Sometimes I worry about my generation. Scratch that—sometimes I worry about myself. Actually, yeah, maybe my generation, too…OK, let’s go with a blanket statement here as to not leave anything out: Sometimes I worry about myself, my generation, and the bleak-looking future predicted by our collective insanity.
I worry because my four-year-old cousin knows what twerking is. I worry because “twerk” is a word. I worry because Cake Boss is the most educational thing I’ve seen on TV all week, and because I experienced notable anxiety when Nicole Richie’s web series wouldn’t load on my laptop.
And I’m no different from the next chick! We’re more or less all the same, equally consumed by petty pop-culture non-stories and riddled with social-media popularity complexes. We are young adults in a time where “likes” are more coveted than hugs, when Kardashians are mentioned more than politicians.
“So where can we possibly expect to be taking the world?” my Debbie Downer, Negative Nancy, Talkative Tina mind asks. What decisions will all the Instagrammed nail art make for international relations? WHEN will Facebook love our children and WHO will all the food porn feed?!
And as these questions boil to the surface of my being with intrusive discomfort, I remember the one thing that suggests we might all end up OK despite the seemingly insurmountable odds. I can breathe easy knowing that our generation is no different from the last or the one before that or the one before that. Thankfully, it is not human nature that has changed, but only its means of fulfillment.
With this, it becomes impossible not to acknowledge my incredible lack of appreciation for what’s going on around me. And I’m not alone. There is, and always has been, a societal tendency to frown upon pop culture’s current obsessions.
The judgments sound reasonable at first. We talk about how music lost its poetry to garishness and how instrumental integrity has been swallowed by over-production. But is that really what happened? Because in “Thunder Road”, Bruce Springsteen sings, “You ain’t a beauty but hey, you’re alright. Oh and that’s alright with me.” And calling that poetry feels like a bit of a stretch… Comparing “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” to “Candy Shop” is like comparing a wedding dress to exercise pants. They fill entirely different purposes, were created with vastly different intentions, and therefore can’t fairly be held to any one standard. I just think there’s some value in remembering that the Beatles have a song called, “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?”
We like to rip on shows, too. We complain about Mike and Molly, nostalgically looking back to the days of Friends. We feel the horror of knowing that we are probably the last generation to truly understand the humor of Seinfeld, since most of its story-arc-generating problems could easily be solved with a simple text message. We look at all the “Real” Housewives and roll our eyes in gratuitous dismay, united by a judgment so strong you’d think it was political. But once again, why? TV, as easy a target it may be, is exactly what it always has been: an escape. Furthermore, it continues to provide us with the same emotional fulfillment it’s been promising since the very beginning. We laugh, we cry, we think…whether it’s Mary Tyler Moore or Snooki doing the work, who cares? And if all the 90s-loving hipsters have taught us anything, it’s that everything we so enthusiastically mock now will be considered cool in 10 years anyway. So why not cut to the chase and start proudly loving 2013 now?
Because as we run out of nasty things to say about all our favorite things, we move onto people, and once you go there it’s pretty easy to step out of line. Many of today’s celebrities are watched like terrorists on death row, leaving so few moments left unseen that there is no room for elegance. To say that stars once upheld a level of grace and that now that grace is “lost” is absurdly unfair. It has not withered away like our ozone layer; we took it. Since the very first time a paparazzo posted up outside a grocery store for a no-makeup shot, we have been squashing celebrities’ “respectable image potential” with increasing force.
Take Lindsay Lohan, for example. The girl was once widely thought of as a beautiful, talented young actress with a future full of promise. Then something shifted. She did some weird things, openly consumed some questionable substances, and behaved in a way that is generally perceived as irresponsible. Now she is considered hard to work with, mysteriously devoid of talent, and more or less a Hollywood wet blanket.
But Marilyn Monroe followed a remarkably similar path: hopeful projections prompted by early success and beauty, a short-lived relationship with a squeaky-clean image…(INSERT SHIFT)…followed by weird things, questionable substances and irresponsible behavior. By the end of her time, Marilyn Monroe was widely perceived as difficult, generally cray, and not worth anyone’s time/effort. The biggest difference is visual representation. We’ve watched Lindsay spiral. We’ve seen so many mug shots, drunken clips, and hazardous artistic endeavors that it is almost impossible to deny the shamble-fest that is her life. Marilyn’s spiral was only seen through a crack in the door of fandom. Without relentless photographic documentation and journalistic coverage, a certain level of mystery (and the glamour it breeds) was left intact.
So if you’re gonna love Marilyn Monroe, you’ve gotta love Lindsay Lohan. Do not let time and the things it can change be your rose-colored glasses, and be grateful (terrified?) that nothing ever really changes. Love the past and look back in awe, but don’t let hindsight edit its flaws. Yesterday was as imperfect as today is, just as it will be tomorrow, and every moment spent idealizing the past is a moment spent depreciating the present.
With that, I’d say is time to wrap this up and go shit away some time on Facebook. So thank you, Cake Boss. I love you Nicole Richie. You made me smile and you’re both fucking great.