The Boomers once thought they were hip and cool. Mostly they still think they are. They were edgy, liberated and rebelled against their parents’ outmoded social mores and values. They spoke openly and behaved in ways their own parents would not have dreamt of. Their media was cutting edge. Their fashion and music were once considered outrageous and pushing society beyond its comfort levels. Recall that the Rolling Stones were forced to sing “Let’s spend some time together” instead of “Let’s spend the night together” on the Ed Sullivan show in 1967.
Fast forward to today and suddenly the Boomers echo sentiments of their own parents’ generation. However far they may have pushed social boundaries , it is nothing compared to what their grandkids have done. They have gone much too far for their sensibilities. Prolific swearing, skimpy clothes, sexualised imagery, laughing at inappropriate things have turned the Boomers into relative conservatives.
The very nature of shocking older Australians is what appeals to young people. For young people there are no sacred cows any more. The media, especially, is a parallel universe where anything is fair game. Among their favourite shows are Family Guy and South Park. The more gross, shocking and outrageous these are, the better. Young people watch Family Guy admiring how far the show is willing to go. Typical comments include “I can’t believe they just said that” and “how do they get away with it?”
As for fashion and music, well, anything goes there too. Young people live in a culture of acceptance and are willing to suspend their own taste and admire others for projecting theirs with confidence. They are all about manufacturing confusion and if underwear becomes outerwear there’s nothing wrong with that. Each to their own and no offense taken.
Swearing too has become more prolific. When I asked Tweens in their 5th year of primary school what their parents don’t know about them, the most common answer was just how much they swear. It is simply part of their language. The words themselves have diminished in their potency of the last few decades.
The result is an escalating backlash on values. There is a growing divide between what the Baby Boomers and also most Gen-Xers will accept from society and what younger people will proliferate. It’s a social evolution, yet it is hard to imagine how much further things can evolve. Will today’s young people see their own kids push the boundaries even further? And how much further is there to go?
In their advertising and communication the older set will seek overt expressions of good old fashioned values; proof that advertisers are on their side of the debate. They will seek manners and behaviour that seem a departure from today’s outrage to yesterday’s comfort zone.
It is important to remember that for all their shock value young people, overall, remain very nice people and make good upstanding citizens. In my discussions with them, they are clear about there being a time and place for everything. And among adults they are responsible, endearing, well-mannered and appropriate.