Baffled is the word. We’re going with baffled.

Let me tell you about this thing I’ve planned to post about for a couple years now, but every time I thought, “okay, today is the day I’ll post that,” someone would engage in the behavior I was talking about or a similar behavior, and everyone knows that you can’t say something annoys you without every person who has ever engaged in such a behavior one, assuming it is about him specifically, and two, concluding that you must hate them as a person in total because this one common behavior kind of annoys you. Then you have to go through the whole polite, accepted process of justifying why you’re annoyed and inventing circumstances that allow you to say, “No, it doesn’t annoy me when YOU do it. When YOU do it, it’s fine.” So I needed to achieve some distance from any kind of specific instance so as to fully assure everyone I know it’s not about you, I don’t hate you, and keep doing it, I don’t give a shit, I’m just writing a blog here.

So this is kind of in two parts, because if I don’t put it in two parts, I’ll just go off on a tangent on the real part, and you know how I hate to do that. This is the first part, which is something about me that I guess makes me more sensitive to the second part. Well, sensitive isn’t the right word, it’s not like I get my feeler hurt if it happens, it’s just a thing. But because of my personal experience, I probably note it happening more than other people might make a note of it, but I don’t know that for sure. I’m not you. Anyway. First thing. About me. I’m going to move to a new paragraph for ease of reading, not for dramatic impact.

I don’t really like movies. That might be too harsh. I’m really neutral on movies as a thing. I haven’t seen many compared to the average person, I think. I kind of find movie theaters uncomfortable and then just never really get around to seeing many at home. This isn’t new. I haven’t seen much in recent years other than the Harry Potter movies, and I haven’t seen a lot of stuff that’s considered standard for my generation. I don’t think this is a big thing, really, or unique to me. There are probably tons of people just like me. I do consider myself to be the most average person I know, so normally I’d assume a huge amount of the population is exactly like me. It probably is, but slightly less than the normal giant portion. I’m pretty used to the gasps of shock when things come up, you know, “WHAT? You haven’t SEEN THAT?” I don’t know, I was doing something else that day. Sometimes I remember exactly what I was doing that day, like when I opted to take a practice SAT instead of watching Jurassic Park or when my friend turned on Star Wars and I said, “Let’s do something else.”

It’s not a thing at the TIME, though. It doesn’t become a thing until the time has passed and you’re an adult, and someone is shocked that you didn’t see something that they – or a large number of theys – consider to be a quintessential part of growing up from  years 19XX to now. So, right, there’s fairly often a bit of “HOW have you not SEEN that?” in my life. I don’t know how often it’s in yours. I usually just shrug it off. There’s not really a “how” involved. I just didn’t watch it. It wasn’t required, I didn’t do it. That’s the whole story.

Moving on to part two, the actual thing. I am kind of baffled by – okay, I’m moving away from annoyed. I’m not really annoyed, it’s not the right word. Baffled is closer. I can’t work myself around to the mindset of people who say these kinds of things, because it me, it doesn’t really make sense. It’s baffling, so that’s what we’re going with. So, how often do you hear someone say something like – if the someone is you, that’s fine, I don’t hate you, none of this means I hate you – “I was talking to some high schoolers today and they had no idea who Popular Singer/Band/Actor of my time was!” Or “I overhead some college girls talking today and they had never heard of This Movie. I FEEL SO OLD.” Often followed with something like, “Kids today don’t appreciate the classics” or “It must be unique to this one specific young person because there’s no way huge swaths of people don’t know something that everyone knows.”

I don’t get it. I mean, I get it, but I don’t, when I really think it through. People of a younger generation don’t appreciate key elements that felt like a dear and important part of your growing years. It’s shocking, I guess, to find that something so deeply appreciated by and ingrained in you has not even bounced off the surface of today’s younger people. And I suppose it can make them seem shallow, because you have such a deep appreciation and if they don’t even KNOW who it IS, there’s no way they have such a deep appreciation of things.

