Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Talkin' 'bout my Metaration

A few months ago I was talking to a philosophy professor about how we could sum up my generation, including, primarily, the 20-30-something set. His opinion was that my generation was one of detached cynicism, that my generation was all about bitterness and ridicule. I agree with him.

As evidence, I submit Seinfeld, perhaps the most popular comedy to ever exist. The whole premise of Seinfeld, the very point of the show, is that there is no existential meaning in the social conventions we create for ourselves. Seinfeld, and the generation it represents, is all about partaking in the conventions of our grandparents, the Leave it to Beaver style living, and continually mock it the entire time.

Remember the one where Jerry and Elaine's friends have the baby who is breathtakingly ugly? People everywhere are asked how beautiful they think a baby is, and no one ever bothers to say that a baby is not, in fact, as beautiful as everyone says it is. Indeed, Jerry and Elaine pacify the doting parents, and then discuss, behind closed doors, how silly it is that they have to say that the baby is beautiful, even when it isn't.

Or what about Jerry's parents? The perfect cliche: Florida dwelling, jumpsuit wearing, consistently arguing Jewish old people who can't leave Jerry alone. This isn't a representation of oldness; it is an ironic cliche, a joke about how all old people are the same, and a way for us to enter into that cliche, yet mock it at the same time.

The whole Seinfeldian style of stand-up is the perfect example of this phenomenon. "What's the deal with airplane peanuts?" He asks. "Have you seen this? Have you heard about this?" Seinfeld points out the absurdity of things that happen in everyday life and mocks the social conventions that have become ingrained in society. Still, Seinfeld participates in these rituals with the same amount of effort as anyone else, he simply is irreverent to the purpose of them. If the airplane peanuts really were so absurd, why would he continue to eat them?

The trendiest comedies of our generation have all been this way: the Simpsons, Family Guy, and Futurama all hit this same vein, in their own unique ways. The newish show Desperate Housewives is all about people stuck in social roles, but flaunting their irreverence towards them. Even movies targeted towards the younger set have started to find this detachment; did anyone see Garden State?

The existential meaning of these formally crucially important social constructs has been lost, yet our society demands that we stick to convention. In a world where we have to keep performing meaningless tasks, what else can we do besides point out the absurdity of it?

Taking a step back, realizing what happens behind our social constructs, living detached from a world that we are constantly acting in, these are things that define our generation. This step back, this active detachment, can only be described as one thing: meta.

If our parents' generation was generation-X or generation-Y, then we must be part of the Metaration. Our youth lead lives of quiet absurdity, and absurdity that they fully understand and embrace. My generation is a generation of existentialists who don't know that they are existentialists, a generation of mice fully cognizant of their cage.

I submit my third new word of the week, along with my new coinages desolance and metaesthetics, and the new word is Metaration. The definition?

Metaration: the generation of people born between approximately 1970 and 1990 who continue to act according to the commonly accepted social constructs yet who realize the futility and meaninglessness of these constructs. People of the metaration live slightly detached from life, yet continue to act in it as normal.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would that make me a metarator?

- Josh

1:37 PM  

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