A Generation of Snark

sirpaulsbuddy and fikshun are onto something over at 5e. My comment there xposted here…
I have elsewhere written a good bit about generational dynamics, often in relation to Millennials and education. On some of those occasions I have been accused of beating the Mills up.

Well, now we’re around to one of the greatest flaws in our generation. Sadly, what you describe here is one of the things we’ve done to significantly damage society. We’ve made it an absolute crime to take what you’re doing seriously (unless it’s making money or tearing others down). We’re a gen that’s defined by sneering, mocking, snideness, smugness, snark and sarcasm. Look at the bands we valorized. I mean, Pavement? Barenaked Ladies? And how great could Weezer have been had they embraced the idea of being larger than life? Every once in awhile we get a band that’s willing to take a shot at something legendary – like Green Day’s American Idiot but boy, does it stand out in a crowd or what?

On what planet do jack-offs like Mo Rocca and Michael Ian Black have jobs that don’t involve a bad polyester uniforms and a fry cooker? Their appearances on VH1’s string of ’80s shows make me sick. For that matter, that whole series of shows is a pretty good example of what I’m talking about.

Sadly, this is one thing about X that the Millennials haven’t revolted against, and I wish they would. Nothing lasting and memorable in history has ever been accomplished by people who didn’t take themselves seriously (and I’m not talking about taking yourself TOO seriously here – that’s a different issue; this is a tendency to mock not only what deserves mocking, but to also drag down that which deserves respect, if not reverence).

We’ve transformed insecurity borne of ignorance into a virtue and used faux cool as a whip to enforce the great leveling. The only rock stars we tolerate are ones who insist that the drunk moron stage diver is as important to the process as are the people who wrote the songs, practiced millions of hours in their basements, starved to death so they could afford gas money to drive to the next town on the tour, and sacrificed several years of their lives to an imploding industry determined to suck them dry and leave them without any meaningful hope of a career doing what they love.

Weird Al isn’t quite guilty here, though. Or at least, not totally. He spoofs, but his spoofs often convey respect. He’s the idiot, not the stars he’s knocking off. And when he’s through, he hasn’t left you incapable of appreciating the value of what was lampooned. His recent send-up of Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” was brilliant as parody, but also provides a referent to an important moment in popular culture history. It seems clear enough to me that Al really respects the original song and video, too.

Note to Millennials: on a number of other fronts I have wished you were more like my generation. On this one, please don’t be like us.



4 thoughts on “A Generation of Snark

  1. I’ve been saying this for ages. Don’t expect anyone to listen, though, they ignore me every time I say it. To my mind the fact that we are now working on raising our second generation which is incapable of processing anything without irony is the greatest native flaw of our culture at present.

  2. Throughout the ages, preceeding generations have knocked their offspring….I think the whole thing started with Aristotle. I’m a Mid-Boomer, and find the Boomers to be the most self-centered, egotistical generation ever produced. I can’t find enough bad things to say about my generation.
    The kids today are pretty good, in spite of the world we’ve left them.
    By the way, I love Weird Al.

  3. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Weird Al live and followed him religiously from ages 10 – 13. I still know the words to some of his songs, and in some cases know it better than the original stuff.
    But the thing I haven’t seen mentioned is the coverage he gives the original music. I didn’t know anything about Gangsta’s Paradise as a 10-year-old until I heard Amish Paradise. I didn’t know about Subterranean Homesick Blues, but found I’ve explored it because of the Weird Al.
    Also, Weird Al fell into the trap of narcissism when he got his cartoon show. He seems to have left with the failed ratings.

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