In 1991, Douglas Coupland published Generation X: Tales For An Accelerated Culture and, as I recall, it was around this time the idea that there is a unique cultural cohort known as Generation X really took hold in popular culture. At the time, I didn’t really feel a part of Generation X and am always surprised to see people of my age lumped in in with this cohort. Take Coupland’s characters, for instance, as a kind of bench mark. They are in their late twenties in the late eighties whereas I was barely starting high school. Their concerns, their music, their fashion simply are not mine.
A few years later, it occurred to me that the very idea of a Generation X is only an idea that a Baby Boomer (or someone who strongly identified with Baby Boomer culture) could come up with. Essentially, on my view, the Gen-X cohort are old enough to identify with Boomer culture, dreams, and aspirations but late-enough arrivals on the scene to lament the fact that their generational experiences don’t quite match up. In contrast, for folks around my age, we knew from the get-go that we wouldn’t be as well-off as the Boomers, that we should count ourselves lucky to even have a job, and that we simply had to accept the fact that the public services enjoyed by Boomers and Gen-X had to be reduced in order to control the deficit. We didn’t lament, we simply accepted, and made the best of it.
In 1996, Generation Y began to rear its spoiled little head — as tweens (hello, Spice Girls!). They had more disposable income than me, they had more freedom than me, they had more sex than me, and the oldest were still only 11-14. They quickly took over pop culture and have never looked back. For the most part, I envy the world in which they grew up and take solace in the fact that my pop culture was infinitely cooler than theirs (man, even our boy bands look cooler in comparison).
On my view (and the view of some others), there is a distinct cultural cohort that came of age roughly between 1991/92 and 1996 — that is, a cohort that does not identify either with the Boomers / Gen X cohort or their off-spring, Gen-Y. According to Wikipedia, some effort has been made to dub this cohort the MTV / Muchmusic generation (click here, for the entry). While I can’t disagree with the influence of music video channels on this cohort, I don’t think it is what defines us either. The music channel phenomenon probably seems like a bigger deal to older cohorts precisely because it represents a radical break with how they understand the music industry. For us, it is just the way we got our music and, for a few shining years, it was the only media outlet to consistently play our music and reflect our culture — as opposed to most commercial radio which continued with the Boomer / Gen-X retro vibe. I also can’t help but note that our concept of a video channel — you know, one that plays, um, videos — has gone the way of the dodo, while, in contrast, the issues that I take to define us continue to be relevant.
Ultimately, I think two issues define our cohort: 1) we are stuck between between the Boomer / Gen-X cohort and Gen-Y cohort; 2) we came of age in a time of wide-spread cynicism, pessimism, puritanism, and culture wars and we have largely internalized all of this. In other words, we are largely ignored by everyone else on the planet and we are extremely sensitive about everything from safe sex, identity politics, and the correct use of the comma.
Consequently, in a desperate attempt to exercise some control over our cultural identity, I want to dub the cohort that falls between the Boomer / Gen-X cohort and Gen-Y, the “Perineum Generation.” For those of you who are not up to date on your human anatomy, allow me to explain.
“Perineum” is the technical term for the area between the anus and the posterior part of the external genitalia which is also “rich with sensitive nerve endings.” On this model, the Boomers / Gen-X cohort, as you may have guessed, is the asshole because of their self-absorbed narcissistic raping and pillaging on the planet and unceasing desire to fill the world with their cultural crap (Oh, and their inability to accept responsibility for anything they do ever). On the other hand, Gen-Y is the genitalia because they have the sexual sensibilities of Brave New World bonobo on Viagra and seem eager for any stimulation that doesn’t involve their parents reminiscing and / or tagging along. And there, in the middle, is the poor, little, oversensitive, and always ignored Perineum Generation, hoping against hope that history will brush against us too — even if only accidentally, as it passes from the assholes to the penises and vaginas.
What do you think? Will it catch on? 🙂