There will come a time when Today’s Kids will grow up, leaving their pop cultural artifacts behind in the past, like Lindsay Lohan should do with her acting career. When that time comes, they will one day be forced to reproduce — out of ego, societal pressure or a future law mandating childbirth to repopulate a post-apocalyptic planet. As goes the oral pop culture tradition, they will have to explain to these Future Children what the past was like — a time when Carly Rae Jepsen desperately wanted any guy to call her (please, just someone call her already), Gotye wrote really bitchy emails to his ex-girlfriends, people were Gangnam Styling all over the place and Ke$ha was doing… whatever it is she does.
Children of the Future, this is our time capsule of 2012 — a postcard from the edge of Mayan doom. It was a scary world — where Amy Poehler and Will Arnett can just break up FOR NO REASON and we’re supposed to just move on — but we got through it. We survived.
1. “Justin Bieber was not a lesbian.”
One day, Today’s Kids will explain that there was a time in the world when the name Justin Bieber caused tween girls everywhere to faint and pass out like turkeys that just heard an F-17 break the sound barrier. Their hearts would explode with prepubescent joy and the longing of a million nights spent without Justin nestled in their arms. They will then show a picture of this tween panty-melting sensation to the Children of the Future, whose eyes will immediately dart around at this sudden revelation. A silence will come over the room.
“But that’s a girl.”
Today’s Kids will shush their children, by covering their mouths with a plaintive “Don’t speak! Go, gentle scorpio, go!” They will then explain that — despite Tumblrs showing how much the Biebs looked like an extra from The L Word — Bieber was a man, a man who loved women. Today’s Kids will recount that he loved the Selena Gomez and Jasmine Villegas, and that Selena and Justin were like exalted tween royalty — before Justin Bieber died in the Mayan Apocalypse of 2012. Today’s Kids will then pause to collect themselves, mourning the loss of earth’s most famous almost-lesbian superstar and say: “It’s okay. We still have Ellen.”
In the future, Ellen DeGeneres rules the world.
2. “Twilight was a thing that happened.”
Remember when Titanic came out and it was the biggest deal ever? It was the best of times, 1997. We didn’t hate Celine Dion yet and Leonardo DiCaprio’s hair was held up by birds and the love of gay men and tweens everywhere. And just as Today’s Kids don’t “get” Titanic like we did, there will come a moment when they have to explain Twilight to their own Children and what that thing was even about.
Today’s Kids will shake their heads and explain that things were different in the early 2000s, before the fancy technology that the Children of the Future take for granted. It was a simpler time, when werewolves could fall in love with babies. This was a time when a girl met a pasty, dead slacker who had been in the same grade for 100 years, and she knew that meant he was the one. It didn’t matter that he was a former serial killer who used to eat people or that he constantly reminded her that he could murder her at any moment; what mattered was that he wasn’t like any other guy. He was special.
3. “The Jonas Brothers and One Direction were different bands, and Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens and Demi Lovato were not the same person.”
Do you remember how hard it was for 90s Parents to keep their Kids’ bands apart? To 90s Parents, white men in Boy Bands looked exactly the same, and it got confusing trying to tell the difference between Nick Carter, Nick Lachey and Drew Lachey — although they knew who Justin was. Everyone knew who Justin was. He was like God — except with better hair, golden locks that shined as if lit by the songs of a thousand angels.
To me, all the members of the Jonas Brothers and One Direction are the same person in different clothing, much like The Pussycat Dolls — who Family Guy referred to as “one interchangeable hooker.” In order to help Kids Today out, here’s how they can help the Children of the Future keep them straight.
Joe: The one who looks like Sanjaya.
Nick: The hot one (who srsly can get it any time).
Kevin: The creepy married one.
Zayn: The token “ethnic” one.
Niall: The Hitler Youth looking one.
Liam: The one with an alarmingly large forehead.
Harry: The fashionable one with a pretentious last name.
Louis: The one who is probably gay. (His sexuality will be ambiguous, even in the future. The future needs mystery.)
4. “We don’t know what Katy Perry’s deal was either.”
One day, Katy Perry will not be famous anymore, and Kids Today will have to look back at what the heck they were all dancing to, like all of those people that danced to “Every Breath You Take” at their weddings. They might even have to read the lyrics. The Children of the Future might ask them, “What did Katy Perry mean when she said that I change my mind like a girl changes clothes? I don’t PMS like a b– she would know!” (long pause) “Wait, does Katy Perry hate women? What’s PMS?”
The Children of the Future will have many questions and Kids Today should gear up. They will want to know what was up with “E.T.,” why she let a stranger in her bed, why it’s okay for straight girls to kiss girls (but not lesbians?) and why Katy Perry wants her boyfriend to hang himself with his H&M scarf for acting gay. “But I don’t understand. I thought Katy Perry liked gay people? ‘Firework!’”
Kids Today will use this moment to explain that there are lots of things beyond human comprehension, like God, the Florida ballot system and how Rihanna is able to release so many albums. (By the time the Children of the Future see this, she will be nearing her 700 millionth hit record.) With Katy Perry, you just have to throw up your hands and hope she doesn’t read her lyrics either. Give it up to God and pretend she never happened.
5. “Lady Gaga was neither a drag queen nor a space alien.”
