Monday, September 9, 2013

The Rise and Fall of the American Teenager

My cohort and I were never teenagers.  Or at least that's what Thomas Hine seems to believe.  We're used to it, sandwiched between the Baby Boom and the Millennials, Gen-X got saddled with a non-descriptive (and kind of stupid) name and were portrayed as whiny navel-gazers in Reality Bites and countless songs by grunge bands.  So maybe it's not a surprise that we only got a few paragraphs between the end of the Boomers' innocence and the rise of the Evil Teen shortly before the publication of The Rise and Fall of the American Teenager.

This was another of my, "Hmm...looks interesting" purchases (at the still-mourned Atlantic Book Warehouse instead of Daedalus - it's been on my shelf for about a decade), and I probably should have passed on it.  Hine's material is interesting, describing how American society viewed young people from the early Republic through the late 90s, but his style is bland and slightly sloppy.  I had a nagging feeling that he was drawing wider conclusions than his research supported and then throwing a veil of vagueness over complicated issues, or skipping cohorts (like mine) which didn't fit his narrative.  What I did find interesting was the look at then-contemporary teens.  The Millennials (now in their late 20s and early 30s) are the golden children - smart, entrepreneurial, and socially aware.  Quite different from the thrill killers and murderous prom-parents whose avatars starred in several Law & Order episodes.

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