But here is what I think: it’s not even remotely unusual that someone who grew up years separated from the cultural experiences of your youth wouldn’t catch a reference to them or even have heard of them before. Why would they? There’s no expected responsibility on young people to take the time to research into the back catalogs of everyone who came before. We didn’t, not most of us, not to any huge extent. I know – WE know who the classic rock gods who came before our popular music were. But so do they. They know the big names, generally. But when they’re thinking of appreciating classic songs and older music, maybe it’s… I don’t know, Green Day.

It’s weird to me to be shocked and appalled at the lack of cultural knowledge of younger people, because it’s assuming that your cultural knowledge and experience is the universal one, which is a natural thing to do. But how deeply aware of college students’ impactful cultural experiences are you, or of teenagers? Do you know all the songs that are going to remind them of their last year of high school, and have you seen all the movies they’re going to be excited to show their own kids some day? Probably a bit, but not the whole rich cultural background they’re going to carry to your own age. It doesn’t really make sense for you to do know all of it as if you’d experienced it, because you haven’t experienced it. Same as they haven’t experienced yours. All of it is available to everyone, but if you don’t feel like taking it in, you’re not going to, and why would you? It’s not yours, really.

It’s not really weird to be shocked at a younger person’s lack of what you consider to be basic knowledge or general experience, because it happens to everyone. But when you really think it through, it doesn’t make sense. There’s no real reason to be amazed that a person hasn’t seen a certain movie or has never heard of your teenage favorite band. They didn’t watch the movie because it wasn’t important to them. They haven’t heard that band because they were, at best, a fetus when the band was popular and fetuses aren’t known for their expansive knowledge of popular culture.

I realize I’m blending two things together here – my own “failure” to take in a lot of the popular media of my own generation and the perceived failure of younger generations to appreciate the popular media of my generation, but I think they kind of go together. There are a lot of weird things we do because they’re things we do, but when you take the time to think them through to the end, they don’t actually make much logical sense. So, that’s all.

This is what Penelope looks like now, if you’re interested.

Penny-043

Penny-188

How have you all been? What’s going on? Anything interesting you want to tell me? I’m here all day.

26 thoughts on “Baffled is the word. We’re going with baffled.

  1. Melissa

    Penny’s pictures are phenomenal. There are three more days of school this week and then my kid will be a senior. My brain is not handling it the greatest.

    I missed a lot of the “big” movies of my teenage years. I’m not sure why – my parents were pretty strict about what I watched and I was a pretty hard-and-fast rule follower so I didn’t sneak them in, I guess. Then once you’re past your teenage years, it’s not a big priority to find the time to watch all the John Hughes movies, as an example.

    I like movies in theory and there are a lot I want to see, but when it gets down to it, I don’t want to take the two hours of time to actually do it.

    TJ Reply:

    That is exactly it. I see previews sometimes and think, oh, that looks good, I’ll go see it. Then it’s out of the theaters, and I think, I’ll have Phil rent it for me when it’s available. Then he offers to do so, and I just… have other things to do.

  2. Jesabes

    I think a lot of it is a time passage awareness problem. I graduated from college like, yesterday, so the people who are graduating now should have at least a little overlap with my references. Except I really graduated almost 10 years ago. And, sure, the people who graduated 8 years ago have some overlap. But the current kids don’t.

    So part of it is not realizing how long it’s been since you were in that place. And part of it is not realizing how much changes in 10 years. *I* don’t feel like I’ve changed that much! I don’t even feel like the world has changed that much. The music I listened to then is still around! But it’s not around in the same way and there’s all this new stuff that didn’t get on my radar.

    But you knew all that. And, I agree, it’s really freaking annoying when people say stuff like “kids today.”

    TJ Reply:

    Yes, I agree. It’s like how I have to keep reminding Phil the 90s weren’t 10 years ago. I do think the whole phenomenon is natural, it’s just when you take the time to think it all the way through, it doesn’t make much sense. I do realize most people aren’t as prone to overthinking every little thing as I am, though.

