(Answers to a conversation.)
A:I just feel like in popular culture we don’t discuss him. Maybe it’s me thinking he’s more important than he was, or the magazines I read… Vanity Fair talks a lot more about Kennedy than Cobain.
Possibly this is because of the differences between Courtney and Jackie O.
Possibly though, it’s because you still can’t talk about it, and you managed to grab hold of print right before it died, so you only talk about what you can talk about.
A: Characterizing it as my “Problem With Generation X” is sort of rash. I’m DOB 1978, HS class of 1995, so I spent most of high school trying to figure out where I fit into that idea. I liked the eponymous book, took part in all the usual shit; music, pop culture, whatever. But it’s a philosophical ideal, not a timeline, and once I got that, a lot of shit clicked into place. I don’t think it’s a matter of birth so much as a way of viewing the world.
And as far as complaining about it, there’s a certain claustrophobic era that starts right around Reality Bites and ends with, I don’t know, Lady Gaga, that has to do with:
Email spam (don’t care), privacy concerns (don’t care), physical collector objects like vinyl and comics (don’t care).
Your defining shit, based on what you complain about.
A: No, we care. But we care about each other. And you, we do love you. But never ideas, because you’ve turned that into a pissing contest.
Look, the metaphor is like this: One of the first film events was the Lumière Bros, doing the demo for a crowd where the train pulls into a station. And it was so real that the people were like, leaping out of the way. And Generation X treats the internet, advertising, media, that way a lot of the time: Like something real, that’s there for YOUR entertainment, or there to fuck YOU, like it’s this movie going past. Coming for your face, and yours alone.
And us — whatever you call us next — we know it’s all actually more like an undersea world made up of all human knowledge, that we’re just going out swimming. The internet, media, entertainment, are just a suit you put on.
You already know you’re constantly going to be being sold something. It’s not offensive, because that is always true and has been true forever. Drive down the street, turn on the TV: Selling. It’s like being hit on by old dudes: That’s always going to happen, why let it crimp your shit.
It’s still your choice to buy, which I don’t think most Gen X people really believe, because you’re super worried about whether I’m smart enough to resist. This Generation X obsession with how everybody else is doing. Is everybody else smart enough to withstand the social pressure I have discovered, do they need saving.
Just like your grandparents were worried whether their kids were smart enough to not get pregnant, or our parents were worried about whether or not we were smart enough to not die.
Patronizing is powerful. A powerful feeling. A way of making sense of the world, whether it’s high-fashion photos where the models’ heads are cut off (horrors!) or Facebook’s latest world-ending policy.
And again: You’ve earned it. You’ve earned your immunity to the Matrix.
It just would never occur to you we were born with it.
A: No! We love you!
Because it makes total sense: The person who designed the spacesuit can never fully trust the spacesuit. They know where the cracks are, and where the vacuum can get in, and how cold space gets. You’re allowed to be paranoid.
But if you look over there, there’s a whole generation of kids, girls and boys, who toss that helmet on without a second thought. And you need to express power over them, because they don’t know what the fuck they’re doing.
Which means a lot of stuff gets slowed down, redundantly processed. And a lot of stuff doesn’t matter as much or as fast as it should, because you guys are over there complaining this Klosterman bullshit about how entertainment and media and technology are “taking over our brains,” or commodifying our souls, or whatever paranoid lazy shit that assumes people have suddenly gone stupid. How nobody will ever truly understand life the way you do.
The scorn for anything new, anything popular, this mulish curmudgeon thing you’ve got going on. And when you do win your way through the tangle of irony and what it “says” about you to a place where you’re having an authentic reaction to something, you guard it jealously.
You’re offended by sequels and remakes and covers and remixes and mashups because you still believe things can be broken, or replaced.
The High Fidelity of it all, rather than the Infinite Playlist.
Which honestly we’ve come to expect, given your solipsistic fixation on your own moral superiority. Your having gotten it.
But it gets exhausting, because the ideals are so different — and to us, so obsolete — that the conversation is completely derailed. It’s irrelevant.
If you’re calling me soulless, what’s the point of talking at all?
Fuck me for knowing exactly what I’m buying, and then buying it. You’re setting up the field of play in such a way that we can’t win. Just like your parents. And theirs. Etc.
A: No, quite the opposite. It’s not an obsession with self-documenting, it’s an acknowledgment that documentation doesn’t matter. That’s such a Generation X way to go with it.
We don’t tweet about what we had for lunch because we assume that everybody cares what we had for lunch. We tweet what we had for lunch because we know for a fact that nobody cares what we had for lunch.
Your dad bought a video camera to document things in 1982, right? And maybe you started a blog to document yourself in 2002. But for us, the first thing that ever happened to us was The Real World. That fishbowl. For you, I guess it was a turning point. For us, it’s what we were handed. It isn’t a problem.
For you, it’s more personal and essential than that, because you are more personal and essential than that, in terms of relative importance to the noise.
Either way it’s about the differing relationship with technology, and available information, more than anything.
You can’t see the system from anywhere other than your particular position, because it all comes to you through a screen that you think is your eyes, looking at reality. You think it wants something from you; we know it doesn’t.
We know we are just part of the noise. I can’t see that sitting well with you.
A: No. It’s all consumption. It’s all just a costume you put on. When you say it, you’re just talking about a label you selectively use, to describe others, and make exceptions for your own consumerist obsessions. Because you know better. Because you are a generation of not-sheep, who know exactly who the sheep are.
And if you’re not sure, you’ve got Jon Stewart and Glenn Beck and Rachel Maddow and Rush Limbaugh to tell you exactly who the sheep are.
A: Alphabetically, “About A Girl,” “Been A Son,” “Clean Up Before She Comes,” “Drain You,” “Heart-Shaped Box,” “In Bloom,” “In His Hands,” “Paper Cuts,” “Scentless Apprentice,” “Serve The Servants,” “Teen Spirit,” and “Something In The Way.”
Particularly “Drain You.”
A: No, we’ll still sleep with you. It’s not that bleak yet.
Part Two, not quite as good.