To My Generation - Part II

April 19, 2017

To My Generation - Part II, 

(The things we've lost)

Art & words by Fanitsa Petrou

 

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You wished you had a reason to wear leg warmers like the dancers in Fame, you were seriously traumatized by Mary Ingall’ s blindness in "Little House on the Prairie"(still are a little bit, if you are being honest…) … You had a crash on Alex (Michael J. Fox’ s character of Family Ties), and found "Pretty in Pink" to be more upsetting than funny, and “Say Anything” more sad than romantic. You probably loved Reminghton Steele andMoonlighting, for the will-they? won’ t they? angle, and the movie references, and Detective Morse, for the clever stories, the seedy-Oxford-academia angle, and the Britishness.

  

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So, this one goes out to my generation. You know that you belong to it, if the moment you read this line, you immediately thought “I wonder whatever happened to R.E.M?”because you started singing in your head “This one goes out to the one I love... Fiiire!”and then immediately after that, you went: “Boy, those were two very good songs!”(meaning of course “The one I love”and “Loosing my Religion”) If this has happened to you, keep reading. If however the Who song came to mind, you are probably older, and you’ ve already been through a similar version of what follows, a couple of decades ago… On the other hand, if you have absolutely no idea who R.E.M(or Who for that matter) are, then you are too young and you probably won't get half of what follows...

 

If you were born in the late 60s for example, it might mean that in 2016, you got upset over the deaths of David Bowieand Prince (for the music but let’ s face it, also, for the costumes), but you actually cried for George Michael’s death.“Careless Whisper” beingthe soundtrack of your first crush damn it! For you, it was “personal”!

We were also around when Beyonce was still in Destiny's Child, when Robbie Williams was still inTake That, when Mark Wahlberg was still Marky Mark, or whenKylie Minogue was a scrawny mechanic (Yes! a mechanic) with mad hair on the Australian soap Neighbours.

 

You also used floppy discs on your computer, and had to buy Cds in order to listen to music (still do to be frank...) Not to mention you were around the first time Vinyl records, (and big glasses, high-waisted jeans and leggings)were cool.When TVs had no remote control, and you had to get up from your chair to change the volume, or the channel ( or play some Tom-Sowyer-kind of trick on your siblings and have them do it for you...) You might even remember the time when there was only one (that’s ONE, young people) channel.

When having a phone machine was kind of cool, and choosing just the right “leave your message after the beep” wording, was something for which you gave a lot of thought.

 You remember the time when the Internet was this exiting new thing, not yet attached to nastiness, pornography, Istagrammed photos of your salad, Facebook pretensions and sugary platitudes. When it was more of a somewhat limited source of info, rather than a way to feed your need for attention that is obviously not being fed in real life.

You were around, back when hip-hop was this amazingly exiting thing, (not at all obsessed with rape and massive behinds), and which gave us some sweet sweet tunes, which we could actually enjoy without feeling guilty, disgusted or outraged on account of the sexism, and the endless ass slapping references.

 

You were also around back when boys would give you mixed tapes with carefully chosen love songs, that would shyly (and quite effectively let me tell you), spell out they had a crush on you, instead of photos of their dick…

 

Back when pornography was the secret and utterly shameful pass-time activity of guys who couldn’ t get any sex in real life, than about womenbeing tortured and violated in a number of disgusting waysthat would make a serial killer blush,and the everyday (proud!) habit and personal obsession of countless men.

 

Back when if a guy would even hint on some S&M nonsense, and kindly offered to hit you recreationally, you immediately knew (with a certainty that was sharper than the Sun’ s light) that he was a sick, misogynistic weirdo, in urgent need of some serious therapy with a group of doctors working around the clock just for him. Plus, you know what? He knew it too!And BTW, saying so, was not seen as “shaming” HIM! Or as you being a prude...

 

 

 

Back when you would play a song on your cassette player or walkman, in order to memorize the words, pressing the “forward” and “backward” buttons a thousand times, writing in notebooks the lyrics, because you couldn’ t just Google them… Which also means that if you did not speak English very well, you would write the words phonetically, and still to this day sing those same songs in your own, pretty much made up hybrid language...

