14 [13 favorites]


The specter of nuclear war, man - that defined much of my life.
Born 1967. Reagan got elected when I was 13, and I expected WWIII throughout my teens.

A friend shared a copy of a booklet listing Soviet targets in the US. (I'd love to find this again. Same thing you had, cheshyre?) We took time to figure out which missile types, which warheads would hit closest to us (big city versus engine plant versus university town) and plotted our odds of surviving the first blast. Then we realized one SS-9 (or something) was aimed less than a mile from our house.

We devoured all of the stories. The Day After, Threads, every post-nuclear novel and story. I played some of the board and card games.

(I got into a fight with some Boomer friends when I mentioned one aspect of this. "You all had duck and cover when you were kids," I pointed out. "By the time we were kids, they just gave up completely. There was nothing to be taught. Schools just expected we'd be incinerated, if we were lucky."
"You ignoramus! you had it easy! etc." came the reply, somehow, typically.)

So yes, being an Xer teenager meant living with the likelihood of apocalypse. I didn't catch much of that in the NYTimes pieces.
posted by doctornemo at 5:13 PM on May 14 [13 favorites]


The living like it's 1994 piece was surprisingly interesting. It wasn't what I expected.

I don't think she thought of it this way, but it didn't feel like she was living like a late-20s Times columnist in 1994. It felt like she was in the shoes of an older person who was at the height of their social and technological prowess in the '90s and is now adrift.

Somewhere along the line it got so hard to just get a decent clock radio, and all her younger relations learn the news before her, and nobody answers the phone any more. Now she's on a trip back to Manhattan and all her favorite old restaurants have closed, and she can't even find a payphone or buy a Zagat book.

(On an entirely unrelated note: can you believe it was 12 years ago that episode of 30 Rock where Carrie Fisher confidently tells Liz Lemon "it's the 90s" aired?)
posted by smelendez at 5:15 PM on May 14 [5 favorites]


Being born on the cusp of Boomers and Gen-X means I can't relate to any of these things.
It's all very strange. Everyone's celebrating the 80's but apparently the people who were making and enjoying all that music and media didn't really exist.

I don't think it's just that grouping people like this is totally wrong, I think there's a fundamental mistake in how these groups are distinguished. Seems like you should group the results, the dominant culture of different periods and then work backwards.

Nuclear war, AIDS...
It really can't be overstated how much we grew up thinking we were going to die any time.
posted by bongo_x at 5:17 PM on May 14 [6 favorites]


"You all had duck and cover when you were kids," I pointed out. "By the time we were kids, they just gave up completely. There was nothing to be taught. Schools just expected we'd be incinerated, if we were lucky."

We had duck and cover as kids, but that's because we were in California and had earthquakes. I was flabbergasted to find out that when my mom was growing up, they didn't even bother with worrying about nukes because we were absolutely definitely going to get nuked where we lived, so why bother with worrying about it?
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:24 PM on May 14 [4 favorites]


It really can't be overstated how much we grew up thinking we were going to die any time.
(bongo_x)
Indeed.

There's a Bruce Sterling novel (Islands in the Net, 1988) with a generational divide after the threat of nuclear war has gone away. Older folks grew up in the bomb's shadow and tend to be cautious, conservative, very careful. Kids, in contrast, are wild and carefree.
Interesting idea.
posted by doctornemo at 5:28 PM on May 14 [3 favorites]


clawsoon: well yeah, that's what you believe. I think the point is that different cohorts tend to believe different things. I don't know, this is the result of the Con's doing research to try to figure out how they can appeal to people under 51 (the current left/right tipping point in the UK).
posted by Leon at 5:32 PM on May 14


jenfullmoon: We had duck and cover as kids, but that's because we were in California and had earthquakes.

We had tornado drills in Minnesota (Chelsea Heights school, out near Falcon Heights, in the mid-80s -- so the tornadoes that naturally sought out Har-Mar Mall were an ever-present threat). I remember a teacher explaining that we knelt in the inner hallway and faced the wall with our hands laced together over the back of our necks so that our rib cages would protect the soft organs in our abdomen, and our hands would help protect our spinal cord. That way even if the windows blew in, we had a better chance of living through the tornado's impact.

