Each generation builds their own pop culture

This week I was reminded just how ephemeral and time specific our own popular culture references are. I was chatting with a 17 year old who had recently seen an episode of Leave it to Beaver – a wholesome family entertainment I believe from the 1950s. Her assessment was “Really Creepy”. Having not seen but heard of this program I understood her point about the overly idealised and terrifyingly neat lives portrayed, I still found the “creepy” assessment amusing from an afficionardo of as much stylised supernatural violence as she can get her hands on. It occurred to me however that catchphrases and references which to my contemporaries are simply part of our store of life understandings, are meaningless and confusing to others. While a drawled “Wrapped in Plastic” will forever evoke images of red curtains, the log lady and a woman obsessed with drape runners, to those of us of a certain age – to our children it just means a way to keep their sandwiches fresh.

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1 Comment

September 7, 2013 · 6:51 am

One response to “Each generation builds their own pop culture

  1. Hi Annette. That’s an interesting observation you make of the cultural differences between generations. I’ve not seen Leave it to Beaver, but Happy Days used to creep me out in the same way. I related more to Family Ties. My parents didn’t like it, maybe because it was too close to reality for them. I think I liked it because I secretly wanted to be a Keaton. So it’s interesting how different generations can have different interpretations of an aspect of culture.

    I think the idea of “generations” is socially constructed, just like “childhood” and “youth”, but for people who live through “childhood” or “youth” in the same few years, there might be some things that produce “a degree” of generational commonality. I say “a degree” of commonality because it’s important to remember that not every person of our “generation” watched Twin Peaks; and people from different “generations” would also know what you were referring to if you said “wrapped in plastic” or “There was a fish in the percolator.”

    Another way of looking at the situation you describe is that her interpretation of “creepy” is not because of a generational difference, but a difference in the meaning she attributes to white, middle-class families, and also the meaning she attributes to “stylised supernatural violence”. When I was young I thought Diff’rent Strokes was creepy. I still do. I think this interpretation had more to do with class difference than generational difference, but it was also because the meaning I attributed to Mr D. was “rich-white-people guilt”.

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