 

If you belong to my generation, you were also probably shocked, appalled, scared by “Roots”,you had a crash on Alex, (Michael J Fox’s character on Family Ties), you lovedSt Elmo's Fireand Breakfast Club, and found Pretty in Pink and "16 Candles"to be more upsetting than funny, and “Say Anything”more sad than romantic. You wished you had a reason to wear leg warmers like the dancers in Fame,you wereseriously traumatized by Mary Ingall’ s blindness in Little House on the Prairie(still are a little bit, if you are being honest…) and even if you were more like the bookish Mary, you identified with Laura, the plucky girl with the pigtails and the cute overbite, who idolised her father and would skip school to go fishing, and run up and down hills with Jack, the big hairy dog. You probably loved Reminghton Steeleand Moonlighting, for the will-they? won’ t they? angle, and the movie references, and Detective Morse,for the clever stories, the seedy-Oxford-academia angle, and the Britishness, and were seriously taken with that iconic BBC adaptation of Jane Eyrewith Timophy Dalton as Mr. Rochester.You were also beginning to be kind of obsessed with Seinfeld, which even then, you suspected that it was unlike anything else out there. It was also the reason why you still have a soft spot for that special brand of weird, twisted, neurotic sense of humor, so attached to Jewishness… And if you are from my neck of the woods, you’ ve also watched the 40’s themed drama Πανθέοιas a child, with a very young Δανδουλάκη, playing the tragic and beautiful Μάρμω, who made you think that it just might be Ok if you grew up to be tall after all...

 

You were around when the funniest, the most intelligently written and original sitcoms and TV shows were created (Seinfeld, Roseanne, Northern Exposure, Cheers, Frasier, Will & Grace, Gilmore Girls, Curb your Enthusiasm, Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, House, The Wire, The West Wing, Black Adder, Spaced, Black Books, The IT Crowd, Psych, etc) All of them having a release date prior to 2007which was apparently the cut-off point for networks to go for anything that was not part of the tsunami of crassness and gore that was to follow. (NONE of the above shows would be allowed to make it today BTW!) It was I guess a more innocent time, when good writing was not so obsessively attached to misogyny and violence, when TV was not aiming so blatantly at our baser instincts. When it was not all about forensics, vomit & fart jokes, on-screen masturbation scenes, medieval torture, bloody acts of violence, beheadings, and of course, rapes!

 

You probably got teary eyed when the Berlin Wallfell, and got all hopeful about freedom, and human rights, and social change, and the glorious future of humanity, your hope lasting about a minute of course, because a year or so after that, the Gulf Warwas initiated, and it’ s been a downhill ever since… As if a cosmic clock (or possibly a time - bomb) started counting backwards on that very day, leading us gradually – and in retrospect, predictably - to the present-day mess…

 

Of course nothing says you’ ve aged, like realising how long it’s been since some of your favorite movies came out: it’ s been 28 years since “When Harry Met Sally”was released for example, 30 years since “The Princess Bride”,36 years since “Raiders of the Lost Ark”,18 years since the first “Matrix”movie, 31 since “Stand by Me”, and 35 since “Blade Runner”…

 

Similarly, even if you do keep up with what is out there in terms of pop culture and music and trends and all that, the music of your youth, is still the one closest to your heart, though it is slightly disconcerting to think how long ago it’ s been since you first heard it. You still think that Radioheadnova-exploded like a shinning, weird, (WEIRD!) star just a minute ago for example, yet it’ s been 24 years since “Pablo Honey”was released, and likewise, it’ s been 23 years since Nasrecorded Illmatic, 33 sinceBruce Springsteen released“Born in the USA”, and 22 since“Ghost of Tom Joad”(does this make any sense?) and 30 sinceU2’s The Josuah Treealbum was out! Similarly, Kurt Cobainstill looks to your eyes like something you saw in a dream, (glorious and tragic and fragile, like the dying and resurrecting gods of all myths, and heart-breakingly beautiful, like Jesus in a Renaissance painting), yet it’ s been 26 whole years since Nirvanahave recorded Nevermind,and this is a thought that somehow can not be contained in your brain.You also realize that if Kurt Cobainwas still alive, he would be turning 50, and the idea is almost painful to you.

Speaking of idols and the shinning, glorious Sun-gods of your youth: you still can’ t believe that Chris Issakis 60! Given that you still haven’ t gotten over the“Wicked Game” black & white (tinted with blueish hues)Herb Ritts video(that Art Deco-like profile of his, his perfect torso emerging out of the waters, him kissing the beautiful and bare-breasted Helena Christensen, while ominous clouds are gathering above them)that you still find to be the most perfect thing you’ ve ever seen, and if you were to watch it again now, you bet that it would still make you wanna cry like a baby) He, is – as expected - smaller than the myth, as it turns out: he was a judge on the Australian X-factorlast year, and boy was it a let-down. It’ s not that he aged (who hasn’ t?) or indeed that he still dresses like a flashy grooner / country singer from the 50's, it’s just that he was rude and on occasion quite crass, with a completely dated machismo, exchanging words and insults with James Blunt(who as it turns out, is NOT the fragile, sensitive, ballad-singing dude you would expect) and it just isn’ t right! And you were going in your head: “But... but...Wicked Game!And the Herb Rittsvideo… And the blueish hues! And.. and…No! No!, NOOO!”