Man, gifted & talented programs were weird.
posted by wenestvedt at 5:33 PM on May 14 [3 favorites]


There are no significant X protest movements (he claimed boldly).
Riot Grrrl and Third Wave feminism in general were distinctly Gen X movements. They were also routinely mocked and derided, but that was because of misogyny.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:02 PM on May 14 [24 favorites]


A friend shared a copy of a booklet listing Soviet targets in the US. (I'd love to find this again. Same thing you had, cheshyre?)
We lived 30 miles from a major Air Force base, so location of ground zero was a given.
For those who don't remember these activities, I found an online version!

My memory of Challenger is my Scottish soccer coach and Vacation Bible School leader making jokes about it.
I can remember the jokes starting the very next morning in school

I remember them starting that afternoon with recycled Holocaust jokes (and isn't that a sad thing to say). But my English teacher was yearbook sponsor, and we were left largely unattended that afternoon while she oversaw club photos...

In more pleasant trivia from that period, not only did I watch the first episode of MTV's Weekly Top 20 Countdown, but for no good reason I still remember the first #1 video - and the video which knocked it off the top slot (the second #1). I don't know why that piece of information stuck with me all these years, but it has...
posted by cheshyre at 6:21 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


While reading an article about Heathers recently, I learned that there really had been a teen suicide epidemic at that time--I was 15 when the movie hit cable and became a phenomenon, but somehow that particular trend hadn't registered with my cohort. I was curious, so I looked up a chart of teen suicide rates over time.

It looks like the teen suicide rate started rising quickly as Gen X entered their mid-teens in 1980 and started declining as Millennials moved into their mid-teens.

It's hard to tell with the light gray they use on the chart, but it also looks like Gen X-ers (and late Boomers) have driven an increase in suicide rates among 45-54 year olds as we've entered that range.

I've spent the last 25 years barely hanging on to life (with one passive suicide attempt along the way), so I can totally feel this.

I can't help but feel that growing up with the certainty of thermonuclear destruction and the threat of AIDS contributed to this.
posted by mattwan at 6:24 PM on May 14 [12 favorites]


From my current standpoint, I think part of being Gen-X is about growing up with restricted assumptions about ease of access to information. I remember taping X-Files episodes off the telly and numbering them with those stupid included stickers, having to go back later and biro in a name on the tape once I discovered it in the one TV guide which said e.g. F Emasculata or saw its name mentioned in an interview with the stars or in a review of the VHS releases. I remember poring through Record Collector magazine and being surprised that certain songs had been released as singles or promos by bands I liked. I remember finding a celebrated out-of-print book in the school library which talked about the inner workings of a microcomputer then a decade out of date but which I still owned (because we always live surrounded by our past, lazy nostalgia TV shows!) and being so chuffed because it was like the Holy Grail to me. I remember taping stuff off the radio so I could listen to it more than once, and writing down song and artist titles. I remember going into WH Smiths and memorising cheats from the back of computer-gaming magazines I wasn't willing to drop several quid on, because that was the only alternative.

While many of those sort of experiences hold true for previous generations I think Gen-X could perhaps be thought of as the ones who've had to deal with the fairly sudden ubiquity of all forms of information in the early-mid period of our careers and lifetimes, contradicting our education and experience up to that point.

Does that make sense?
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 7:09 PM on May 14 [25 favorites]


We had tornado drills in Minnesota (Chelsea Heights school, out near Falcon Heights, in the mid-80s -- so the tornadoes that naturally sought out Har-Mar Mall were an ever-present threat).

Dude. You grew up like two miles away from me. Brimhall for me. The 1981 tornado touched down about half a mile from my house, in the next neighborhood. Let us also celebrate the wondrous memory of The Professor’s.
posted by Autumnheart at 7:14 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


Forgot to say, we saw Challenger blow up on John Craven's Newsround (BBC 5pm ten-minute news show for kids). It looked like Bugs Bunny to us.
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 7:17 PM on May 14


The apocalypse is always coming. Every generation thinks it is the last generation.

