generational differences

All posts tagged generational differences

“Girls” Makes Me Sad. And That Makes Me Old. Thank God.

Published April 22, 2012 by Teresa

Pretty much how I felt watching the first episode of "Girls."

So, I finally got around to watching the first episode of the new HBO show, Girls. You know the one. The one everyone’s been either passionately defending or ripping to shreds due to issues of race, gender, and class lately. I wanted to watch it, because lately it’s become more important to me to support female-helmed and female-created work. Yes, Judd Apatow is an Executive Producer, but this is Lena Dunham’s project as she’s not only the show’s creator, writer, and star, but also the director. The show also has a mostly female cast too, which is nice.

I’m not going to get into the show’s issues with race (it’s sadly accurate, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve met women like this in New York, and despite living in one of the most diverse cities in the world, I was often the darkest person many of them hung out with). I’m also not going to talk about the show’s issues with class, though it does come off as “rich girl whining” a lot of the time.

What I want to address is the way that the show addresses a generation. The thing of it is, it’s accurate. It’s spot-on. This is, indeed, what many 20-somethings are like. However, something being accurate doesn’t necessarily make it funny or entertaining. I was surprised that, though it’s a “half-hour comedy,” I only laughed once the whole episode. (“When I look at you both, a Coldplay song plays in my heart.”) The rest of the time, I alternated between sad, angry, and bored.

I hated Hannah (played by Dunham) immediately, and cringed at both her overwhelming sense of entitlement and her out and out stupidity (I’m sorry, but internships are generally for when you’re IN college. An internship TWO YEARS AFTER college with no other job?! File that under Poor Life Choices). She made me furious. However, Hannah’s entitlement has less to do with race and class and more to do with her age and the time in which she’s grown up. 20-somethings whose parents don’t support them have this sense of entitlement. 20-somethings who aren’t white have it, too. These days, you don’t have to be rich or white to feel like the world owes you something. In that sense, we’re living in the most egalitarian time ever, as there’s plenty of equal-opportunity entitlement to go around in the United States. But as much as I hated Hannah, I also hated her parents, because I knew that they were responsible for her being this way, and when Hannah calls them out on it (Hannah’s mom calls her spoiled, and Hannah correctly responds, “Well, whose fault is that?”) it was the first time I was really on her side.

Interwoven into my anger, were pockets of sadness, as I watched the lives of these 20-somethings unfold and felt sorry for them. Aren’t we supposed to look back on our 20s fondly? Enviously, even? Aren’t we supposed to wish we could go back? Well, if my 20-something life were anything like those on this show, I’d want to high-tail it out of my twenties as quickly as possible, because there’s no way I’d ever want to live like this. It’s amazing to me how, despite their huge senses of entitlement, these characters are so willing to accept the shitty circumstances of their shitty lives without thinking they deserve better. Hannah is in a fuck-buddy relationship with some guy (played by Adam Driver) who not only doesn’t seem to like her very much, but also doesn’t seem to even enjoy fucking her all that much. So, he’s neither a buddy, nor a good fuck. Their sex scene was just depressing. Like, it wasn’t even fun casual sex. It was perfunctory. Like, “I’m X years old. I should be having sex now. Doesn’t matter who with. Doesn’t matter if I enjoy it. This is what I should be doing now.” Ugh. Double cringe. Hannah also insults me as a writer. :) I get the whole Calling Yourself a Writer Even Though You Haven’t Finished Much of Anything thing. I’ve totally been there. What bothered me was the fact that she’s writing a memoir. Because, apparently, the thing to do in the age of reality television and social media is to write a book about yourself. Because, at 24 (and a sheltered, entitled 24 at that) you’ve totally led a life worth reading about. Riiiiight.

Triple cringe.

Hannah’s best friend, Marnie (played by Allison Williams), admits that she doesn’t love her boyfriend and says she’s going to leave him, but when Hannah asks her about it later, she’s all “No I’m not!” I guess having someone at the ready to possibly pay rent overrides being in a bullshit relationship? There’s the “worldly” Jessa (played by Jemima Kirke), who is a total cliche and seems to revel in it, as if the lives of 20-somethings have become so meta that their very lives have to be appropriated from the lives of other characters they’ve seen on TV or in movies. And lastly, there’s Shoshanna (played by Zosia Mamet, who gets to do much better work in her role on Mad Men), whom I just wanted to shake like a rag doll every time she was on screen.

