Monday, November 23, 2015

We're the MTV Generation. We feel neither highs nor lows.

"Oh, here comes that cannonball guy. He's cool."
"Are you being sarcastic, dude?"
"I don't even know anymore."

Our upcoming episode uses the WKRP Season 2 episode "Patter of Little Feet," and the impending birth of the Big Guy and Carmen's daughter Melanie Carlson in 1980, as a springboard to go off one of the most possibly quintessentially narcissistic Generation X tangents: trying to define Generation X. You honestly can't get much more solipsistically Gen-X than that.

In the process, on this episode dropping Wednesday morning, I may have said some controversially exclusionary things toward a cohort of mid-to-late 30s individuals who routinely want to be counted as Gen-Xers as opposed to Millennials. I've seen them called Gen-Y or the Revivalists or even "Generation Catalano" (if you get that reference, you are undoubtedly a member). And for these individuals, despite what I say on the podcast, I should offer a fairly definitive apologia. In my Generation's house there are many mansions, and there is room there even for those of you who love Saved by the Bell and not The Brady Bunch.

"Yeah, I worked at a coffee shop, and I played with all these bands. We made this kind of music... it's really cool, it's like heavy metal music, but we just wear everyday clothes."

Mostly it was this article that convinced me; it posits the hinge point in Millennial-ness as the moment when the World Wide Web and mobile technology was second nature and built-in from childhood as opposed to something that was acquired. Yes, certain 35-year-olds can remember dial-up internet access, and payphones, and not being able to text their friends, and compact discs, and AOL chat rooms; I will absolutely concede this much. They are the last pre-internet generation.

It also makes me think that arbitrary year markers don't make the Generation; only time and history and cultural trends can determine where those invisible boundaries are. Sure, the Baby Boom is pretty clearly marked out by pure demographics, but who are the final Baby Boomers, anyway? Is the beginning of Generation X 1961? Maybe a little later? It's a tricky business.

"You seem very sweet. And you seem to like Dr. Zaius."

It's kind of what Rob talked about back in HMOTD 007: Nowhere Band about the 70s vs. the 80s. New decades don't begin on the stroke of midnight, January 1, 19x0. They creep in around the edges, maybe after the previous decade has hung around a couple of years past its expiration date. The same thing is true of generations. There are these interzones in the years where one generation bleeds into the other. This late 70s/early 80s birth cohort are one of those.

You'll see why we're talking so much about generations on Wednesday morning, as HMOTD 017 drops. It's a 70+ minute look at two rather good WKRP episodes that you can listen to on the way to your (U.S.) Thanksgiving dinner! Of course, if you'd prefer something a little more traditionally Thanksgiving, now's a great time to (re-)listen to our look at the WKRP classic "Turkeys Away" episode, HMOTD 004: I Thought Turkeys Could Fly.


  1. You realize you're referring to me, right? Born in 1979, started using email in high school...

    1. Jeff: I am referring to a VAST number of my friends whom I have, in the past, dismissively sniffed at as "Millennials." I have had a come-to-Jesus moment on this now, and graciously welcome you to the Elysian fields of Generation X. Here is your complimentary can of OK Soda and your VHS dub of the Star Wars Holiday Special.

      [/tongue in cheek]

    2. "Revivalists are precocious and earnest, entrepreneurial, and dedicated to renewing bygone cultural forms and franchises."

      *coughing fit*

    3. Well, I figured there had to be SOME reason y'all declined to invite me back for season two...

    4. Jeff, keep your eyes on "Dr. Fever and Mr. Tide," that's all I'm saying....

  2. Are 30-somethings really clamoring at the gates, trying to be included in to Generation X? I thought they would've welcomed the chance to disassociate themselves from us and be the leading edge of the Millennials.

    By the Howe-Strauss formulation, Millennials are fated to be a Civic/Hero generation, first one since the GI/Greatest Generation, which is clearly the best one to be. The House Gryffindor of the bunch, if you will.

    Gen-X is Nomad/Reactive, which, yeah, Slytherin. That makes Baby Boom Ravenclaw and Silent is of course Hufflepuff.

    1. Well, at least among the small sample size of *my* 30-something friends, being labeled a Millennial is considered not quite correct and/or desirable, but then I'm guessing a lot of those folks would much rather be sorted into Slytherin than Gryffindor anyway.

    2. Also, thanks Rob, now I want to sort the WKRP cast into their Hogwarts houses.