When Kids Today have to broach the very important subject of Lady Gaga, I don’t know how they will explain her. It may go like this: “Once upon a time, there was a woman who really wanted to be Madonna… so she did all kinds of weird things, like spend time in eggs and wear Kermit the Frog and meat as dresses. This is what happens when people become famous: they do crazy things that they think famous people should do, just for attention. Rihanna once took a bunch of people hostage in a party plane, just because she was bored and wanted to Instagram some shit.”
Children of the Future, be warned. Too much money and time on your hands are powerful things.
6. “Why did Lindsay Lohan’s face look like that? Because she had a hard life.”
In the future, Lindsay Lohan will have converted so much angst into plastic surgery that she will be a walking ball of silicone, a perfectly preserved reminder of how terrible life can be when you are raised by horrible people who want to pimp you out from money. Kids Today will tie their Children to chairs and force them to witness a Lohan Before and After with Mean Girls and Liz and Dick. This will show the Children of the Future how much their parents love them and want them to make good choices.
After the movies are over, Kids Today will release their Children, put their hands on their tiny, confused shoulders and cry. “I will never be your Michael Lohan,” they will scream. “I will love you more than Dina Lohan loved money!” And then no one shall speak of Lindsay Lohan again.
7. “Transformers is how we learned what racism was.”
After the Children of the Future have had a black president, an Asian female president (#LucyLiu2016), a Latino president and (improbably) a lesbian Esperanto president, it will be a lot harder for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and its jive-talkin robots to pass muster. Remember when you watched Sixteen Candles for the first time as an adult, glanced upon Long Duk Dong and mourned the loss of your childhood? It’s going to be like that, and Kids Today need to be prepared to have a long conversation with their Children about casual robot racism.
The Children of the Future will exclaim, “But they are robots! How can robots have blackface?” Kids Today will respond that society has come a long way in the past few decades, especially after President Lucy Liu outlawed Transformers movies and shot Michael Bay in the face. Kids Today and their Children will then breathe deep sighs of relief and go back to their Esperanto lesson.
8. “All you need to be famous is rich parents.”
All Children of the Future will need to see is this video to understand the phenomenon that was Rebecca Black. When they hear with voice with that autotune, they will know that there’s no way that “Friday” got made without a lot of people being paid off for it. They will not have to have this conversation about Miley Cyrus or Willow Smith, because no one in the future will remember who they are.
9. “The creators of most cartoons were probably on drugs and almost none of those shows were appropriate for children.”
Do you remember how terrifying, weird and raunchy Invader Zim, Ren and Stimpy and Rocko’s Modern Life were? How your parents let you watch them because they were cartoons and suspected nothing? Someday, Kids Today will have to account for the fact that they were allowed to watch Family Guy, South Park, American Dad, Bob’s Burgers, SpongeBob, Archer, Ugly Americans, Futurama and Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Kids Today will then remember Brickleberry, which there is no explaining, and never let the Children of the Future watch cartoons again.
10. “Dora got older because capitalism said so.”
In case you missed it, Dora is a pre-teen now — because Nickelodeon decided to make her a tween fashionista and use her to brainwash young girls into buying more clothing. Over the years, Dora will keep aging as the target demographic ages. When she’s in her twenties, she will sell PBR and Tame Impala records off the back of her juiced-up beach cruiser, and her thirties won’t just be dirty: they’ll be fucking disgusting, like Cincuenta Shades of Grey. (“Swiper, no swiping!” will mean something very different.) Then in her sixties, Dora will replace a miraculously still-alive Sally Field as the spokeswoman of Boniva (“Yum, yum, yum! Delicioso para los huesos!”), because Boniva will be around forever.
Children of the Future will want to know why cartoons are able to age, and Kids Today will explain that money is its own logic. When capitalism wants something, capitalism makes it happen. They will remind the Children of the Future that the 20th Pirates of the Caribbean movie is coming out the following week, even though Johnny Depp died five movies ago and no one wants them anymore, and the Children will understand.
11. “A lot of people thought that Zac Efron, Nick Jonas and Taylor Lautner were straight, but you have to understand: the times were different back then.”
In the magical future, when unicorns gallop through the smog-ridden skies and queer people are allowed to marry any consenting adult they wish, the Children of the Future will wonder how society was so blind to Zac Efron for so long. “Why couldn’t he just come out?” they will wonder. “What was he so afraid of?”
Kids Today will then tell their Children that were was a time when people thought that gay people couldn’t play straight people in a movie and might not go see a movie if an out gay person was in it. “When Rupert Everett came out, it killed his career and then he became a very bitter, middle-aged man with severe eye bags.” However, they will explain to their children that things got better after Jake Gyllenhaal, every cast member of Lincoln, Ellen Page, Bo Obama, Kellen Lutz, Ann Coulter, Oprah, Gayle, the Loch Ness Monster, Marcus Bachmann, the Muffin Man, Queen Latifah, Pennywise the Clown, Beyonce, Tyler Perry, Madea, Bradley Cooper, Zombie James Dean, Chuck Norris, Jeremy Renner, The Sanderson Sisters, John Travolta, Stephen Hawking, Tom Cruise, Mitt Romney, God, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Wilford Brimley all came out. The world changed.
But the Children of the Future will really want to know about Taylor Lautner. “But I don’t understand: people back then thought he was straight?” Kids Today and the Children of the Future will then laugh heartily over their bowls of futuristic space Cheerios. It feels so good to laugh.