A post from Luther M. Siler about tattoos, technology, and how the generations view each other made me think of this…
It’s something I saw on television: A man is arguing with his son about music. He doesn’t understand or approve of the chaotic noise his son listens to. On the surface, it’s a cliché: ‘Kids these days don’t know what real music is, grumble, grumble…’ On the other side, you’d expect something along the lines of, ‘Dammit, Dad, you know I love you, but you’ve got a hell of a lot to learn about rock-and-roll!’ (Pseudo-sister Claudia was a Meatloaf fan, and after hearing the spoken part at the beginning of “Wasted Youth” even once, how can one forget it? I don’t remember if the guitar was a Telecaster or a Stratocaster, though. 🙂 )
Part of what makes the scene amusing and also interesting for its commentary on generation gaps is that the son is seventy years old, and he’s arguing with his father about jazz.
In related topics…
I’ve also recently read a blog post in which the writer complains loudly and at great length about various novels in which the young characters ‘don’t act or think like real teenagers — some of the cultural references they make are more appropriate for a middle-aged adult.’ Um… You do know that retro stuff is all the rage with some teenagers and younger adults, right? When I was a teenager in the late 1980s, my pseudo-sister Jeanie was very much into 1950s/1960s things: poodle skirts and Grease and (gods help us!) music by The Monkees. And apparently Millennials are now discovering music, movies, and video games from the 1980s.
‘But there’s a certain way all teenagers talk, a kind of slang they all use, and they’re all obsessed with being popular and wearing the right kinds of clothes, and they always talk back to authority figures, and they think they know everything, and…’ Nope. Those, friends, are tropes that are dangerously close to being clichés: lazy cop-out shortcuts in thinking, used so the writer — or other person — doesn’t have to pay attention to the individual in front of them and see whether or not that person talks or behaves in certain ways.
Let me say it bluntly: The term realistic teenage character is rather ageist. Not all six-year-olds are alike, so why would you expect all sixteen-year-olds to be alike? Would you ever say realistic adult character, as if some authors were “doing it wrong” and writing unrealistic twenty-and-older fictional people? No, because the assumption is that, once a person is an adult, they’re allowed to be whoever they are and not live in a pigeonhole anymore… or at least that the pigeonhole is roomier than the one to which teenagers are expected to confine themselves. *shakes head* Some people are capable of making sound decisions and taking responsibility for their own actions when they’re twelve, and some people can’t/won’t do that at forty. Are either of these unrealistic because they don’t fit into a view of age that has nothing to do with, y’know, actual reality?
To me, saying ‘This teenage character is unrealistic because he quotes movies that were made before he was born’ is as ridiculous (as in, worthy of or deserving ridicule) as saying ‘This female character is unrealistic because she’s sarcastic.’