Boomers keep tight grip on pop culture, Times scribe laments

Danny Moloshok/AP Photo


Donald Trump, left, and Apprentice Season 5 winner Sean Yazbeck.

THE HAND ON THE REMOTE: Alessandra Stanley of the New York Times wrote a long and – rare on the pages of the Times arts section – impassioned piece on how the Baby Boom generation, far from being marginalized as it slips into senior citizen status, is still gripping the tiller of pop culture and steering it wherever it likes.

“Reality television,” Stanley writes, “which was originally created as a thumb-nosing alternative for the young (The Real World), has been co-opted by the baby boomers, who never miss a chance to assert their hegemony on popular culture.”

As proof, Stanley points to new shows like Grease: You’re The One That I Want, and older shows like American Idol and The Apprentice, which are built around the conflict between talented but frustrated young people and the older, Boomer-age authority figures they’re obliged to flatter.

“The survival of The Apprentice on NBC is surely a sign of the viewer’s unconscious impulse to relive the conflict between young and refuse-to-get-old,” writes Stanley, with barely suppressed outrage. “Season after season, good-looking, ambitious young people willingly abase themselves before a mercurial, aging baby boomer with odd hair and ostentatious taste. Every episode contains a reminder that Mr. Trump is a sovereign whose favor must be recaptured time and time again.”

To be fair, older people, regardless of their demographic appellation, have always sat in judgment of younger people, and young people have always hotly resented it. Still there’s something galling about how Boomers have set the standards for popular youth culture, mostly by constantly reviving the myth that they were the generation that invented youth, a myth that the musical Grease - and its reality TV offspring – spins into treacly, toe-tapping fantasy. Grease is, in Stanley’s words, “reconstituted nostalgia for a pre-Aquarian era only the oldest baby boomers tasted first hand.”

Stanley admits that shows like Idol and Grease: You’re The One That I Want probably only draw marginal numbers of Boomer viewers, but their insidious effect is how they reinforce the abject stance that younger people must constantly adopt when dealing with their demographic overlords. It’s an image that clearly galls her.

“Baby boomers will watch Law & Order and CSI, bankrupt Social Security, deplete Medicare and go noisily, dementedly into gated retirement communities with their shriveled, arthritic fingers still pushing the levers of culture and clutching the remote,” Stanley writes, making you wonder, among other things, just how she feels about her bosses at the Times.

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