Generation X had the cold war, then AIDS, then Y2K. The boomers had the the cold war as well (but much hotter) plus the first oil crisis and for much of the sixties everyone was sure the race wars would kick off at any moment. The current generation had Sept 11, then the great recession and is now certain that climate change will wipe out all life on earth within the next 20 years.

This has been going on basically forever. The first christians were sure all the signs showed the world was ending and the rapture would happen in their lifetimes.

I think humans are not really equipped to think about the world continuing after their personal inevitable ending. Which sadly explains a lot about how these mini apocalypses keep happening.
posted by iamnotangry at 7:31 PM on May 14 [5 favorites]


The apocalypse is always coming. Every generation thinks it is the last generation.

haha that's adorable
posted by clockzero at 7:37 PM on May 14 [4 favorites]


Another thing I feel lucky about? I worked in China at about the turn of the millennium - back before the pollution and the surveillance state got so bad, and back before political relationships went to hell. I had an experience that you absolutely could not have now - blue skies over Beijing, biking past the Forbidden City, Xinjiang people able to come and go. Wonderful, wonderful times.
posted by Frowner at 3:37 AM on May 15 [4 favorites −] [!]


Gotta include this in my "shoutouts to"

You can still bike past it. The skies are blue again. Xinjiang people are...umm...ummmmm...dear god that's depressing. But, on the other hand, they cleaned the sky. I might wander down there today.
posted by saysthis at 7:59 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


I was born in 1981 and I have a strong, clear memory of watching the Challenger explode in 1st grade, despite the fact that I was not yet in school in 1986. So, you know, memory is a funny thing.

I spent two hours arguing about this with my mom, who insists I watched it in school when, like you, I was not yet in school. I have a clear-as-day memory of the explosion being announced at the grocery store where we were shopping.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:11 PM on May 14


We had tornado drills in Minnesota (Chelsea Heights school, out near Falcon Heights, in the mid-80s -- so the tornadoes that naturally sought out Har-Mar Mall were an ever-present threat).

Dude. You grew up like two miles away from me. Brimhall for me. The 1981 tornado touched down about half a mile from my house, in the next neighborhood. Let us also celebrate the wondrous memory of The Professor’s.
posted by Autumnheart at 11:14 AM on May 15 [+] [!]


One more - Har Mar Superstar, he that is timeless.
posted by saysthis at 8:12 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


EmpressCallipygos: "I'd add "the Cold War" to that list as well. Our parents may have been children during the existence of nukes, but there was the belief that it was survivable when they were kids; many of us in Gen-X found out about the catastrophic scale of nuclear war as children, and then we grew up like that. I firmly, firmly believe that that fucked with some of our heads but good."

Watching The Day After certainly made an impression on 10-year old me.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:35 PM on May 14 [5 favorites]


The Challenger thing... I know these things: There were two fourth grade classes at my school. One of the classes went to the cafeteria to watch the launch on a closed circuit broadcast, the other class didn't. After the explosion, there was an announcement, and a lot of crying teachers, and we were all sent home.

I have absolutely no idea which class I was in. I know that I saw the replays enough that I might well have manufactured the experience I had of watching it live, but at the same time, no matter how fiercely I remember the entire thing, including the feeling of hope, of... accomplishment? at the beginning of the launch, before everything went wrong, no matter how real that is to me, I couldn't tell you which class I was in, the class that saw it live, or the class that heard about it over the PA system, then went home to see it again and again.

It's something that is to me, almost totemic, it's a weight that needed to be carried, and it is always, always a shock to me when someone I would identify as a part of my generation, that lived through the Challenger explosion tells me it wasn't something that really mattered to them, or that it didn't affect them in any way.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:45 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


The 1980s had the protests to disinvest from South Africa.
posted by mogget at 8:59 PM on May 14 [11 favorites]


> Snark all you want, but eventually one of you is going to have to answer for Pauly Shore.