Watching these people exist just made me sad, because they’re hopeless even in their entitlement. One’s twenties are supposed to be all about hope and possibility and the world being your oyster. The characters on Girls seem to be limiting their own existences based on arbitrary criteria they pieced together from the internet. And this may be what 20-somethings do now. And this is what saddens me. When I graduated college, I immediately moved out of my parents’ apartment, because I wanted to be on my own. Despite their willingness to have me live with them until I got married (we’re Latino. It’s a thing.), citing every reason why I should (“You wouldn’t have to pay rent!” “Mommy would cook for you!” and the ever guilt-inducing “Don’t you love us anymore?”), I didn’t want to be a burden to them. I wanted to pay my own bills, provide for myself, make my way in the world on my own. It was a matter of pride. I would’ve been ashamed to rely on my parents if I didn’t have to. Please don’t take this the wrong way. One should never be too proud to ask for help if they really need it, and on occasion, even after I moved out on my own, I had to ask my parents for money here and there to get by. But they weren’t paying my rent. They weren’t buying my groceries. I was. And I was proud of that, even when times were hard, because I was living life on my own terms. Still am.

An interview with Lena Dunham made me feel a little better in that the show is knowingly depicting these characters this way. 25-year-old Dunham is consciously commenting on their attitudes and behavior, which gives me hope that not everyone in their mid-twenties is so clueless and self-involved. Girls is a well-written show that is sadly accurate, which makes it not entertaining to me. There is not one character on this show that I care to spend an extended amount of time with. Marnie comes the closest, but even she gives me trouble, and she’s not even the protagonist. I may watch another episode, I may not. It will take a lot to get me in the mood to watch more.

Does the fact that the point of view of women in their mid-twenties doesn’t resonate with me and I don’t find it funny mean that I’m officially old? Maybe. But I’m also grateful that I came of age at a time when paying one’s dues was a badge of honor, not something to try and find a shortcut around. I’m grateful that I had the drive to make my own way. I’m also grateful that I’m officially past the bullshit that comes with being in your twenties. When these ladies get a bit older, I’ll be happy to welcome them to the world of real womanhood, where sex is something you’re supposed to enjoy, you take pride in learning before doing, and you’re never afraid to ask for what you want and need – a sense of entitlement that is the product of years of experience and work rather than pop culture.

**BTW – I just realized that all the characters have the same first and last initial. Their names are Hannah Horvath, Marnie Michaels, Jessa Johansson, and Shoshanna Shapiro. Really?!

This Isn’t Burger King! You Shouldn’t Always Have It Your Way!

Published January 12, 2010 by Teresa

SOUNDTRACK FOR THIS POST: QueenRadio GaGa

A little over a year ago, I had a strange hankering for something that I hadn’t wanted in years.  Yet suddenly, there it was, this hankering that evolved into a burning desire gnawing away at me until I had no choice but to satisfy it.

I needed to listen to the radio.

For the past several years, I’ve noticed that the prevailing attitude among my peers has been this weird pride in not listening to the radio.  I’m sure this conversation will be familiar to many of you:

Friend #1: What the hell song is this?

Friend #2: I don’t know.  God, I haven’t listened to the radio in years!

Friend #1: I know!  Neither have I.  I haven’t watched MTV in years, either.

Friend #2: Seriously!  I have no idea what “the kids are listening to” these days.

Friend #1: Whatever. They only play crap nowadays, anyway…

I’ve heard this conversation.  I’ve had this conversation, steeped in a pride in musical ignorance.  I’ve made those general statements about “music today” without really knowing anything about it save the stray notes I’d hear from a passing car, or on some channel or other while flipping with my TV remote.  For several years after college, I relied on my friends for musical recommendations.  Once I discovered Pandora Internet Radio, I thought I’d discovered the best of all worlds!  Here was something like radio with the added bonus of being shaped by my musical tastes!  It recommended new artists that have ended up becoming favorites of mine.  It is something I can reliably leave on all day at work, knowing it will provide me with a steady stream of music.  Great, right?  Pandora was surely the thing that would successfully transition me into being a musically mature adult!

Except that after a while, my stations started becoming repetitive.  With nothing but my limited taste to guide them (and I have a pretty eclectic musical taste!), the same songs and artists kept coming up.  The same problem I ascribed to broadcast radio – “They play the same 5 songs over and over!” – was happening to me here, too.  Suddenly, the advantage I thought internet radio had over broadcast radio wasn’t so clear an advantage.

