Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Is youth culture dead?

Interesting post by Mark Ravenhill in today's Grauniad: "I am down with the kids". His argument is that youth no longer can control its own popular culture with parents downloading The Arctic Monkeys and playing the latest videogames. Ravenhill, who has been doing interviews for his 'teen' play Citizenship, thinks that there is nothing for youth to 'own' anymore. Bizarrely he suggests that what youth needs is a form of National Service – not to give them a "short sharp shock", but to provide them with a chance to get together and discover things that their parents wouldn't like – to become rebellious again. He argues there is little chance of that in middle-class youth culture and points to the colonisation of black culture by white kids looking for something that their parents won't understand.

Ravenhill is on to something, but I'm not quite sure what. He makes me think of an article by Joe Eszterhas in Rolling Stone in the 1970s in which he argued that the 'baby boomers' of the late 1940s would control popular culture for the next 40 years until they died out – not just because they were such a populous generation, but because of the conjuncture of changes in society, in the economy and in popular culture that took place in the 1960s. Eszterhas has been proved correct in many ways – witness the extraordinary amount of coverage of the recent tour by Bob Dylan. As the age profile of Europe in particular shifts upwards, we might see a split in popular culture with the 30 and 40-somethings looking to stay 'young' and embracing 'youth culture' as something still appropriate for them, whilst 50 and 60-somethings stick with what's left of the 'Counter Culture' and its heroes.

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