 

And then Billy Idol,for whom you had a major crash as a school girl, is now 62 (what the hell, right?) Your crush on him has even led to having a crush on Spike,the English accented (fake but still effective), love-sick vampire from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, just because he seemed to be channeling him… And for that hair. Oh the hair!!! Not to mention Harrison Fordis 74. (Han Solois 74. Indiana Jonesis 74. Rick Deckard. 74! Damn!) And worse still, Mel Gibsonis a racist with mad eyes. The lovable Dr Huxtable,a creepy serial rapist. Woody Allen,a pedophile who’s married to his adopted daughter. The always youthful Michael J Fox, is fighting a serious degenerating old man’s disease. Prince,is dead. Terence Trent d'Arby,(that wonderful, beautiful, weird dude) has seemed to have fallen off the face of the Earth. And the aforementioned rock god Billy Idolhad actually released a Xmas album… (Are rock gods even allowed to do that?!)Michael Jackson, well... where to begin...? Not to mention pretty-boy Chachi from Happy Days is now a sexist, chauvinistic, religious-freak / Trump-supporter nutcase....(What the hell has happened to the guys from your teenage room wall?)

 

And then Donald Trumpwho used to have 30 second-long cameos in eighties movies, being the caricature of the smug, arrogant rich guy, is now the leader of the free World, and apparently the proud owner of a very effective Time-machine that has turned the clock back to the fifties!

 

Incidentally, you still think “Private Investigations” byDire Straits has the best lyrics ever (a  Noir / Raymond Chandler-like movie in a song) and not just the best guitar riff, and you also find that “I want You”by Elvis Costello, is one of the most honest love songs out there, if only for that line: “Oh no my darling, not with that clown”which still cracks you up each time you hear it…

 

And when you were a teenager, you probably read photo-romanceswith your girlfriends, which were like comic books for girls, with sequential photos, (usually of beautiful Italian models with names like Bruno and Alessandra) who were reenacting their predictable love stories on a weekly basis, leaving you pinning for love. (And for gorgeous Italian men in sports jackets...) Boys were reading “Blake” comics (anybody remembers those?) about superheroes and spacemen, and Native American chiefs, and spies, and aliens, and explorers who were having all kinds of adventures in this and other planets, and girls were reading about whether or not Claudio would propose to Frederica or not… (Hint: he would)

 

When you actually had to read books, and newspapers, and magazines, and see movies, and discover authors and bands and music genres “organically”… (One thing would lead you to the next... On and on...) And if you were interested in something, you would have to take classes, instead of downloading an app or watching a four-minute Youtube video, or you would have to buy tons of books and sit your ass and read about it, and be stuck in libraries and generally speaking, search for things on your own, (which also meant THINK things on your own too!), instead getting the bottom-line, as written by an unpaid Wikipedia intern or a YouTube "celebrity".

 

Likewise, it was a time when people would celebrate birthdays and anniversaries privately, by being with their loved ones, instead of feeling the need to make public, written declarations of their love for them on social media, proving to complete strangers, that they do indeed have a life. And it is "perfect"!

 

When taking a photo of yourself was a little bit sad (not to mention tricky), because it meant that you had no one to take your photo. And it was also a sign that you were something of a narcissist… And being one, was frowned upon, rather than celebrated and rewarded with “likes”…

 

Similarly, it was a time when you actually had to be a star of some kind, (a singer, an actor, an athlete, etc) and a successful one at that, in order to have reasons to pose in glamour photos, or videos of yourself. And these photos and videos, would be normally solicited by others (journalists, newspapers, magazines, TV channels, and the like) and aim at a specific audience: your fans... You just wouldn’ t go ahead and assume the world NEEDED to see you laying in your patio furniture in your Sunday best, sipping wine on a Thursday morning. Plus you would be embarrassed with the idea of having such photos being seen by strangers in a public way… And “being embarrassed”about certain things was still a thing… And it wasn’ t so bad. It kept you from being a complete ass. We kind of need more of it actually…

 

Also cameras were analogue. With flashes, and Zoom lenses and all kinds of extra thingies which you would attach manually. And with f-stops, and shutter speeds, and you had to calculate the correct ones. Using math! And films. Which you had to buy separately. And which you had to take to studios in order to have developed. In dark rooms. With chemicals and things. Meaning it was a whole do to… and it required a certain artistry too…

 

Back when you used to write on typewriters and word processors, before you moved on to computers, which were huge mighty, slow things (with gigantic separate hard discs) that would crash unexpectedly and eat up your documents on a regular basis, disappearing them in their virtual belly for ever, and there was nothing you could do about it....

