Monday, May 10, 2010

Pegged!

I delude myself with the fabricated notion that there is only one me and no one is complex enough to understand the intricate and amazing Slimbo.

Then something comes along, whacks you between the eyes and tells you that you are actually one of a multitude and that all these attributes which you think compose your identity, are tracked, charted and even predicted as though you were just another hamster on a wheel in life's totalitarian laboratory.

On a very fun and superficial level, there is the wonderful list/website, Stuff White People Like. By the name you might think they're aiming for a sly dig at the low hanging fruit - NASCAR or trailer parks. But no, dear hipster reader, they're gunning for you and I. The uber-liberal, East Coast, highly educated, environmentally and politically conscious navel gazer is the prey SWPL aim to skewer, and skewer they do. What's on the list? - Yoga, tea, camping, humus, Bob Marley, Non-profit organizations, moleskin notebooks. Put on your painfully fashionable chic-framed reading glasses and take a look.

My initial amusement at SWPL quickly turned to panic, as their list went on and on because I realized that their portrait of the narcissistic Gen X'er felt familiar and repulsive at the same time. Oh crap, I begin to wonder, am I this much of a schmuck? The list went on and on, hitting home...public radio, The New Yorker, Claiming to Hate Television, Hating Corporations, loving Soccer. That's the brilliance of SWPL. It has put the harsh spotlight on my generation's cadre of self-righteous, insular urban hipsters and forced us to realize that perhaps, all we've done is conform to a culture of non-conformity that ultimately feeds into the machinations we claim to protest. All with a coffee in our hands that cost $2.69.

Then on Sunday, I open the 'Week in Review' section of The Times to find A.O. Scott's article, Gen X Has a Midlife Crisis. 'Oh crap, I'm gonna get skewered again', was all I could think.

So what is Generation X? I dunno. In the middle of the Twentieth Century, we had 'The Greatest Generation'. They survived the Great Depression and saved western civilization with their sacrifice in World War II. But unfortunately, they procreated. And the generation they spawned has engulfed America like a hostile alien invasion, intent on sucking all natural, financial and spiritual resources dry.

And then they had kids. Generation X, it is. A lousy label created by pompous ex-hippies; a sly dig intended to insinuate that we don't care or believe in anything. Bullshit. I'm tired of defending my generation against our parents' generation who abandoned all their faux counter-culture idealistic laurels to become divorce-mongrel, Gordon Gekkos, masking their shallow greed as 'ambition' and 'industriousness'.

But I digress. Generation X is getting older. We now have grey hair, and Scott's article explores the paradox that GenX'ers are aging despite the fact that their alleged identity is rooted in the claim that they've never actually grown up.

I'm not sure what caused me the greatest dyspepsia - the poignant portrayal of struggling with midlife:
[The driving impulse to shake the straight jacket of adulthood...when it happens to dad, it's a 'crisis'...when it happens to mom, it's an 'awakening'...].

Or was it the paradox inherent to GenX itself. We claim to ache for authenticity, ostentatiously rejecting the materialistic gods of the Baby Boomers (and finding The Big Chill insufferably precious), yet we ourselves are equally guilty of our parents' navel gazing.

Just as Stuff White People Like hit close to home, the following line from Scott's article cut me and put me in my place: "...two-thirds of GenX'ers have written memoirs that they dream of reciting on This American Life..."

Oh crap. They got me.

2 comments:

  1. BUT Gen X is indirectly responsible for a very handy satirical self-consciousness that is present in the Onion and the Daily Show. Both, incidentally, two things white people like. So, point taken.

    And I love Wes Anderson films, which I know SWPL features prominently.

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  2. You're right (as always, MR). Satirical self-consciousness during Morning in America would have met severe resistance.

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