Encino Man is

1) A good movie, and
2) Going to be the next movie to get an unnecessary reboot that everyone's going to have to have an opinion on.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:19 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I have spent the entire second half of my life waking up and thinking "Huh, I'm still here" and not really knowing what to do with that information. Because seriously, I never thought it would happen and made no plans for it.
posted by bongo_x at 9:27 PM on May 14 [8 favorites]


Knowing that Social Security would not be there for us when we were supposedly going to retire. Hearing about the Peace Dividend while Clinton axed welfare. Watching as the Republican party sorted itself out as the party of total anti-tax idiots and right-wing Evangelicals who stopped just short of Ariosophy while the government was turned into a cluster-f#(& by bozos who thought that government could never work as a matter of principle. The New Democrats provided a home for some formerly moderate Republicans while throwing any Progressive principles to the four winds. The fall of the USSR and the hope for Russian democracy was in the hands of a mercurial drunk whose government could not keep track of their suitcase sized nuclear bombs. Even after the Cold War getting blown to hell by some terrorist or incautious criminal was still an option. As one acquaintance of mine once said, "We were promised an Apocalypse, damn it."

Born in 1975 I skipped things like Reality Bites as it never seemed to be anything like close to my life experience. But I saw the apathy of my generation. The works of Bret Easton Ellis and the popularity of Palahniuk's Fight Club, esp. the film version. The, 'crisis of manhood,' BS when faced with the fact that women could operate in the world as more than housewives, alongside the deeply sexist imagery in films, television, and esp. music videos. Idiots in the DotCom Boom talking about how asking how their companies would make a profit was 'old-economy thinking,' only to be shown that sometimes a few centuries of market experience might be useful to look at. All the while institutions like labor unions and journalism become increasingly seen as problematic rather than as part of the fabric of a thriving and prosperous society. The 24-hour news cycle degenerated quickly into a couple of stories on the screen all the time with no real investigative pieces because they were and are expensive.

Fox gave us Married with Children and The Simpsons, comedies that mocked the idea of a family as a stable functional institution, which only confirmed our experiences as it seemed like most Gen X kids had divorced family, if not divorced parents. My parents were, and still are, together but joking about how their failure to divorce helped mark me out as weird among my cohort was only half-a-joke.

Being in Gen X may not have been a guarantee of being a cynic, but watching the world fall to s#!+ all while being told it would be for the best with there was already talk of how we might be the first generation to end up worse off than our parents, and for many of us on the younger end that seems to be true. SNL's Millennial Millions [SLYT] might be way to reductionist but I find some of the spirit of the Gen X host to be far to telling. Gen X'ers wanted to change the world. The one who could became tech barons. It often seems like everyone else got stuck on hamster wheels.
posted by Ignorantsavage at 10:21 PM on May 14 [14 favorites]


Caity Weaver and Taffy Brodesser-Akner are treasures, and I will devour all of their words.
posted by Going To Maine at 12:39 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]


The apocalypse is always coming. Every generation thinks it is the last generation.

haha that‘s adorable

Why?
posted by Going To Maine at 12:40 AM on May 15


I guess my feeling is that Gen X is the only generation that really understands, or maybe just feels, the idea of post-modernity as something real. Earlier generations didn't grow up with the effects and later generations just take it as the way things are. Gen X witnessed the transition.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:57 AM on May 15 [13 favorites]


iamnotangry: The apocalypse is always coming. Every generation thinks it is the last generation.

The book which made me aware of that fact was The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages. (That's a recommendation, BTW.) I encountered that book a few years after 88 reasons Why The Rapture Will Be in 1988, which gave me an, "Oh, I see we've been doing exactly the same end-of-the-world stuff for at least the past thousand years," moment.

I think humans are not really equipped to think about the world continuing after their personal inevitable ending.

