Where has the “generation gap” gone?

Posted April 9, 2012 7:42 pm  

Hippie gurus and tie-dyed bell-bottoms are history. The police are no longer pigs. Crunchy granola has lost its claim on virtue. Has the generation gap also gone the way of all things sixties?

Having lived through the era, I assumed that every generation was doomed to be cut off from the next by dint of diverging frames of reference. But to my surprise, the notion of a generation gap seems to have lost its resonance. Is it because we Baby Boomers, trying so hard to close the gap, befriended our children and in the process broke down the paternalistic hierarchy that stimulated resistance? If you can dis your parents and grade your professors, perhaps you do not need to pit yourself against them so directly.

Or is it that we’ve returned to more conservative times in which the youth culture does not alienate as much? The repression of the fifties—wives at home in aprons, twin beds in TV master bedrooms, people of color in their place—gave way to an explosion of liberation in sexual mores, and broke down gender, class, and racial divides. The Boomers shook things up in ways that were threatening to many, with lasting consequences. Change is on-going, of course, but now it seems more technological than anything else. Yes, reality TV, FOX news, and social media are changing the world, but on the personal level hooking up and shacking up are not very different. Tradition is back, in the embrace of ethnicity, spirituality, and the all-out pursuit of wealth, but the change, whatever we think of it, is not threatening. I could shock my mother by getting married in a Mexican cotton dress, but do I care if my daughter, at the other end of the spectrum, wants six bridesmaids and a long train?




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  • eliz   April 17, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    What an interesting film! Thanks so much for letting me know about it.

  • Dr. Andy Rose   April 17, 2012 at 9:38 am

    I think America’s social history is fundamentally driven by our economic system. The progress of the women’s movement, for example, has been undermined and set back by the commercial industry and the media. Check out “Miss Representation”: http://www.missrepresentation.org/the-film/. The trailer to the film gives a brief but good overview of how very smart people are trying to impact our cultural scene.

  • Darien   April 12, 2012 at 9:17 am

    Very interesting point. It actually makes me think of an article I read in the New York Times several months ago about a writer talking about how she finds her daughter to be more sexually conservative than she is, and that it’s representative of a more conservative bent in the younger generation. Unfortunately, I couldn’t track down the article, but I do think there is a significant difference in what the gender divide means today.

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