This episode of Postmodern Sitcom talks about gender portrayed in 80s sitcoms and how stereotypes affect Generation X’s opinions today. As I mentioned in this post the other day, today’s younger generations are more gender non-conformist than ever before. My guest, Siege, and I talk about gender by watching Punky Brewster, and I learn a lot about how Millennials and younger are changing how the world views gender. Siege’s mindset and the frank conversation opened my eyes. I hope this opens yours too.
Go ahead, read it and come back. I’ll wait. Now I’ll explain why this article makes me upset. I’m middle-aged. I’ve lived over four decades. I used all of the items in this article in real life and now these kids treat them like they just discovered an archeological dig. I don’t know why this article affected me. Maybe it’s the wine.
If someone handed me these items today, here’s how I’d respond.
Home phone, with a rotary dial
In the 80s, My mom thought it was fun to have a “retro candlestick phone.” This particular phone was shiny black plastic. You had to hold the earpiece to your ear and then speak into the mouthpiece akin to the Panasonic dog. The rotary dial would pinch your finger if you weren’t careful. We didn’t need a rotary phone in the 80s, this was a phone extension that lived in my parents’ bedroom, but I think my mom felt it was classy.
Get up… using a wind-up alarm clock
The only thing worse than the sound of a classic alarm clock is the sound of the Charlie Chaplin alarm clock I owned. Again, I blame my mom because she gave this to me as a gift. I love Charlie Chaplin, but this clock was straight-up evil. First, the damn thing ticked so loudly that it continually woke me up in the middle of the night. Second, there is nothing worse to a teenager hating wakeup time than the alarm that came out of this thing. My mom thought it was hilarious. She is evil.
Tune in… to the wireless
I was lucky and had my own bathroom growing up, decorated with pink flamingos, á la Miami Vice. My pink boombox was tuned to KISN 97 (a Salt Lake radio station where I, ironically, ended up as a traffic reporter in the early ’00s.) I often played the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack (on tape) while improvising roller skating performances in the carport with this boombox. I see nothing wrong with this.
Look it up… in an encyclopedia
Kids today can’t even spell encyclopedia off the tops of their heads. I always wanted my own set of encyclopedias so I didn’t have to go to the library to photocopy stuff. I was never the same the day I got my Macintosh Performa that included Collier’s Encyclopedia on CD-Rom. It was like porn for dorks.
Play Time… with an old school Game Boy
The screen was a sweet precursor to the Nokia phone. Super Mario got me through multiple road trips. Animaniacs was pretty much the greatest game known to man. Punch anyone who says that today’s phone games are better.
Sony Walkman, Disc Camera, and stuff
I can’t type anymore about this. I’m crying again and because I’m middle-aged, it’s almost my bedtime. I need more wine.
This article challenged me because the things these kids made fun of were beyond amazing back in the day. Surround me with a charm necklace, squirt me with some Electric Youth eau de cologne and call it a day. Let’s all embrace the awesomeness of our times and not create content that disparages memories.
In the next episode of Postmodern Sitcom, I discuss gender and how 80s sitcoms and gender stereotypes shaped Generation X’s viewpoints. This article reinforces what my guest and I talk about as the new normal. Millennials and Gen Z reject the gender binary. It says, “Today’s teens are more gender-nonconforming and gender-fluid than any previous generation, and it’s serving them well.”
As a card-carrying Gen X’er, I feel caught between stereotypes from my youth’s media content and today’s expectations. Today, I don’t want to be offensive but I find myself judged by preconceived notions. I will say, however, if today’s younger generations can make a shift to gender equality through gender nonexistence, I’m all for it.
Here’s hoping that one day the phrase “you do you” is applied en masse. I also hope that salary, workplace behavior, and intelligence are equally accepted too.
This episode of Postmodern Sitcom talks about race portrayed in 80s sitcoms and how content affects Generation X’s judgments and opinions today. I was nervous to discuss race. Talking to my guest Jill, a millennial of color, opened a wonderful discussion on this topic. We watched Gimme a Break, then talked about it. The dialogue helped me understand a few things about myself, and I hope you learn something too.
After reading this Business Insider article about Generation X and financial stress, it feels like part of the reason this generation feels worthless is because of perception disconnects like those examined in Postmodern Sitcom.