Then I realized an even bigger problem, and it connects to that all-too-familiar conversation above.  I realized that I’d been limiting myself to music I know I like.  Friends who think like me were recommending music to me they already had an idea I’d enjoy.  I was listening to my own music collection ad nauseum.  Pandora was using its fancy-schmancy algorithm to spit out songs and artists it knew I would like.  This is a great thing in theory.

Except that I got bored.

I missed something as simple as not knowing what’s coming on next.  I missed being able to turn on music and say “I don’t like that.”  I missed taking a chance on something new and forming a new opinion.  I missed hearing radio personalities who are steeped in this music talk about it.  And I realized that the attitude I had about “what the kids are listening to” was doing nothing but insulating me in a snug (and smug) self-satisfied little cocoon.  This is a difficult realization for a Native New Yorker.  We Native New Yorkers pride ourselves on being open-minded, and we love nothing more than to look down on other people and places that don’t think the way we do and make fun of them.  But…wait…aren’t we then doing the exact…same…thing we criticize them…for doing?

Indeed.

So many people I know, myself included for a long while, stopped listening to the radio because we equated the songs found there with hormone-addled teenagers and our “less sophisticated” brethren in Middle America.  God FORBID we be anything like THEM!  And it is here where I will make a startling confession.

I LOVE POP MUSIC! Whew! That feels so good to say out loud.  I think I’ll say it again.  I.  LOVE.  POP.  MUSIC.  It’s something that, for a while, I felt uncomfortable being honest about.  And so, even when I’d come out and say something as risky as “I like Britney Spears”, it would have to be said with a trace of irony in the voice.  Because no one over the age of 16 actually likes Britney Spears, right?  Or Kelly Clarkson?  Or Lady Gaga?  Or Justin Timberlake?  Or, um, ANY hip-hop?  And it wasn’t just me.  Whenever many of my friends “confess” to enjoying a pop song, it’s always with some sort of qualifier like “It’s a fun, fluffy song!”  or saying that some pop singer or other is a “great performer!”  Both of those statements being code for: I can’t admit that I just like this song, but I can get around that by complimenting an element having nothing to do with the music or lyrics while simultaneously acknowledging that I “know” the song is “actually” bad.

Why do we do that to ourselves?  Why do we punish ourselves for what we like and make ourselves listen to music that bores us just because it’s more critically acclaimed or has more hipster cred?  And why do we dismiss pop music out of hand, as if it doesn’t contribute anything valuable to our culture, as if its lyrics can say nothing to us, or as if its melodies and beats have no artistic value?  Popular music is popular for a reason, and instead of ignoring it out of some false sense of musical superiority, perhaps it would behoove us to examine that reason, those reasons, and become a part of the conversation.  Perhaps if we do participate, pop music will evolve in our image.  Just as you can’t complain about the results of an election in which you haven’t voted, you can’t complain about the state of pop music and make snarky comments if you’ve purposely separated yourself from it.  Let’s remember - Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald sang “pop music.”  The Beatles were “pop music.”  Motown churned out “pop music.”

Pop music can change the world, if you let it.

Since I started listening to the radio again, I’ve heard some now-favorite songs of mine (like Ke$ha’s Tik Tok and Pink’s Sober), I’ve heard an interview that solidified my love of Lady GaGa, I’ve been regularly listening to a morning show I used to listen to all the time when I was younger and didn’t realize I was missing until I heard it again (Elvis Duran and the Z-Morning Zoo!), and I’ve discovered a new radio station that I’ve fallen in love with (101.9 RXP, the only rock station in NY playing NEW rock as well as classic rock) which introduced me to a UK band that might become one of my favorites very soon – Florence and The Machine. I’ve rediscovered the joy that is being part of the musical mainstream.  I know, right?  But willfully distancing yourself from “what the kids are listening to” is just as misguided as a teenager sticking his/her nose up at “old people music” for no reason other than it being outside their experience.  And they’re young, so they understandably don’t have the historical perspective to appreciate anything before their time.

What’s your excuse?  :)

For my part, I’ve decided to start a new feature here at The Teresa Jusino Experience called Pop Goes Teresa, wherein I will attempt to analyze/speak intelligently about a pop song, a pop artist, or trends in pop music.  I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you’ll participate and give me suggestions as to what you’d like to talk/hear about!

I’ve also decided long ago to stop being ashamed of what I like.  That way of thinking is annoying and was giving me an ulcer.  :)

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