PM Pick

Fight this generation

I've had some fun today trying to figure out what this somewhat enigmatic picture by Ryan McGinley

has to do with the article about "generation next" that it accompanies in today's NYT Magazine. It looks like this fun trio is staying at the vertiginous Orlando Holiday Inn I stayed at last March, that was all in drab monochrome like this room. I can't tell what the guy standing up is doing with his hands: extinguishing a roach? flicking a booger? picking a hangnail? Hmm. Very mysterious. And the couple on the bed -- are they lovers or models? Is she hiding her face or picking sleep out of her eye? Are we supposed to assume that they're waiting for hangnail man to jump in the sack with them? I guess we know they are from the privacy-indifferent generation because they haven't bothered to close the curtain before they get down to whatever business we're supposed to pretend they are contemplating. Feel free to offer your theories in the comments.

In the article itself, Ann Hulber scratches her chin and wonders about 18 to 25 year olds and their alleged struggle to escape from the shadow of their baby boomer parents. Citing poll data that shows them approving of gay marriage and disapproving of abortion more than their parents, she wonders if they are bringing into being some new pro-family political synthesis.

On one level, Gen Nexters sound impatient with a strident stalemate between entrenched judgments of behavior; after all, experience tells them that in the case of both abortion and gay rights, life is complicated and intransigence has only impeded useful social and political compromises. At the same time, Gen Nexters give every indication of being attentive to the moral issues at stake: they aren’t willing to ignore what is troubling about abortion and what is equally troubling about intolerant exclusion. A hardheadedness, but also a high-mindedness and softheartedness, seems to be at work.

And to risk what might be truly wishful thinking, maybe there are signs here that Gen Nexters are primed to do in the years ahead what their elders have so signally failed to manage: actually think beyond their own welfare to worry about — of all things — the next generation. For when you stop to consider it, at the core of Gen Nexters’ seemingly discordant views on these hot-button issues could be an insistence on giving priority to children’s interests. Take seriously the lives you could be creating: the Gen Next wariness of abortion sends that message. Don’t rule out for any kid who is born the advantage of being reared by two legally wedded parents: that is at least one way to read the endorsement of gay marriage.

Yes, this sounds like wishful thinking to me. I guess I'd be more convinced if this was actually one of their number offering this interpretation of their generation rather than a journalist speculating from the wings and trying to wish tepid political moderation into being. Hulber, though, explicitly tells us to ignore what they say about themselves -- but if we do that, why interpret what they tell pollsters, which would certainly be as distorted as the way they choose to represent their generation? Their professed beliefs may be only so much sentimentality about the family, or a naive idealism about the cosntraints and choices adults face when they truly settle into raising a family or avoiding such a situation. Maybe they exhibit a stronger disapproval of abortion because they are better educated about sex or because presume the morning-after pill is available as an alternative. Who knows? Hulbert doesn't any more than you or I do: she ends with a shrug: "However you end up sorting out the data, fun or crazy wouldn’t be how I would describe the Gen Next mix. Judged against the boomers’ own past or present, though, the outlook definitely looks unique."


The Best Metal of 2017

Painting by Mariusz Lewandowski. Cover of Bell Witch's Mirror Reaper.

There's common ground between all 20 metal albums despite musical differences: the ability to provide a cathartic release for the creator and the consumer alike, right when we need it most.

With global anxiety at unprecedented high levels it is important to try and maintain some personal equilibrium. Thankfully, metal, like a spiritual belief, can prove grounding. To outsiders, metal has always been known for its escapism and fantastical elements; but as most fans will tell you, metal is equally attuned to the concerns of the world and the internal struggles we face and has never shied away from holding a mirror up to man's inhumanity.

Keep reading... Show less

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

Two recently translated works -- Lydie Salvayre's Cry, Mother Spain and Joan Sales' Uncertain Glory -- bring to life the profound complexity of an early struggle against fascism, the Spanish Civil War.

There are several ways to write about the Spanish Civil War, that sorry three-year prelude to World War II which saw a struggling leftist democracy challenged and ultimately defeated by a fascist military coup.

Keep reading... Show less

'Foxtrot' Is a 'Catch-22' for Our Time

Giora Bejach in Fox Trot (2017 / IMDB)

Samuel Maoz's philosophical black comedy is a triptych of surrealism laced with insights about warfare and grief that are both timeless and timely.

There's no rule that filmmakers need to have served in the military to make movies about war. Some of the greatest war movies were by directors who never spent a minute in basic (Coppola, Malick). Still, a little knowledge of the terrain helps. A filmmaker who has spent time hugging a rifle on watch understands things the civilian never can, no matter how much research they might do. With a director like Samuel Maoz, who was a tank gunner in the Israeli army and has only made two movies in eight years, his experience is critical.

Keep reading... Show less

South Pole Station is an unflinching yet loving look at family in all its forms.

The typical approach of the modern debut novel is to grab its audience's attention, to make a splash of the sort that gets its author noticed. This is how you get a book deal, this is how you quickly draw an audience -- books like Fight Club, The Kite Runner, even Harry Potter each went out of their way to draw in an audience, either through a defined sense of language, a heightened sense of realism, or an instant wash of wonder. South Pole Station is Ashley Shelby's debut, and its biggest success is its ability to take the opposite approach: rather than claw and scream for its reader's attention, it's content to seep into its reader's consciousness, slowly drawing that reader into a world that's simultaneously unfamiliar and totally believable.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.