 

You remember the time when fake nails were seen as kitsch, and a “thigh-gap” was not a thing (not a desirable one at least, plus we had a different name for it). Back when having the legs of transvestite who used to run track professionally was not one of your goals as a woman, and looking like you were probably suffering from anorexia, was still seen as a cause for concern for said person’ s physical, as well as mental health, rather than a valid life choice, and every modern woman’ s secret wish.

 

When women would dress to express a whollot of things,not just their state of constant sexual availability...When boho chic was favoured by artists, and yoga teachers, and free spirited and kinda flaky souls, and not accountants. When say an opera singer would dress differently than a bank clerk; a teacher differently than a lawyer; a doctor differently than a sales girl, etc ect. Because they were different people! And not all women were expected to be dressed like a lap dancer, or a bar-woman covering the late, late shift, when the heroin addicts, the pimps, the bikers with the crude prison tattoos, and the lowlifes with the shifty eyes who are carrying secret knives in their boots arrive… When women were seen as sexy even if they did not try so hard, or wear clothes that were 3 sizes too small (because men were not obsessed with porn!) or even when they wore flat shoes – which were in fact “allowed”. (Damn you “Sex and the City!”)

 

When girls would enjoy their childhood and teenage years - which by the way lasted a normal amount of time - without being obsessed with pink, and the princess cult, and seflies, and the need to expose every detail of their life (or body) on social media. A fact that sexualizes them from a very early age, and in a very particular manner, which renders them unable to find a real sense of self, and makes them be in constant need of validation, that is centered around their looks. A fact that therefore makes them vulnerable to anyone who feeds their narcissism and distorted sense of self…

 

Back when most boys knew more or less that certain boundaries were not to be crossed uninvited. Or even that indeed such boundaries existed! (Because, again, they were not yet brainwashed by the misogyny of porn!)

 

You remember the time when it was still rude to talk on your phone when you were with friends, or a guest in someone else’ s house, and when it was unthinkable to talk loudly over the phone in public transportations, supermarkets, restaurants, or cafés, or even cinemas, without even considering that there are people around, and it is rude to be loud! Plus, you just didn’t want people to know your business.(Those were the pre-Facebook days of course, when having a sense of privacy was still a thing)

 

You were also around when Angelina Joliewas seen by everybody (seriously!) as a troubled young woman, before she was practically overnight revered as the patron saint of the suffering souls, (kudos to the genius publicist who reversed all that so spectacularly!) And because of that,you probably always suspected that underneath the displays of virtuous fragility, and the Unisef-princess / refugee-feeding persona who is surrounded in airports by multicultural, unsmiling children, lies the earlier“blood-in-a-phial wearing / brother-kissing / self-mutilating / Billy-Bob-Thorton-is-my-vampire-lover” weirdness that precededit, and which incidentally, has beaten the cuteness out of Brat Pitt… (because you just can't get over that shit! Your narcissism can take a different form, but get over it? PLEASE!) Hint: yeah! Still TeamAniston all the way baby!

 

You also remember the (admittedly brief) time when pregnancy was not socially speaking “fetichized”,and was seen as a part of life, and also not a woman’s ONLY and supreme way of being fulfilled. Plus, it was her business and nobody else’s! (BTW I can’t wait till the TV serial based on Margaret Adwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”is out, it being so prophetic in its depiction of this women-are-breeding-cattle-phenomenon !) Plus it was actually OK to say that being pregnant is an overall pretty unpleasant experience by the way…) It was additionally NOT a fashion thing, attached to celebrities, and pregnant-belly-selfies, and yammie mommies(damn you Victoria Beckham) whose ultimate goal is above all, to be “instagram-worthy” throughout their pregnancy, looking like they are shoplifting a soccer ball underneath their designer dress.

 

Also, even without the Internet and its vast virtual and united market, and its promises of International economy, you remember the time when making money was for most of us a lot easier (and with less working hours), back when the middle classes were still around. Back when the world was not so scared…

 

These are some of the things we remember or have gone through, which we used to take for granted, and which predictably proved us wrong. A new world is always waiting around the corner, asking all of us to evolve, (and occasionally to devolve). Asking each new generation to find its voice, and each older generation to adjust, to learn new tricks, to reinvent itself, to move on, and alas, to leave things behind...

In the meantime, we are still waiting for that hoverboard “Back to the Future” has promised us…

 

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READ ALSO: "To my Generation, Part I": http://wp.me/p7jQTY-sO

and "To my Generation, Part III": https://wp.me/p7jQTY-ut

"To my generation" - Art & Words Copyright © Fanitsa Petrou. All Rights Reserved. Any unauthorised use - copying, publishing, printing, reselling, etc - will lead to legal implications. 

http://www.fanitsa-petrou.com

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