OR WHY CAN’T TRAYVON MARTIN BE THE VOICE OF “THIS” GENERATION
Image from CatBirdSeat.org
Perhaps one of the best unspoken commentaries on hipster culture comes from one of my favorite movies, Scott Pilgrim Versus The World. Based on the Scott Pilgrim comis by Bryan Lee O’Malley,at first, it starts out as a typical movie about the Manic Pixie Dream Girl for the depressed and lonely white male protagonist, the conclusion ends in a-typical fashion, with the not so MPDG, Ramona Flowers getting an actual character arc of her own. Two scenes stand out to me in regards to hipsterism: first, in Scott Pilgrim’s confrontation with Matthew Patel, part of the Bollywood scene involves Patel being surrounded by an army of “demon hipster chicks” which (SPOILER ALERT) is supposed to be Patel’s criticism of his ex-girlfriend, Ramona.
The other scene that comes to mind is Scott Pilgrim’s final battle with Ramona’s last Evil Ex, Gideon, who shouts, “I’m what’s in. I’m hot. I’m in right now.” Gideon it turns out is a reflection of both members of the audience (as hipsters in our own right) as well as Ramona. As Ramona faces the truth (Gideon and his extreme attachment to trends and “what’s in”), she joins Scott and Knives Chau in the last battle (an oversimplification, I know, but I didn’t want to give away any spoilers). Perhaps this isn’t a new phenomena, maybe in every generation there are always going to be those persons who have chosen themselves or are chosen by “the people” to be the voice of “our” generation. As much as I hate to criticize someone (Gideon) named after my favorite character in the Bible, today’s “GIDEON’s/G-Men” who have to claim “they are what’s in right now” at the expense of what, whoever is cold, old, elderly?
All of this millenial talk, and really the Generation X talk from years ago sound pretty ageist, exclusive regarding age at the expense of ignoring the experience of the elderly. It essentializes senior citizens, for example, as if all of the old people are holding us back. “Our” experiences,” our” tastes, “our” sexual mores, “our” consumer interests becomes more important (self-important) than the common good or the Good News itself. Furthermore, the idea that ONE person can BOTH claim to speak from personal experience AND for the rest of his/her generation is just impossible. It’s only from a position of privilege, one that assumes the person’s ability to embody universality without any regard for personal context, to make sweeping statements and judgment. IOW, the generations conversations, have always been, and meant, to be predominantly white conversations about the turns and forms of the white (national) culture wars. This is the same sentiment, as I have mentioned in the past, as Drew Hart’s thoughts on the Evangelical Split
I also argued that this is just history trying to repeat itself, more like interested, more invested parties making a play at the history’s circularity. Another post that resonated with me is Alastair Roberts’ Talking About My Generation: Millenials And The Church, and especially his thoughts about the calls to end the [white] culture wars:
“One of the striking things to observe in conversations about the ‘culture wars’ is the way that evangelicals are typically presented as aggressors, even though they can hardly be accused of starting most of the wars in the first place. Rather, the very act of resisting the advance of things such as abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, divorce, and the like in society is framed as a belligerent move on the part of evangelical Christians. Those strongly pushing for same-sex marriage, for instance, are not subject to the same judgment, which is very telling. It suggests to me that those who call for an end to the culture wars either lack the nerve for such resistance, for the unpopularity and bad press that it produces, preferring to adopt a (futile) policy of appeasement to unreasonable parties, or that they are actually on the side of the opponents of the historic Christian social and cultural values being defended.”
Couldn’t say this better myself, but last night on Tumblr I commented because we need to point out the cultural particularity of the [white] culture wars:
“What would it mean for there to be an end to the culture wars? A better question altogether is whose culture are we referring to? On one hand we have popular culture, filtered through popular media such as television, newspapers? the internet, and radio?, and also extended through fandom in social media. But pop culture, the culture of the “folk” (which folk? Whose folk?) is one of the many playgrounds of something larger, national culture. National culture shows up in our day to day realities, our work places, our places of worship, and yes even where we shop for our groceries! The fight to win the culture wars is a struggle to control public opinion, and therefore set political agendas. In such a war such as the white culture wars, white supremacy remains unnamed. Think about responses to questions about, for example, POC superheroes in live action settings. They cant reach “the general public.” No what you mean is you yourself refer to white people as the default mode of humanity. Replace the topic, for instance, all the talk of generational differences and Christianity. It’s so ridiculous, and the future of Xtianity is always gonna look more diverse just as long as ignore racial exclusion in the present. Oh hey do homeless persons have time to abstractly dream about the future of religious institutions? Is that what truly matters? I have to stay vigilant in the culture wars, sorrynotsorry becuz white supremacy does not rest. Corporate driven capitalism does not take a break in its war versus the poor. Sexism doesnt take a back seat to the lives (men’s and women’s) its ruined. National culture is what sustains the nation-state. National-culture and its narrowminded hegemony must be replaced with multi-culture, persons living openly, freely in integrity to the cultures of their choosing.”
Talks of generational tastes and fads are problematic, primarily for North American Christianity because the trend against inter-generational interaction in churches become even much more accentuated. A constructive solution is probably what many Christian educators talk about, inter-generational Christian education rather than Sunday Schools and classes arranged by age. Perhaps one of the mos beneficial friendships I have personally learned and grown from is befriending an elderly woman, who is not only the mother of a few seminarians, but who also has theological education herself. While no one else in the congregation seemed even slightly interested in my Masters’ thesis or my interest in theology (no, not even the, SPOILER ALERT, the millenials), she has, and we talk from time to time. When there was an opportunity to pave her driveway, without any experience, I was one of the first people to sign up. It’s this friendship, the smallest space that I was given, that allowed me to be who I was (as a more intellectually-minded, critical Christian) that made me feel comfortable in church. My hope for the white emergent church is that they could perhaps take a cue from Ramona Flowers, and become more committed to people (in this case, the people of God) than “what’s in right now.”
Image from Deviant Art