There was no place for irony in marketing: it made people want to look for deeper meaning. There was no place in marketing for that, either.”
– Jennifer Government, by Max Barry
Do a quick google or amazon search on Generation X and the majority of the results that turn up will be about business, i.e. marketing to GenXer’s, managaing GenXers at work blah blah blah. Yeah. I don’t really dig that shit much. I mean, I get it. Business is, well, the business of most people, but I don’t really care. Don’t mistake that for apathy. It is simply a refusal to participate, which is not the same thing.
I’m just more interested in books and movies, TV and pop culture in general. What do you want? I was an English major in college. Hell, I even went to grad school for Creative Writing. It was the mid-nineties and the job market was no great shakes. So, I figured, why not waste a few more years in school. Grad School was easier than undergrad. Besides it fit with my goal to avoid a real job for as long as fucking possible, which I managed to do until after 30 thank you very much. Of course, I couldn’t avoid “the real world” forever. But it only took just under 4 years in corporate cube land for me to realize very clearly that I did not belong there. And I hope I never have to return. The horror! The horror!
Anyhoo… after recently rereading Douglas Coupland’s novel, Generation X, I’m on this new kick — actually it is an old kick rejuvenated — too seek out and identify authors and works of fictional (mostly) that reflect the Gen X ethos in some way. I’m sort of developing a way of evaluating novels and short stories and the like through an Xer’s lense, sort of speak.
Hence the quote above from a novel that I am currently deeply immersed in.
The author, Max Barry, is from Australia but I don’t see the Xer ethos as strictly an American one. In fact, I would say that Gen X is more international than any generation before it. Of course, the Mellenials will be even more so. Barry is 33, which puts him in the age range. Of course, this in and of itself does not qualify one as a Gen Xer or possessing of the Xer ethos, but it’s as good place as any to start.
But perhap Mr. Barry wouldn’t appreciate being slapped with the Gen X tag, but no matter. I’ll likely never run into him anyway. So even if he can kick my ass, and no doubt he can, I’m probably safe.
Regardless of whether it is welcome or not, this novel contains a pretty strong Xer vibe.
To begin with the tone is ironic, and funny.
Also, the portrayal of corporate entities as basically soulless behemoths that rob individuals of dignity and identity is quite in sync with the Xer view. In this fictional world, a person’s last names depends on the company that they work for. Hence, one of the characters, Hack, works for Nike and as such is named Hack Nike.
Technology, especially computers and the internet, play a prominent role in the story. Also very Xer-ish… or whatever.
Creativity is not only NOT respected, it is exploited and stolen out right for the singular purpose of making money.
Profit is more important than human life. The book begins with a marketing strategy to sell a new brand of Nike shoes that involves assassinating people who purchase them in order to establish “street cred.”
Even the government and so-called public services are corporate here. Police nvestigations into crimes, even the most serious, require funding by the victims. One must be a paying member of an emergency service first before an ambulance will be sent to your assistance in the event of an emergency.
Yes. It is quite a cynical vision of the immediate future, with of course the United States as the worst purveyor of corporate greed and manipulation, but, even though I’m only half-way through the book, I sense that actions by individuals at the lowest levels, working diligently without praise or even the slightest acknowledgement will be prove the heroes of this tale.
If you need more proof, visit Max’s web site which is linked on my blogroll here. I got my own novel to work on.