The Generational Divide in Art Appreciation
“This isn’t even music.”
“It’s just noise.”
“That is too risqué.”
“I can’t believe this is what young people like now.”
Each generation in America is oil and water with it’s new generation. No matter the decade in American culture, the younger generation always seems to have horrible taste in just about everything. Unfortunately for the older generation, the reason new media is so off putting is not as simple as “Young people don’t know the good stuff from the bad.”
So what causes the great generational divide? Are Americans just losing their taste for good movies, television shows, and music? Is it just differences in what is important to human beings at different biological stepping stones? In this article I will attempt to raise awareness and spark personal discussion on the issue in a way that can bring new understanding, acceptance, and cultural growth of cross generational art and entertainment.
The first reason I’d like to put forward for the cultural divide is American’s overwhelming need to be our own people. Individualism is a corner stone of American culture and it shows in our younger generations seemingly irrational drive to like everything that the current generation doesn’t. In other words, we like things that make us individuals and part of our culture is a separation from the current standards.
Is it bad for us to crave originality? Of course not. A lot of the time, our craving for something original stems from being exposed to our parents generation of entertainment from when we are toddlers until we realize we can choose our own entertainment. This is also where a problem can develop. When we realize that there is an entire universe of music, movies, and other entertainment available that are not the same old stuff our parents liked, we immediately start trying to define ourselves through our discovery of different entertainment. The easiest way to find new entertainment that isn't our parent's is popular media and culture.
Pop culture has a way of capturing a new generation's self discovery, but much of the time the new popular thing is just an interpretation of something our culture has already experienced. This brings me to my second reason for the great cultural divide across the generational gap: miscommunication. That seems simple enough, but let me explain. What I mean by miscommunication is that often times the things that draws new generations to popular culture and entertainment are elements of that entertainment that were already present and being pursued by previous generations. The problem is that each generation is more interested in carving out their own place in American culture, so that they forget that American culture is mutable and evolves with time. Our culture is flexible, and so new generations should not constrict their appreciation of past generations' accomplishments in all art forms.
The new generations should not forget or discount the years of evolution and change American art and culture has gone through in our short time in the world. As time goes on, I think people start to realize the good parts. We should try to hold on to those and infuse what knowledge we already have with that information and continue to participate in the living culture of America.
This kind of blanket categorization of generational specific entertainment is hardly my invention, but is ultimately the third and one of the most compelling reasons neither the new or old generation seems to be wiling bridge the generational gap. That is, if the entertainment does not, at first, seem to align with the current generation's ideals for a morale or civilized society, our first reaction is to be generally negative and crush any opportunity we have to appreciate and learn from it. Just think of how people initially viewed rock music as morally corrupting our children. We won't know if it is good, or important, unless we are willing to take some of our time and understand what the new or old generation tries to communicate in their art.
Thank you for reading, and I hope you have at least started to think about exploring extra-cultural pursuits and giving new forms of art and entertainment the mostly well deserved opportunity for appreciation and ultimately, enjoyment.