    Carla Hinkle Reply:

    THIS is what happens to me. I keep thinking the 90s were last decade and 2004 was just the other day, right? But really no, the 90s were 20 years ago (AT LEAST) and 2004 is a DECADE AGO. The years are just sort of sliding into each other and I look up and whoa, music from 2000 is basically oldies.

  3. swimmermom

    I’m not a movie person either! So nice to meet you. I think we’re outnumbered (shhhh).

    I suck at trivia games because I don’t know any of the pop culture references. Or sports references, for that matter. Otherwise I am a pretty smart person so it seems kind of unfair. If there were trivia games that asked only about stuff I know, that would be great.

    TJ Reply:

    If I could choose the topics for any trivia contest, I would totally win and everyone else would lose really hard.

  4. Lisa

    I don’t really care for movies either. They are so long and I can’t stand movie theaters. Too loud. To giant a screen. Other people. The list goes on and on. Anyway, just agreeing about the movie thing. And this pictures of Penny are just phenomenal!

    TJ Reply:

    SO LOUD. I’ve gone to maybe one movie every year or two and I am blown away by how loud they are. They’re definitely louder than they used to be. They must be.

  5. Elsha

    I’m not a big theater person. So loud. So expensive. All those Other People. I’ve seen lots of movies at home, because that’s where I like to be. Oh, also I’m a big movie talker AND I hate to just sit and not be doing anything else, so even at home I’m usually “watching” and working on some other project or something.

    Also I never watched Saved By the Bell growing up which many people my age find basically impossible to believe.

  6. Lawyerish

    A lot of movies are, frankly, just really dumb. In fact, the majority of them aren’t great or even good, and when I’m watching them I get angry about how much money went into making something terrible when it could have gone to schools or something (I KNOW the world doesn’t really work that way, but STILL). I haven’t been to one in the theater in about three years (SO loud), though we do watch stuff on Amazon or Netflix when we can find something that looks decent. So I’m with you.

    I don’t get indignant about kids/young people not knowing about my own cultural reference points, but I do tend to feel very old when I’m around people in their teens and early 20s, just generally. I have also become conscious of how old I seem to them, even though in my own head I think of myself as youthful. I’m just some middle-aged mom to them. So lame.

    velocibadgergirl Reply:

    THIIIIIIS

    MauraLessa Reply:

    Yes! I must seem ancient to my students (I am, biologically speaking, old enough to be their MOM). I think of myself as being in my early 20s, but I’m in my mid-30s.

  7. Charleen

    I’m 100% with Jesabes on this. I still think of college as being not that long ago, so it’s just a cognitive dissonance thing. So it’s not “OMG, you don’t know this thing, what’s wrong with you?” It’s more like, “OMG, you don’t know this thing, and now I’m bitter and resentful over how much time has passed without my realizing it.”

  8. Tessie

    I cannot even TELL you how intensely I hate the “kids these days suck/are stupid/are lazy/are entitled” people, especially since I started supervising millennials (a wonderful experience so far). It’s just…not true. I mean, sorry UR GETTING OLD or whatever, Bitter McRagey, but you were no less shitty when you were 25. You were just shitty in a different way, or quite possibly you are REMEMBERING IT WRONG.

  9. Cassie

    I worked in a movie theater for years (even as a manager) and I don’t like movies. We used to screen them beforehand and I’d sit in my office and read while my staff watched it to make sure nothing was wrong with it.

  10. Life of a Doctor's Wife

    I very much dislike going to movie theaters and I also saw very few movies as a kid (strict parents + no access) so I get the incredulous “you didn’t SEE that?!” a lot.

    I work in an office where a lot of the staff is younger than me, and they (seem to) get great glee out of doing that kind of thing to me and the other older staffers. Baffling and a little eye-rolly. People have different life experiences!

    That said I suppose I have been guilty of that baffling behavior too. Sigh.

