Tuesday, May 28, 2024

The Culture of Your Time: Generation X Y Z

October 31, 2011  
Filed under Coffee Table

By Amanda Deltuvia —

i dream of jeannie: generation xThe year you were born will affect everything about you—from the TV shows you watch to the clothing you wear, as well as your political views. Coming from the Y Generation, I never truly got a full glimpse into the lives that sandwiched my most formative years.

My parents were both born on the very early side of Generation X. I knew I was a glam rock fan, but other than that, there wasn’t much to think about until I dated a late Gen X-er. He was a hard working cynic who was a wild child growing up. He’d tell me stories of how he used to pencil in a fake birthday on his I.D. to get into clubs (that would’ve been nearly impossible in my era—ID scans, black-lights and stamps scare the crap out of you). He would fill his van with the aroma of freshly lit joints, only to receive a simple head shake from police officers that chased them down. Generation X was post-baby boomers and just off the edge of the sexual revolution. There was the hippie era of the ’60s, the punk rock ’80s and ’90s, and the questioning of morale and world security that still looms over my generation to this day.

Political events can shape a generation like a freshly opened jar of Play-Doh. Generation X was no exception: the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War quickly replaced by the War on Drugs and facing new recessions, oil and energy problems.

My history teacher in high school once described social practices like a pendulum. It swings back and forth, slowly with each decade, swaying from more conservative to more liberal and back again. Post ’60s and ’70s, this generation would be swinging back to being a bit more conservative, but not enough to regress fully. The lack of education on the AIDS issue would probably be my biggest issue with this generation.

Socially, people freaked about the AIDS epidemic. This wasn’t just your LSD dropping hippies anymore, as crack-cocaine intertwined with rap got into the hands (and ears) of young teens, especially in New York. The baby boomers were fearful of contracting something from a toilet seat and gasped at the backlashes on religion.

People were more educated than ever before, and divorce rates were at its peak with many of the X-ers being raised in single-parent homes. Generation X represents a more heterogeneous generation, with diversity in race, class, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation more than ever before. Gender roles were challenged, as more women entered the workforce. This acceptance and cultural exchange would expand with every year (my generation would pick up the slack, and spark the gay rights movement).

Technology started its full-fledged world domination. Gen X was the first generation to experience more in media than any previous generation had. Happy Days, All in the Family, I Dream of Jeannie, Three’s Company—and the foundation for modern sitcoms was set. Comedy took on a new life with SNL. From the amazing slasher film craze to films like the Clerks (What’s up New Jersey?) and the ’80s-tastic film family, i.e. Breakfast Club, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Pretty in Pink and anything else with Molly Ringwald, the generation had its share of well-known cult classics. The Star Wars saga became a lifestyle choice faster than you could say Death Star. Michael Jackson made headway with turning music videos into art and having specific formats and MTV was on in every suburban living room,’80s rock (long hair, tight pants, glitter, cross dressing, groupies, drugs and rock n’ roll). The punk rock scene from the UK surging over to the US, which became a counter-cultural trend that was a force to be reckoned with.

As I grew up, the older kids were slowly shedding their flannel from their Kurt Cobain-phase, and pop came flowing in. Wildly inappropriate underage boys and girls created the foundation for Gen Z’s Mileys and Biebers. Barney gave hugs to overtly happy children and told us we were special. The ’60s were awkwardly regurgitated with low-rise jeans, bell-bottoms and neon-colored peace signs. Clubs were flooded with flashing lights and X. Computers were in every home, and bulky cell phones were at the ears of the white-collared workers. Gameboys, Tamagochis and N64’s were the coolest new techie toys.

Beanie Babies “mighty morphed” into Antique Roadshow items for about a decade and Nickelodeon kept kids glued to big screen TVs. Adults watched Bill Clinton deny stains and relations. And we all waited for the Y2K bug to eat everyone alive.

Then the first African American president gets elected (mostly because of the Gen Y votes). Surviving and coping post-9/11was just as difficult for victims’ families as it was for the entire nation, as we regained our balance and bonded together. As smoke loomed over the water, kids cried at school, hoping their parents would come home from work. This then transitioned to the “War on Terror” that most of us probably don’t understand. Animal influenzas and diseases worried our parents, and Vietnam-esque anger surged through Gen Y. They became even more confused about big corporations, insurance, student and government policies. Homosexuals began fighting for equality and are still battling for it today. Today, Occupy Wall Street is a protest of primarily Gen Y-ers, hoping to inspire change like the young people of Cairo recently have. Women began to dominate both the workforce and college classrooms, and are still climbing to reach the top of Fortune 500 companies. The recession left the educated dissatisfied with many choices made by this country. Growing up, the economy was great and we could be whatever we wanted to be. Some people would call the late Gen X and all of Gen Y the Generation “Me” era. We felt invincible. Now I’m starting to get some of the cynicism that my “X”-lover had.

Although we did not have spaceships or cool suits as the ’80s had hoped, environmentalists found that cars were harming the planet, and the green movement blossomed. The world literally shook as we witnessed some of the most catastrophic natural disasters ever recorded. Scientists began playing God more than ever with stem cells, cloning and artificial hearts. We were lol-ing, brb-ing and ttys-ing more than ever with anyone having the ability to communicate anywhere via text, video or voice.

As the Y-ers go on, I wonder, how will my next four siblings, some of which fall into the Z category (’93, although this can be on the cusp of Y depending on who you ask, ’99, ’01 and ’05), I wonder how they will get on. Pluto’s been shunned from the planet list in classrooms, along with sweets to hopefully fight obesity. Everyone’s going to college but without the easing whisper of parents and Barney thinking everything will be perfect. Whiney yet privileged, the Z’s are in the middle of exploring their footprint on history.

They are fully plugged into technology and globalization via online tools is something that is natural to them. Film inside a camera is completely foreign, and compact discs are now found in the Museum of Modern Art. Napster pissed off some musicians, and created the gateway for online music sales.

Music globalized genres and sub-genres, and a multitude of challenges to music cultures was concocted on countless platforms in the double O’s. This is the era of Blu-rays, On-Demand, Netflix, touch screens, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. In response, X-ers would be slapping them across the face and Y’s would be shrugging their shoulders and sighing “Get real,” since their dreams seemed just as real seven years ago.

There really is no conclusion to what has been or what will be. Everyone has experienced different things, seen different things, partook in events in various ways. We are a few decades away from a textbook passage, an analysis, and a conclusion.

Only the generations to come will truly know our impacts and mistakes. We cannot truly reflect back from an unbiased view if we experience it firsthand. My only hope is that the environment becomes sustained, the wars worldwide end… and that I get a full-time job (spoken like a true “Me” generation-er, eh?). One thing to remember: leave your positive, powerful mark—even if you don’t know what it means yet.


One Response to “The Culture of Your Time: Generation X Y Z”
  1. Kathleen O'Neill says:

    It’s a sad commentary on the times in which we live, that getting a full time job is a “wish list” item, along with a better sustained environment and world peace. I hope your generation has better luck on the job front than we seem to be having with the environment and world peace.

    If you want to leave a positive, powerful mark, here’s a tip from a baby-boomer who has had ample time to see how the world runs. Always work for positive change, and for the rights of others. No matter how subversive you may seem to the shortsighted around you, time has shown that history will always come down on your side.

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