Take the Seaver’s home in Growing Pains, the Silver Spoons Stratton estate or even the cool loft of My Two Dads where the living situations weren’t too shabby. Once again, Cultivation Theory skulks out of the recesses of Generation X’s brain with the judgments that we might have similar houses as adults. Reality couldn’t be further from perceptions. If TV created a persona that Gen X felt they needed to live up to as adults, it’s no wonder real-life saw this group buying stuff they couldn’t afford. Now they’re stressed about credit card debt and retirement unpreparedness.
Gen X’ers are rational adults, but the TV they watched back in the day helped the voice in their heads say, “I want that. Charge it, you’ll pay it off.” Even if debts are quickly paid back, the “stuff status” in 80s sitcoms might be the reason Gen X feels financially thin even when they’re not.
Postmodern Sitcom discusses the theme of social status in an upcoming episode. In the meantime, listen to all of the episodes at Apple Podcast, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.
This episode of Postmodern Sitcom looks at how age was portrayed in 80s sitcoms and how that content affected Generation X’s judgments and opinions as adults today. Listen to the conversation I have with Rachelle, a millennial, who watches GrowingPains and then helps me figure out how we can communicate better between generations.
I am geeking out so hard on the new American Horror Story, 1984 with every scary 80s movie all rolled into one. I love Stranger Things and Glow makes me beyond happy. I am Generation X, and watching these shows is like I’m back in my childhood living room on Quail Hollow Drive, toes tucked into our basement’s plush gold carpet, watching television.
I won’t argue that all the recent shows set in the 80s heavily stroke my nostalgia boner, but whey are there all of a sudden so many? This Forbes article puts it best, “’A lot of the decision-makers in Hollywood now grew up in the ‘80s so for the showrunners, writers, executives, and especially the Gen X folks who are in charge of programming at a lot of networks, it’s about nostalgia,’ says Michael Schneider, Variety senior editor.”
While Gen X is lost in today’s editorials about Boomers and Millennials, we are working behind the scenes as content ninjas. Without being acknowledged as a significant generation, Gen X is exerting its relevance the best way it knows how: through television, pop culture, and kitsch.
Generation X asks, “Why is our reality so far off from the situations we saw on sitcoms growing up?” How come families didn’t end up like the Seavers? Why aren’t males and females treated equally like Punky Brewster was? Where is my racecar bed like Ricky Stratton’s? Cultivation Theory has something to do with Gen X’s thinking. This podcast looks at helping Gen X understand why they think the way they do, while providing other generations some insight. The goal is to achieve a better understanding and a bridge over intergenerational communication gaps.
It’s a big old study in intergenerational communications and how Generation X might understand why they think the way they do and how they, and other generations, might bridge communication gaps a little bit better.
Here’s the super-official introduction to the whole deal:
As human existence heads further
into the 21st century, sources indicate that Generation X (those
born between 1965 and 1981) is increasingly regarded as society’s middle child.
“Caught between boomers and younger Millennials, Generation X is mainly known
for being neglected and ignored” (Martin, 2016) this perception supports the idea that
Gen X’ers today are mostly grounded in 1980s societal ideologies (with
influences from their Boomer Generation parents.) If prime-time television
“plays a central role in shaping perceptions of norms” (Pariera,
Hether, Murphy, de, & Baezconde-Garbanati, 2014, p.699), then according to National
Geographic’s Generation X, “Gen X is
fresh meat for what turns out to be a very hungry media machine” (Cooperman, 2016).
As a babysitter and major contributor to societal ideologies, a television in the 1980s helped build the framework for notions of what success in adult life should resemble. However, today’s Gen X’ers are seemingly caught between perceptions of sitcoms past, which are represented as “the American Dream,” and how the ideals have morphed into a less-than-dreamy modern reality. “Generation X is the first generation in the U.S. history in which a majority will not be better off than their parents” (David, Gelfeld, & Rangel, 2017, p. 78) and Gen X’ers know it— because, to them, it feels like it is reinforced on a daily basis. Even though they are an important part of today’s workforce as “experienced, mid- and senior-level hires at the prime of their career” (Konish, 2019), Gen X’ers are often misunderstood, dismissed and, as Konish concludes, “seem to have the Rodney Dangerfield syndrome: they don’t get no respect” (2019).