Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Hey, Hey, We're The Boomers

IFC has been showing The Monkees TV series, which just may be the silliest, stupidest, most fun TV show ever.

But...

I'm having trouble reconciling my love for The Monkees with my annoyance at the entire Baby Boomer generation.

Since the media tends to forget that there are generations besides the Boomers and Millennials, let's recap.

Greatest Generation - Grew up during the Depression, fought in WW2, racist and sexist because the good old days were only good for white men. (Hmm...maybe generations aren't completely one thing or another. Let's take this moment to say that my bitching about Baby Boomers is a broad generalization and of course it doesn't apply to you.)

Silent Generation - Born just before or during WW2. Think Don Draper. (On The Colbert Report, Matthew Weiner said that he got complaints from Boomers that Mad Men wasn't spending enough time on the Boomer hippie counter culture. He wasn't interested in telling those stories because they'd been told so much. Watch it here.) They were old enough during the 60s to have noticed what a horrible time it was to live through with the draft and social unrest and can we just integrate a school without someone threatening to kill children?

Baby Boomers - born after WW2. There are so many of them that many of them could only go to school for half days because the system just couldn't handle that many kids. Some worries about social security are based on the same thing - there's just so many of them! Which is the same thing we all hate about locusts. And zombies. They also get credit for the social and cultural advances of the era. Some of it is deserved and some of it...well, John Lewis, the student leader of the civil rights movement is from the Silent Generation. As were the Peggy Olsens of the world who paved the way for women in the workplace in later decades. You can't be blamed for forgetting this fact because Baby Boomers spent so much time talking about everything they did to save the world. Even though your racist tea party uncle who always ruins Thanksgiving is a Baby Boomer.

Generation X - Don't mind us, we just invented Twitter and Google and blogs and grunge music. Slackers, my ass. When the media remembers we exist, it's usually to get snarky about our pop culture obsessions. But that's OK - we learned to tolerate being ignored by our Silent Generation parents, who #1 were ignored by popular culture themselves and #2 ignored us because parenting was all about benign neglect back then. 

Millennials - Have more ways to communicate than any generation before them in all of history. Refuse to answer work e-mails. From what I hear, also refuse to define their sexual/romantic relationships because saying, "hey, are we exclusive or what?" displays too much...I don't know, self respect? Think they're the first generation in America's history that will do worse than their parents, even though that's actually Gen X. Are already kicking ass and taking names at making the world a better place for everyone who isn't a white male. I mean, we did our bit, but we didn't have this many activists who are still in high school. Though maybe we did and just didn't know because we didn't have the web yet.

Which is just a long way of explaining why when The Monkees sing, "we're the young generation, and we've got something to say," I always respond, "We know! You never shut up about it!"

Boomers spent their teen years listening to The Beatles and what would become classic rock. Generation X also grew up listening to the music of our generation - when we could find it among all the classic rock radio stations. We were barraged with so many messages about how great the 60s were that we had to throw our own Woodstock concerts. Until they became messy train wrecks like the original, and we stopped.

It's hard to hear The Monkees' war protest songs with the wisdom of hindsight. All these anti-war Boomers were awfully eager to declare war on Iraq. Especially since we don't have a draft anymore, and they don't have to worry about their own kids getting called up to serve.

They set out to save the world from war with all the earnest sincerity that task required. Instead, they saved their children from the draft and the military-industrial complex carried on with a professional military.

I watch The Monkees romping around to Last Train to Clarksville, and all I can do is shake my head and say, "Oh, honey."

It's hard to be nostalgic about something once the associated bullshit has been exposed.