I am a member of Generation X. I am the core demographic os Generation X. I was born in January of 1973 which, by generational standards places me at exactly the half-way point of Gen X. And while there are overlaps in all generations there is no doubt where I am. My favorite bands are R.E.M. and Depeche Mode, my favorite movies likely featured Molly Ringwald or Christian Slater, my favorite TV shows were Beverly Hills 90210 and Miami Vice, and my favorite athlete is Dan Marino. I am a child of the Reagan and Clinton years, the first major news event of my lifetime was the Challenger Disaster in 1986. I graduated high school in 1991 and by September Nirvana had released Nevermind, just in time for me to start college.
I recently read an article in Vanity Fair entitled “Why Generation X Might Be Our Last, Best Hope” and it got me thinking, what if Generation X is our last, best hope? What if we were put here to change the world? And then it occurred to me, that had already happened in one, significant way. Generation X was and is, without question, the most important cultural generation in history. Virtually everything we love in terms of entertainment and pop culture has been influenced and shaped by my Generation. From how we watch TV to what we enjoy to listen to, eat, and think about has our fingerprints all over it. At that moment I knew I have finally found what I wanted to write about and consider on this blog.
I have been interested in blogging for some time and went through many phases and thoughts. From blogging about higher education or baseball cards or music I never found something that really spoke to all that I was interested in and thought about. But what I do have a profound love for is my generation and it’s effect on the world. There are so many places to go, from music and movies to politics and the economy I want to use the zeitgeist of Generation X as a backdrop of my feelings on modern society and culture. But first, we need to confine just when this period of time this was. What dates do I consider the beginning and end of the Generation X dominated era?
I am choosing October 11, 1975 and October 24, 2006. Why? Because I believe those dates were when Generation X took the lead from the Boomers and handed it off to Millennials. Here is why.
October 11, 1975 – Saturday Night Live premiers
This one feels a but on the nose but I think I am right here. SNL was created at first to be a last night variety show with an edginess that was reflective of GenX. While there were plenty of comedy variety shows like The Smother’s Brothers and the Carol Burnett Show this variety show was specifically aimed at a younger audience. The Not Ready for Prime Time Players were in their early 20s, they seemed like the cool kids in your high school and they made jokes about smoking pot, casual sex, and cultural norms. It was also shown at a time where teens were generally around. And many of the early guests were artists and actors that influenced many of the creative titans of our generation. Comedians like George Carlin and musical acts like Patti Smith were featured in the first season. This show would go down as a touchstone for Gen Xers. Your band had not arrived until they played SNL, your favorite actor or actress was made cooler and relevant when they hosted the show. Many of the catch phrases, one-liners, and jokes came from this show. SNL News skewered reality long before the Daily Show. I will write a lot about SNL in the coming years but I believe this is where we began.
October 24, 2006 – Taylor Swift releases her self-titled debut
I thought about this a lot. When did we hand over the keys to culture? I thought about the series finale for The Sopranos or Friends, or when YouTube debuted, or the release of Twitter. I even considered Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake and “Nipplegate”. I wanted to really choose the Harry Potter series but honestly, just like I don’t feel Generation Xers own Star Wars, I feel Harry Potter is just as transcendent. Too big to be a flashpoint. But I went with the release of Taylor Swift’s first album. Here is why. Taylor Swift was not the first Millennial super star. There had been a few before her but she was the first Millennial superstar who understood her demographic and went after Millennials. This release felt different. It was a straight up country album but felt contemporary and not like a crossover.
What I felt was important was Taylor wrote her songs, played guitar, and seemed to own her art and image. She built a grassroots audience through constant touring, appearances, and utilizing early social media. Like Justin Bieber she used YouTube to promote herself to a whole new audience, tweens. This album release was sandwiched in-between the first episode of Hanna Montana and the introduction of the iPhone. Basically, there was a sea change in 2006 where Millennials and even iGen kids started owning media and pop culture. So that is where I will set the bracket.
From now until I forget or just stop to write I will use this space to discuss mainly issues pertaining to Generation X and it’s influence on just about anything that makes sense to me. I will slide in and out of this world when it feels right but most of my posts will use these two dates as the brackets that bring context to my work. Okay, let’s have some fun!