From Decadent to Depressing

Photo Source: Pixabay via Pexels.

Mike C. Goodwin – Ours was a generation without dragons. Sure, we had the Soviet Union to fear, but by the time we came of age, Rocky had beaten Drago and Rambo joined the Taliban (that one really aged horribly.)

Our main existential crises were Ethiopian famine and dolphins getting caught in tuna nets (no one cared about the tuna though).

While certainly there were social problems bubbling under the surface, by and large our nights were free of the boogeyman. We had the ability to build idols to the idle.

You know what they say about idle hands (no, not that).

While our grandparents told stories of storming the beaches of Normandy to fight a certain mustache aficionado in Europe, we had pastel-colored suits with the sleeves rolled up. Where our parents marched against a war in Vietnam and for Civil Rights, we had a hairstyle meant to resemble a bird (I wish I were joking, it was called a Flock of Seagulls).

They had “The Great Depression” and “Stagflation.” We had an economy fueled by Reaganomics and cocaine.

Where the Baby Boomers had marijuana and LSD to open their minds to alternate states of consciousness, GenX had cocaine. We had no time for dirty hippies yapping about free love, we had money to be made on Wall Street while watching ‘Wall Street.’

Our bands sang about promiscuous women while being dressed like… promiscuous women. They sang about them while blasting holes in the ozone layer with industrial amounts of Aqua Net hair spray. They shrieked in high falsettos wearing eye shadow and rouge (for reasons nobody ever truly explained).

Ancient Romans drinking out of lead pipes while leering at a cousin didn’t appreciate such levels of excess.

Then one day, Seattle happened.

While the 1980’s may have birthed GenX, it will probably be the cultural shift in the early 1990’s that will define them. To this day, anyone from that era will recognize one of two songs that changed them forever.

While “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana would almost instantly (and thankfully,) seal the coffin of the hair bands, Dr Dre’s “Nuthin’ But A G Thang” would turn hip hop into mainstream culture.

Few such shifts can be seemingly attributed to a single event, but this was the case with those two songs. Almost overnight, flannels and jeans replaced the spandex and glamour (oddly, both grunge and hip hop used a lot of flannel).

Gone were the carefree days of bloody noses and heart explosions due to the aforementioned cocaine. In were the slow, ponderous ramblings brought by heroin and coffee.

Yes, for some reason GenX became fascinated by coffee. Whether it was at a Starbucks coffee shop, or a Denny’s diner, we congregated like the faithful on Christmas. We would sit for hours brooding over one cup of black coffee and exchange poorly written poetry, much to the chagrin of the poor waitress we encumbered.

So, while musically, the 1980’s were marked by endless optimism and narcissism, the 1990’s became marked by angst and anger.

That was the tragedy of our generation. The 1990’s was a decade of wonderous achievement. The end of the Cold War, the mainstreaming of the Internet, dodging a technological apocalypse known as Y2K, and a president famous for playing the saxophone (and living in a way reminiscent of a “Dear Penthouse” letter) all packed into ten years.

The bar was set high for the next generation.

They answered that call with Pokémon.

My goodness…


Michael (Mike) C. Goodwin is a freelance writer based in the Detroit area. His works include “Will Work For Food,” “The End Is Here,” Signs by Freeway Exits, and “Put The Money In The Bag,” Notes Hastily Given to Bank Tellers.


Photo Source: Pixabay via Pexels.