I think the idea of the end of the world is exciting and motivating in itself. It's a sticky idea, like the idea of hell.
posted by clawsoon at 4:33 AM on May 15 [6 favorites]


Also, you know what really shaped Gen X? AIDS


Also I remember major herpes panic, right?

I'm a boomer/Gen X cusp person. I remember both watching the moon walk on TV in preschool/kindergarten and hearing about the Challenger when I was walking to the library in college. And I remember a self consciously cool baby lawyer friend in '92 coming in with Copeland's book and saying "wow, someone is finally writing about us!"
posted by Cocodrillo at 6:38 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


I'm on the young side of Gen X, but firmly Gen X, having graduated from high school in the year-of-the-moment: 1994. I had a Sassy subscription, got my first email address in college, wore so much flannel, and remember right where I was when I heard about Kurt Cobain's death. But I've always felt that the generational divide is a really simple dichotomy: Did you ever have access to the internet while you still lived with your parents?
posted by hessie at 6:44 AM on May 15


Encino Man is

1) A good movie, and
2) Going to be the next movie to get an unnecessary reboot that everyone's going to have to have an opinion on.


Oh wow, why do a reboot when you can do a sequel? You know some execs are in a room right now saying if Bill and Ted can do it, why not Encino Man?
posted by ODiV at 7:48 AM on May 15


I guess my feeling is that Gen X is the only generation that really understands, or maybe just feels, the idea of post-modernity as something real.

They way I'd put this—and it goes back to Frowner's identification of the early '90s as a time of optimism following a period of terror—is that there's a small generational cohort of probably mostly white North Americans, but maybe a cohort of Brits & Europeans, too, to a degree, whose formative life experiences are marked by promises of safety, economic security, health, happiness, and generally unchallenged success which all seemed as certain and taken for granted as they were clearly hollow and undeliverable. This distinguishes the formative experiences of this cohort from those of the generation immediately preceding it, to whom many things were promised and usually delivered, and from the generations(s) that have followed, to whom fewer and fewer promises have ever been made at all. (Note, also, that these experiences have probably marked most strongly the white members of this particular historical cohort, since for many of the non-white members fewer of these promises were ever seen as deliverable or even made at all.)

So even underneath all the shared cultural signifers, I do think that these shared historical experiences have yielded a kind of "generational" attitude of, I dunno, duality or suspension, or waiting.

(Having written all that, I wonder how much of it is even remotely true and how much is merely a writing out of my own parochial experience, but hell, let it stand.)
posted by octobersurprise at 7:50 AM on May 15 [9 favorites]


And apropos, I've been flipping through Prozac Nation and, wow, I'm really struck by the degree to which it reads like a catalog of Gen X anxieties.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:55 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


> There are no significant X protest movements (he claimed boldly).

This Gen X ACT UP, anti-war, pro-choice protestor would like to disagree with you. I will also accept the WTO as a Gen X movement.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:57 AM on May 15 [10 favorites]


I think there's a pretty substantive difference between a tendency toward apocalyptic/millenarian thinking and actual clear and present threats to civilization like nuclear war and global warming.

Yes, there is a long history of people thinking that the end of the world is nigh. It's only in the last few decades that the possibility of ending it ourselves has become real.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:01 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


Coming in to say that I really liked the Lemonheads. One of my more GenX moments was going to see a free concert that my university put on, with the Lemonheads headlining. They held it in the chapel on campus, and it freaked Dando way out. He kept talking about it through the whole show. It was a so-so concert, but at the end of the encore, Dando laid on the floor and chanted "Sataaaaaaaan" into the microphone for 10 solid minutes. The band left the stage. No one stopped him, and we all stood there for a while. I thought this would be a good opportunity to meet the band and walked around back - indeed they were out behind the church having a smoke. I asked them what the deal was with Dando, and their eyeroll was very familiar - the addict eyeroll.