  11. Veronica

    How did Penny get so big? Like, I know time has passed because suddenly my tiny lump of baby is running around shouting at me all the time, but surely everyone else’s kid just stops growing when I don’t see it, right?

    ANYWAY.

    I find it interesting/baffling when people are like “How can you not know who X is!” and then turn around and go “I just don’t GET twitter/tumblr/blogging, why does it matter?”

  12. velocibadgergirl

    I really agree, with one exception: The Princess Bride. It makes me sad that there’s a Princess Bride Generation Gap (copyright: Maud http://awfullychipper.com/2014/09/06/generation-gap/) Then again, there are probably plenty of people my age who saw the Princess Bride and just didn’t like it, though that also makes me sad.

    But anyway, I do agree…it’s quite silly to assume that high schoolers today have any emotional connection to the touchstones of my high school career, many years ago. And let’s be truthful…some of those touchstones are pretty cheesy and bad; they just felt significant at the time because I was in high school and thought I was exceptional.

  13. Pam

    I love movies but mostly I love the popcorn…. but I know many people (coughhusbandcough) who do not like going to a theater so … will watch pieces of movies on TV, almost as if it were a show. I don’t judge – everyone has their own form(s) of entertainment. I don’t get the Game of Thrones addiction. To each his own. As Veronica above me noted, “why does it matter” why you get, and I don’t, or The Kidz These Days don’t?

  14. Jess

    OK this is only tangentially related but I was watching Friends the other day and thinking about how our au pair (age 19 at the time) had never seen Friends and how I realized that it was an old-person show for him that he had no interest in seeing, and it didn’t make me feel old or shocked, but it DID start making me think about how our kids will probably look at Friends the way that I look at, I don’t know, Sanford and Son, which is to say, an old sitcom that my parents enjoyed that has no relevance and interest for me, and this isn’t upsetting, it’s very natural, but yeah, it definitely does give me a little more of a window into what it was like to be my parents raising us, you know?

  15. Megan

    I work with a lot of people who are older than I am, and I have gotten a lot of the “you don’t know who ____ is?!? Oh kids! You’re too young!” It mostly happens when an old singer or actor dies. Now they make a point and say “I bet Megan doesn’t know who that is!” Well why would I? I wasn’t even born yet. My parents didn’t make it a priority for me to see shitty old tv shows and movies. So I try not to be the same way to the younger people, like my 18 year old stepsister and her friends. I am just the crazy, nearly-30-year-old stepsister. I have a kid, I go to bed at a reasonable hour, they must think I’m ancient. I’m fine with that.

  16. cindy w

    How you feel about movies is how I feel about a lot of TV series. There are several that seem to be sort of cultural touchstones for my generation (Seinfeld and The Simpsons are the first ones that come to mind, but I know there are others) that I’ve never watched because I just didn’t care. Or I watched like one episode and it was “meh.”

    I mean, you still pick up on a lot of pop culture through osmosis – like, even if you’ve never seen Star Wars, I’ll bet you know what Darth Vader looks like. Just like I know who the Soup Nazi is even though I never saw that Seinfeld episode.

    As for high school or college age kids, lack of knowledge about pop culture doesn’t appall me, it’s more lack of education, like not knowing that the Titanic was an actual thing that happened in real life and not just a movie. But I mean, that’s less of a generational thing, because there are just as many uneducated dumbasses in my generation as there are in the younger one.

  17. Erica

    I will never stop being surprised that Jennie hadn’t seen Mary Poppins you can’t make me not be surprised I CAN STILL FEEL THE SURPRISE IN MY BONES.

  18. MauraLessa

    I don’t watch many movies. They’re just so… long. I have no problem reading a 500 page book, but a movie/show lasting more than 45 minutes is interminable to me.

    I am TOTALLY guilty, though, for being incredous that my students haven’t see Pulp Fiction or Star Wars. This is particularly odd since I missed out on many of the major cultural milestones of my youth. I never watched 90210 or those shows because my parents didn’t let me watch TV.

    I guess I’m just COMPLICATED. JEEZ.

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