You want Gen-X to save the culture? For real?

posted by Jeff | Sunday, March 21, 2021, 1:21 PM | comments: 0

Apparently some blowhard on Fox "News" declared that Generation X, my generation, must rise up and fight this "cancel culture" that is aggrieving entitled white Boomers all over the country. Now, to be clear, no such thing is actually happening. Sure, Disney is throwing up some warnings about culturally icky things in its classic Muppet Show, the Dr. Seuss estate has chosen to stop publishing some less popular books with some equally icky racial stereotypes, and Hasbro has dropped the "Mr." from the Potato Head brand for reasons I don't even care about. And I'm confident enough in my own identity to say that, yeah, you bet I put a little lipstick on Mr. Potato Head as a kid, because he deserved to be pretty too. We all do.

Now, let's pretend for a moment that any of this shit matters, when there are actual problems like a dramatic rise in hate crime against Asians, Black folks are still getting disproportionately shot by police, women still don't make as much as men for the same jobs, and you risk bankruptcy and can't get proper healthcare in the middle of a global pandemic unless you have a job with excellent benefits. How does anyone really have the balls to ask my generation to help you with these non-issues? Do y'all remember what you put us through?

In the 80's, you vilified everything that we liked to do. You came after Dungeons & Dragons because it was "Satanic." You flipped out when boys wore earrings. You claimed without data that video games were ruining us, and our music, especially metal and rap music, were rotting our brains. To fight this danger, you made sure that all of our art was labeled, and that stores wouldn't sell us stuff that was "harmful," in part because you were too busy to get involved in our lives. (And we later swung the other way and invented helicopter parenting and participation trophies, so, sorry, we're not great at this either.)

Then in the 90's, having survived puberty, we called you out on all of the bullshit, and you didn't listen to us. No offense to younger folks, but being "woke" isn't calling out bad behavior on the Twitter. We didn't even have Twitter. We had to show up to stuff and write letters to newspapers and legislators. Our music got darker, its heroes committed suicide. We were dragged into a war over oil. Rodney King got the shit beat out of him and you did nothing about the systemic racism. We tried to explain why AIDS was a crisis, and you championed abstinence while proclaiming it's just a "gay disease." Shit, you're still casting aside gay people as inferior, and rejecting pandemic science. When we advocated for women and called out the blatant sexism built into our culture, you doubled down and said a woman's place is in the home. We normalized recycling as a first step to respecting the environment, and you dismissed it as virtue signaling.

I have to admit, we're partially at fault for the fact that so little has changed in the last two or three decades. If I were to generalize, we tend to be artists, dreamers, nerds and technologists, and those are not attributes well suited to politics. We have few impactful politicians among us (technically we could claim Obama, but he's a little old for Gen-X), in part because we might be too smart to want those positions. My hope is that we've made up for it by commercializing the Internet, making software a part of our daily lives, quietly developing sustainable energy, making our communities and workplaces more inclusive and, on average, not complaining about how disadvantaged we are. You sent us to school with keys on strings around our necks and we came home to empty houses. We can take care of ourselves.

So if you're in the camp looking for Gen-X to help maintain the status quo in some kind of culture war, you might be out of your fucking mind. We've seen this movie before, and I'll repeat what we were saying decades ago: What you say and do has consequences, and you're not victims. Don't mistake "cancel culture," which you used to call "political correctness," for just not wanting people to say and do reprehensible shit. As someone now dealing with the discomfort of middle age, it doesn't seem like you should be spending your remaining time worrying about whether or not Disney warns you about Fozzie Bear making a sexist wife joke. Is that how you want to spend your golden years? Maybe it is, because your priorities weren't much better in the 80's and 90's.


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