“revelation without revolution”

… it is obvious that Generation X cannot be understood or theorized using conventional approaches from youth culture or subcultural theory. Like Silent Bob, we cannot expect Xer popular culture to reveal or reflect the values of a generation. Instead, he simply stands there, bemused but not terribly interested. Films[,] and popular culture generally, do not provide us with an easy ‘representation’ of post-boomer generations. Instead, these texts are actively negating a coherently performed self, hailing an audience with references to other films, other fictions and other views of the world. Popular culture is inadequate, but provides an iconographic database that builds a banal, superficial, but satisfying literacy. This is a method of reading and understanding inequality that rarely unsettles social structures. It creates revelation without revolution.(p. 22)

Brabazon, Tara. From Revolution to Revelation: Generation X, Popular Memory and Cultural Studies. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2005.

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4 Responses to “revelation without revolution”

  1. Nels says:

    You know, I’ve always liked being a part of Gen X. When the phrases was really gaining ground in college, a lot of people were throwing fits about being labeled, but there were some descriptions of it that just made a lot of sense to me, like this one. It’s kinda nice not being a Baby Boomer or a member of Gen Y.

  2. Michael says:

    I am starting to feel the same, Nels. I’m never sure whether to call myself Gen X or Gen Y (though the distinctions are clearly arbitrary and not simply descriptive; Brabazon writes, for example, “Generation X does not have a past: they were invented by Douglas Coupland in 1992” [p. 19]). Born in 1980, some call me Gen X, some Gen Y, and I used to always reject the Gen X label (because of the slacker label, I think), but now I’m starting to feel it fits. Especially since I don’t identify as much with 19-year-old college students who never watched Beevis and Butthead when it originally aired (as an example).

    This book is great, by the way!

  3. Joseph says:

    I’m a little skeptical of this characterization of Gen X culture. Sure, grunge and the slacker are part of the experience–for a lot of white kids, in particular. Hip hop (not just rap, but break dancing and urban street art) also came out during the years of Gen X and it changed American culture all across the country and now the world. It became commercialized like a lot of other things in the United States, but initially it had some very deep criticisms and insights into urban life in America. Like Chuck D said at the time, rap is the CNN of black America.

  4. Michael says:

    Hi Joseph,

    The slacker characterization was my own (mis)characterization, related to my disavowal of the label because I didn’t identify that way. This isn’t a characterization that Brabazon really draws on. I think any characterization of a generation is going to be a mischaracterization, because of differences in class, race, and location experiences.

    I don’t see that many differences between your characterization of Gen-X hip hop and Brabazon’s characterization. When she says Gen X literacy is about revelation, she is arguing that revelation is the “building of critical consciousness” (71), something that I think hip hop did quite well. I think, and I might be mischaracterizering Brabazon’s work here, that she’s also making a distinction between popular culture and more collective, local culture and memory work engaged by those on marginalized by society—the latter of which I’d characterize earlier hip hop as.

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