Monday, August 28, 2006

On generational irony

Okay, so Amanda over at Pandagon heads a lengthy and really (to me) interesting discussion about irony. I, for the record, love irony (in case you couldn't tell). It's the easiest thing in the world to say what you mean; what a challenge it is to say what you don't mean and still have people understand what you do mean. Of course, the challenge comes when irony is so all-pervasive that when, for once, you actually say what you do mean, people interpret it as something you don't mean because they assume you're being ironic. I had a problem like that with a guy I dated briefly; he said that he hated games, so I didn't play any, and he had absolutely no idea what to do with a woman who didn't play games. It almost became, well, like a game. And that's why I love irony.

Of course, the other challenge with irony comes when people don't really understand it but try to embrace it anyway. Take, for instance, the recent Hummer commercials (please). In one of them, a man with a cartful of organic tofu and vegetables gets in line at the grocery store in front of a man with a cartful of manly, manly meat. Feeling insufficient in his manliness, Tofu Guy runs out and buys a Hummer H3 as the tagline reads, "Restore the balance."

Now here's the thing: It's generally recognized that Hummers are purchased, for the most part, by guys who feel that their penises aren't big enough to confirm their manliness. The Hummer is, in a way, it's a prosthetic penis, replacing something that is otherwise lacking. Society recognizes this, and people recently cut off in traffic frequently shout it out of their windows, but no one who has a Hummer is actually willing to admit that he's driving $30,000 worth of compensation. For an ad agency to make an ad that comes out and says, "Men drive Hummers because they have tiny pee-pees" is for them to poke fun at their target market in the ad itself, and for men to respond to this type of advertising anyway represents such a pathetic and pitiful lack of self-awareness that irony implodes, folds in on itself, curls into a ball and rocks itself, sobbing, to sleep in the middle of the kitchen floor.

Irony is not safe for use by children or pregnant women.

But none of that is the real reason that I linked to that post. The real reason is this: I'm kind of stuck between capital-G Generations. With my birthday in the last month of 1980, I am at the far, far, far end of what many consider "Generation X," and some would even move me up a bit and drop me into "Generation Y," a.k.a. "Millennial." The problem? I'm still pretty much stuck in the middle. I remember the Challenger shuttle disaster, the first Gulf War, and a time when the Soviet Union still competed in the Olympics as such (back before a "CCCP" jersey became the ultimate hipster accessory), which are given as factors that separate Gen X from Gen Y and shuffle me into the former. However, I also never got into Nirvana (although I did enjoy flannel) or heavy metal, I've never been tempted to try Ecstasy, and I don't feel I've been so much dwarfed by the Boomer generation before me as stifled and underestimated by just about every person who is more than twenty percent older than me and utterly derisive and dismissive of many people twenty percent younger than me.

It's not fair! I grew up on 80s music and late-70s British techno, I never got into New Kids on the Block, I had two Barbie dolls and the only one I played with was actually named Whitney (she was the brunette, remember, because I thought the blonde looked trashy, and she didn't have a Dream House because she had the home office, and Whitney didn't have a Ken doll - she had a career). I got into MTV early enough to remember when it actually played videos, but late enough to lose interst once it stopped playing videos. I was old enough to want to dress like Madonna but too young to actually do it. And I know that there are many others like me in my generation, or quasi-generation, that lived the way I lived and feel the way I feel. We're lost, a people without a name, not quite X, not quite Y, sure as hell not "Millennial."

No longer.

I will gladly, proudly stand up and declare myself part of the "Snakes on a Plane" generation. This is the very definition of my generation, it's post-post-modernism at its finest, and none of you older hipsters or younger popsters can take that away from me. For serious, AngryKevin.

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