I bought Lovey and It's a Shame About Ray. By the time Come On Feel the Lemonheads came along, I was more into Soul Coughing, Bjork and Jungle/Drum n Bass.
posted by SoundInhabitant at 2:38 PM on May 15 [3 favorites]


Yes, there is a long history of people thinking that the end of the world is nigh. It's only in the last few decades that the possibility of ending it ourselves has become real.
Last few decades... like the formative years of GenX?
posted by doctornemo at 4:12 PM on May 15


I remember taping X-Files episodes off the telly...
Here too.

We taped X-Files and Babylon-5. I taped tv news stories of some spectacular events as they occurred, like the attempted coup against Gorbachev.

We also wanted to keep our children's broadcast and cable tv exposure to a minimum, so I carefully taped a bunch of programs for them. (We wore out those tapes, eventually)

Teaching literature classes (1995 on), I also taped some movies and other programs for use in my classroom. Each month I'd work through the cable guide, picking out the dates and times needed to record this documentary or that classic film.

Late in this period I signed up for this new thing called Netflix...
posted by doctornemo at 4:16 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


sobell: “Are You Secretly a Millennial?”
Joshua Glenn to the white courtesy phone, please.
posted by ob1quixote at 5:54 PM on May 15 [4 favorites]


Reading more of the articles; I've never seen Reality Bites, never heard the Lemonheads. Don't know anyone who has, didn't know either one was a big deal for anyone.
posted by bongo_x at 10:23 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


Encino Man is...

Oh wow, why do a reboot when you can do a sequel?


He could be an unfrozen caveman lawyer!
posted by ActingTheGoat at 11:49 PM on May 15 [2 favorites]


Somewhere along the line it got so hard to just get a decent clock radio

Hey now, I just picked up a perfectly fine clock radio, a Sony with red numbers, at the Value Village a couple of weeks ago.
posted by clawsoon at 6:12 AM on May 16 [1 favorite]


When I was younger I thought I lived in the wrong time. With all the information about climate change and the end of the democracy I've realized I was lucky to live in the time I did. Not bad in the big picture of history.
posted by bongo_x at 1:47 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]


Yes, there is a long history of people thinking that the end of the world is nigh. It's only in the last few decades that the possibility of ending it ourselves has become real.

Last few decades... like the formative years of GenX?

The nuclear bomb is going on 74.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:32 PM on May 16


The nuclear bomb may be going on 74, but for the first couple decades it was around people,thought you could survive that shit.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:05 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]


Yes, there is a long history of people thinking that the end of the world is nigh. It's only in the last few decades that the possibility of ending it ourselves has become real.
Last few decades... like the formative years of GenX?


I'm an early Gen Xer, 1966 to be exact, in the spring. And I would say, given everything as it stands from the technological viewpoint, that our formative years were the 70s and 80s, blurring into early 90s but the last few decades (few tends to be 3 or 4) we've been grown ups.

And, our formative years can be divided into 3 - before PCs, starting 5 years of PCs, everytime else after Windows 3.1 - this, really, is what has influenced our attitudes to technology. And in that regard, Gen X is our vanguard for our emerging post Climate Shock future. We straddle the world gone before, and we can see the worst of what is coming, and if we put our heads together, we might be able to jugaad our way out of it, some how. We need to become a bazaar, and turn our backs to the cathedrals, they're rotten through and through with termites and whatnot.

Our battle ahead is to fight the mental conditioning; idea shaping; narrative defying reality reboot that is ongoing via tech giant platforms and networks, now encircling as many people as there are cellphones in the world.

This is the blue.
posted by hugbucket at 9:41 AM on May 17 [3 favorites]


I'm so glad to finally have a quiz to tell me something I've known all along as a person born in 1985. Apparently I'm on the cusp.

Thanks NYT I had no idea. /s
posted by LizBoBiz at 1:15 AM on May 20


All I know is that the generation theory I'm most familiar with was developed by two baby boomers (Strauss & Howe) who seem to have stopped development of it when it turned a profit.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:58 AM on May 22


Strauss died in 2007. Kinda hard for him to keep working on it after that point.
posted by Lexica at 4:47 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


slacker!
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:49 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


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