Friday, October 30, 2009


While the term Generation X can be used to describe a wide group of people, it has come to be popularly accepted that members of this generation, wrought in the shadow of the Baby Boomers, felt alienated and disenfranchised by the cultural icons of the time. “X” described the lack of identity that members of Generation X felt — they didn’t know where they belonged, but knew for sure that they weren’t a part of the overbearing generation of Baby Boomers. The media played its part in promoting the Generation Xstereotype by portraying them as grunge-listening, Starbucks-drinking,flannel-donning slackers who were quietly revolting against their overachieving, conservative Baby Boomer parents or older siblings. While the term Generation X has been used by a more punk faction of the generation, it has also labeled a group of musicians and actors represented by Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam and Janeane Garafolo of the movie Reality Bites. While Gen-Xers probably feel passionate about some things, in general they have been portrayed as apathetic, disaffected twentysomethings with no course in life.

Writer Jane Deverson was the first known person to use the term Generation X in 1964. In a study of British teenagers for Women’s Own magazine, she came across a group of teenagers who were living outside of acceptable conservative mores by sleeping around, rejecting religion and disobeying their parents. When this group was rejected for use in the magazine, she co-authored a book with Charles Hamblett called Generation X.

The idea of Generation X exists in many other cultures around the world. In France, people of a similar age are labeled, Génération Bof, translated to “Generation Whatever.” Why Generation X feels as it does is another question. Many believe that the transition from colonialism to globalism and the relative safety many Americans enjoyed after World War II had an effect. Gen-Xers’ parents had marched for equal rights and felt the impact of Kennedy’s assassination, possibly giving them a stronger sense of social responsibility. Skyrocketing costs in housing and education in the 1980s and 90s, coupled with intense competition from overachieving Baby Boomers, may also have alienated Gen-Xers.