Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Post-Boomer Creep

I grew up in a world dominated by Baby Boomer iconography and mythology, where according to generational consensus, the popular arts died off around 1977, and all strands of the American cultural timeline were threaded through the Vietnam War, Woodstock and/or the assassination of JFK. And I accepted it. Heck, I bought into it. I listened to my local classic rock station's "Memorial Day 500" countdowns to see which Stones songs and Beatles songs were going to make the Top 10; and I willingly allowed my own junior high school experience to be co-opted by The Wonder Years. I absorbed the lesson that my parents' generation–or at least the generation of my parents' younger brothers and sisters–was the last one that mattered, and I tried to make the best of it.

But by the '90s, it was starting to get ridiculous. We had movies based on '60s sitcoms and cartoons. Politicians trading on the retro-cool of Fleetwood Mac. Billy Crystal telling stories about Mickey Mantle to anyone with a camera. The Who on Broadway. Remember Frequency? That light, sweet family-oriented fantasy/mystery that had to fudge the respective ages of Dennis Quaid and Jim Cavieziel in order to tell a story that used the Miracle Mets of '69 as a plot point? It was as though nothing my generation experienced firsthand was ever going to be part of the official pop culture record.

Then the tide started turning, slowly and awkwardly. Slackers tried to sell me cars in commercials; and TV shows and movies began leaning hard on '80s nostalgia. It was a real case of "be careful what you wish for." As much I loved (and still love) Freaks And Geeks, the novelty has now almost completely worn off. Last year's quickly canceled Fox series Reunion tried to pretend the '90s were more or less the '80s, and this year's hit-and-miss CBS sitcom The Class treats a group of actors 10 years younger than the cast of Friends as though they had the same shared cultural experiences as, well, the cast of Friends. I read somewhere that one or two of the new shows being developed for next fall are set in the '80s.

And it's not just the '80s hook that signifies post-Boomer creep. When Quentin Tarantino emerged in the mid-'90s, there was something refreshing about hearing characters in movies talk about dopey pop ephemera, just like so many of my trivia-obsessed generation. Now it seems like every major TV ad campaign–for fast food especially–is run by someone whose imagination froze up ten years ago. So we get shlubs sitting around talking about the best way to describe a Taco Bell Cheesy Gordita Crunch, as though this is something really fun that cool people do. (How long before one of these commercials tries to tell me that a Chilito is "like punk rock," thereby completing the infinite regression of pop culture references in ads?)

There are people jabbering at me Tarantino-style everywhere on TV lately. Watch any movie on basic cable and chances are there'll be a couple of low-tier stand-up comedians and a spokesmodel-in-training popping up at the commercial break to crack jokes about what we've all been watching together. It's supposed to foster a "hey we hang out and talk about meaningless shit just like you do" vibe. But though I don't doubt that people really do still hang out and talk about meaningless shit, does anybody still want to see people hanging out and talking about meaningless shit anymore? Even Tarantino dropped that shtick.

So consider this a call to arms for the generation below mine. Not my younger siblings, or my children, but the children of my older siblings. Hey, kids born during my high school and college years, don't let my generation pretend that we speak for you, or that what we went through–and what did we go through anyway?–was more important than anything you're going through now. Tell me your stories. Sing me your songs. Sell me your fast-food sandwiches, your way.

Just don't take my job.