With a gentle nod to the advertising of the 80s and 90s in the title of this post I want to explore the idea that during your formative years, especially teens to early 20s, what you consume in terms of culture (music, film, tv, magazines etc) shapes your decision making processes and actions.
It was sparked by a story I read where the music and lyrics of the 70s, in particular Pink Floyd, David Bowie and the Ramones, shaped the zeitgeist of the culture and in turn shaped the decision making and perspective of the main character to the point when he had reached his late 30s that it was almost too late.
This sparked a brief twitter mind dump, collated here for your perusal, about what I watched, listened to, and consumed in my youth, that of the late 80s and early 90s. This in turn made me wonder what my girls (aged 10 and 8) are watching and listening to, and will be watching and listening to (right now my wife and I have influence and decision making over what they watch and listen to but in the years to come they will develop autonomy for their consumption of culture).
I am a child of the 80s and 90s, the last of Generation X. I grew up listening to thrash and speed metal, hard rock, U2. I watched Friends, Mad About You, early Simpsons, The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Seinfeld, X-Files, ET, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Terminator 2 and much more.
These are the cultural products I consumed and in turn have shaped my thinking and decision making. The catch cry of that period was a balance between Gordon Gecko’s mantra, “Greed is good” and the turbulent introspective narcissism of grunge, the highlighting of the individual as greater than the whole and you don’t need nothing but a good time (hair metal of the 80s/90s was priceless).
Where does that leave us now, in the throes of middle age, with children and a mortgage, and perhaps a sense of disillusionment? Have the promises of our youth been fulfilled or is it still a romantic notion that will never be?
Every cultural touchstone has a family tree, a connection to the past from where it developed its departure point. We wouldn’t have South Park, Family Guy or American Dad if it wasn’t for The Simpsons.
I see my students consuming the pop of Katy Perry, Rihanna, Kanye; the sexual mores of Sex and The City, Girls, Modern Family. Where will they be in their middle age after feasting on the values of modern pop culture?
Again, I’m not positing a particular point of view or have any clear answers (although there are no doubt cultural commentators and sociologists who study this and have better knowledge; I’m merely brainstorming).
Here’s the takeaway: be a critical consumer; think about the attitudes and values a text is communicating. Do you agree with it or not?
And for creative people, what does that mean for us in terms of what we create?
- Are we supporting or subverting current values, attitudes and mores?
- Are we condemning, critiquing or questioning the focus of our culture?
- Are we aiming to improve or develop our culture, because, yes, art/film/literature has a point.
- Are we creating for the present or for the future? This is an important question as I think our answers encompass both. We create for the now, a reflection on the where we are at with our thinking, and for the future as a marker of what we wish to become as artists.
No answers. More questions. A starting point for a conversation. Have at it in the comments.