So a while ago I went on a super caffeine bender and ranted on Snapchat about how the 2010s are the gritty reboot of the 1970s, in part as a joke about how most of the media in the 2010s are remakes, adaptations, reboots and sequels of older works and partly because holy shit, guys, the 2010s are just the 1970s.
So let me explain my thinking. There are a few things, good and bad, and I’ll do them in no particular order but try to end with the okay stuff. Also, bear in mind this is from the perspective of an American white guy primarily versed in things related to American white people, both good and bad, from the era. Since I try (and often fail) to avoid talking out of my ass things like relative gay rights, the Black Panthers and Black Lives Matter won’t get a ton of mention here but link in the comments if you know someone has made some good points about those potential comparable data points, okay? In addition I will be using the term “Hippy” to refer to the generation of people who were in their 20s during the 70s much as most Millennials are in their 20s now. The statements made will be general. Obviously not everyone in their 20s was a Hippy back then, but that is what they are primarily remembered as and, in addition, I am making the confident prediction that Millennials will be remembered for the subset of our generation you probably just thought of when I said Millennials just now and am referring to that group when I use the term. And yes, it’s possible the Hippy movement is more 60s than 70s but in my opinion there is enough overlap for the term to still be applicable.
First, the politics. Sorry. But think about who wore this one better: An abundance of conservative politicians making potentially disastrous decisions out of fear and hate of the Other supported by scared old (usually white) people and usually at the expense of a progressive, scared group of young and relatively diverse people who would get organized and hold rallies and protests for peace and positive change all under a near-constant dread of global nuclear annihilation due to tensions between the US, Russia and China and war waged, also at the expense of the poor and the young, by the rich and the old. The 1970s had it, of course, but the young, diverse progressive crew back then at least had some idealism. Nowadays it’s far more common to see a sort of Knight In Sour Armor/Theory of Courage style progressive who, having seen that the 70s yielded little permanent positive fruit, is resigned to the inevitability of failure across the board from civil rights to economic equality to ending for-profit war. Even though the protests and the rallies still happen there’s an atmosphere of defeated futility. “This has happened before and failed, why should we expect any better now that the conservatives have become more harsh, the progressives more ostracized and socially outcast, the rich so much more powerful?”
Second, slightly related, the relationship between generations, patriotism (at least in the US) and trust of the system. Who wore it better: A general trend of “my country, right or wrong” and “love it or leave it” among older people up to and including a distrust or disdain of people from other nation-states and the idea of criticism as condemnation (or, in more extreme cases, criticism as treason) versus a younger generation, generally considered a waste of sperm by the older generation, trying to survive off underpaid, laborious and thankless jobs (all while being told they’re worthless slackers) while attempting to improve what they see as a broken system for as many people as possible only to be met with derision and mockery for even trying to improve if their desire to improve – and it’s implication that things aren’t already perfect – isn’t seen as somehow treasonous. The Hippy generation certainly saw this, and don’t you think Millennials are pretty sick of this one by now? And again, the people on the older, more conservative side have only become even more extreme than before, in the US putting forth as their ideal paragon an outright anti-intellectual fascist instead of people who just flirted with fascist tendencies while the younger generation is starting from a place of being even more psychologically beaten down due to the lingering awareness of the previous cycle and it’s failures.
Millennials are angrier than Hippies. We want positive social change but our awareness of their failure and the near-inevitability of our own gives us a fire of rage that causes us to lash out more. We have a grit, a darkness around our cores that the Hippies lacked. Where Hippies were the generally good if sometimes kooky and misguided heroes of the 1970s sociopolitical world with an uncertain hope for the future Millennials are the dark anti-heroes of a dystopian story who have accepted their failure before the fight even begins like a dirty, tech-adept Spartacus.
I think that’s most of the heavy stuff. Now for the stuff that may be a remake of 70s stuff but is actually kind of an improvement or is complimentary to both eras because, despite the term being loaded, not every aspect of a gritty reboot is universally worse than the original!
Did you notice though, that Millennials tend to have hair like Hippy 2.0s? In contrast to most of the Gen X-ers and Boomers in my life who believe men should have short hair that is very minimally styled most of the people in my age bracket at least do interesting things with fades and differing lengths and different points of the head. But that said a lot of us actually do tend to keep our hair long, only instead of letting it run fully, Ozzy or Geezer wild we tend to style it in buns or, again, with cuts that emphasize certain shapes. For example as some of you know I keep my hair shaved nearly to the skin on the sides and back and the top is either in a man-bun or, more frequently, in a ponytail that is in excess of a foot long. In addition while I’m used to seeing pictures of people with some facial hair nowadays beards are fairly common to one degree or another, and it’s considered a normal thing among my generation where my Dad’s peers would probably have kept shaven the majority of the time. And that also opens the door to beard styles. While I usually let mine flow free I also have in my possession a handmade bronze beard ring carved with Runes that I wear on special occasions. In fact large swathes of the Millennial aesthetic is a lot like the Hippy one, if darker: an often misguided focus on and obsession with things that are “natural,” a DIY attitude and a lack of trust in corporatism in the things we wear that is often manipulated by the very same corporations we mistrust (cough, Vans, cough).
And the best part of the link between the 1970s and the 2010s is the music. Alternative, underground music, specifically. In 1970 a handful of young men from Birmingham, England had a band that got huge when their guitarist lost the ends of his fingers and, to compensate, downtuned his guitar in a way not common among blues-rock musicians of the 60s. In that act Metal as we know it was born. In this era, whatever purists say, Metal is in a new golden age of creativity thanks to the internet and, like the 1970s, is being practiced in an environment of friendship, extreme use of alcohol, sexual liberation and experimental use of recreational drugs. Like metal and hard rock of the 70s a lot of metal is spurred by the general sense of disenfranchisement and fear that pervades our society. While time will tell what song is the War Pigs of my generation trust me, a lot of people are trying to make it. And while people outside the Metal community of both eras tend to think of it as very dark and negative despite the outer appearance there is actually a lot more kindness, openness and love in the modern Metal community than can be found almost anywhere else in the world.
So that’s pretty much it as far as shit I am (or at least feel I am) qualified to talk about. So which one am I talking about here: An era of fear and hatred. An era of flagrant abuses by the wealthy and powerful. An era of political corruption. An era of disenfranchised youth. An era of expression. An era of unrivaled creativity.
I’m talking about the 1970s. But since the 2010s are just that party all over again then to talk about one is to talk about the other.
So come dance with me until the party’s over.