If you’re new around here, the Blue Plate Special is a long-running, though infrequent feature, that highlights Generation X stuff I find while looking around the worldwide web.
So, here we go. National Geographic will host a three-day mini-series on the decade of the 80s. The web presentation and promotion for this event is terrific or totally tubular. It won’t gag you with a spoon. It starts Sunday, April 14, and it’s narrated by the popular 80s heartthrob, Rob Lowe. Some facts about it:
- It isn’t about nostalgia.
- It’s about the modern world that spawned political, technological, cultural and social revolutions
- It’s the biography of a generation. (They don’t say which generation, however, but I’m guessing a mix of Generation X and Baby Boomers. The decade had big implications for both.)
- Every week there’s a new theme to celebrate. This week, it’s 80s hair. Readers are encouraged to submit pictures of themselves and readers will vote on their favorites.
Here’s an excerpt from their promo:
“…We worked out, worked harder, played harder and consumed more—because the 1980s was the decade when we went forward to the future. The first launch of the Space Shuttle triggered a technological explosion in global communications that gave birth to our modern love affair with smartphones; Madonna rolled around on stage in a wedding dress, sending shock waves through a celebrity-hungry world that can’t get enough of Lady Gaga and Katy Perry today. These and other incredible stories reveal surprising, unexpected details and twists and turns from a decade you only thought you knew. Narrated by an original member of the “Brat Pack,” Rob Lowe, The ’80s will put us back in touch with our inner Valley Girl by reliving the music, inspirational sports moments, and scenes from iconic movies and TV shows, as well as the very best (and worst) of hair and fashion.”
Gen Xers Living in the Past
The Street ran a commentary about how Gen Xers are just like Baby Boomers when it comes to being manipulated and pitched to from the Achilles’ heel of nostalgia. The title is Generation X, It’s Your Turn To Live In The Past. Here’s an excerpt:
Jurassic Park | 1993
When Record Store Day comes in April, it’ll jump in and pick up a new release from a familiar name or an old favorite it tossed when it ripped all its CDs to MP3s. When two versions of Black Flag tour this summer, it’ll briefly debate whether it should see the one with Greg Ginn, the one with Chuck Dukowski or wait until one with Henry Rollins, Dez Cadena, Robo and Kira Roessler forms. Then they’ll go see it just like they saw the Gorilla Biscuits reunion show before that, and the 7 Seconds reunion show before that, and the Lifetime show before that one…
By the way, very soon, the 3-D version of Jurassic Park will be released. It’s been 19 years since you first saw it, Gen Xers. If I’d known 40 was going to come so quickly, I would have planned better for my sixties. What about you?
Douglas Coupland Turns 50
The irony of turning 50 prompted Douglas Coupland to write an essay. It appears in the upcoming reissue of his famed book, Generation X: Tales For An Accelerated Culture. This is a real treat because for years Coupland has tried to escape the Gen X brand. He’s even refused to talk about it in interviews, which explains this sentiment in the essay:
Here are a few Generation X facts: it was originally going to be called 52 Daffodils after a story contained within the book. I wonder what life would be like now if I’d done that.
Click here to read Regeneration X published on FT.
Report on Gen X Independent Consultants
A new report from MBO Partners highlights the story of America’s 5.9 million Generation X independent consultants. We’re a “connected, agile and equipped bunch.” We’ve got specialized skills and we’re “bolding embracing independence as a way to control their careers and do work they love.”
I’m half independent consultant, so I really dig this report. And, you know what’s funny? So much was made of Gen Xers living in their parents basements after college. We’re now working from home in our own basements. We got attached to functioning underground I guess. Never forget that Scully and Mulder were banished by their FBI superiors to the basement. You knew they finally got together in real life? Yep. Last August.
Here is a big scoop from the news release.
Some key themes from the report include:
X Marks the Spot
This take-charge generation is making their mark boldly leading independents from the fringe into the mainstream. With 5.9 million independent workers, Gen X represents 35% of the total independent workforce – one of the largest cohorts of independent workers. These Gen X professionals fall into the 33 to 48 age range, with a mean level of experience of 9.4 years. Nearly half have 11 or more years of experience as an independent worker.
Not X-Scape – a Conscious Choice
Gen X has clearly chosen independent work. Seven in ten are independent because they want to be, and nine in ten are satisfied with the independent work path. Only 8% are independent due to the inability to find permanent work.
Flexing their Freedom
Straying away from cubicle confinement and the monotonous activity of a regulated nine to five, this cohort of independents believes in working to live and not living to work. Midcareer independents are unwilling to accept the inflexible schedules that burdened their parents and are challenging the traditional work paradigm to create a better model. More than half (57%) desire work/life flexibility and 29% have walked away from unhappy jobs. Freedom is power for Gen Xers, with more than 60% indicating that independence allows them to better control their career.
Confident, Connected and Creative
Gen X independent consultants are high value contributors armed with skills, experience and professional networks. More than half (54%) self-identify as “gig gurus” – specialized independent contractors with flexible or fixed term contracts – and the majority (83%) said they get work due to specialized skills.
Gen Xers were raised during an age of economic growth and opportunity, so freedom of creativity is more important than the opportunity to make money, despite the uncertain income stream. 64% jumped at the chance to “do what they love,” and a mere 6% would prefer a traditional full-time job to independence. Despite real worries over lack of predictable income (62%), planning for retirement (50%) and concern for the future (34%), 77% say they will stay the course by either remaining independent (64.4%) or building a larger business (12.4%).
From Fringe to Mainstream
Generation X independent workers are not passively accepting independence, but leading the charge, with 76% intending to remain independent. With a front row seat to their parents’ layoffs of the 80s and 90s, and the recent vagaries of the economy, Gen X has no illusions about work as a cornerstone of overall well-being. A clear-eyed view of the value of work has emboldened them to shake off the constraints of the traditional work model and mindset as they help America shape the future of work. Click here to read the full report.
Generation X Infographic
MBO also released this great infographic with the report. It features five facts about Generation X consultants.
The Forgotten Joes of the 80s
Inspired by the coming release of G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Moviefone teamed up with artist Dennis Culver to create an all-star roster of the 80s biggest figures. They’re all outfitted like Joe. Here is a collage of five of the seven I created using PicMonkey.
|80s Characters donning the G.I. Joe brand | Artist Dennis Culver|
The Republic of Telly Takes on Generation X’s Parents
The Republic of Telly is a TV review and magazine program that airs on the RTÉ Two. RTE is Ireland’s National Television and Radio Broadcaster. The show features Dermot Whelan (b. 1973), Jennifer Maguire (b. 1980) and Bernard O’Shea (b. 1979) in satirical sketches that mock Irish and British TV channels. Below is a sketch they did just a few days ago about parents of Gen Xers or “Parents in the 80s.” I think this translates pretty well to American culture, too. See what you think. It’s pretty crass in places, so my apologies in advance for that.
Essays on Prince: I Would Die 4 U
Touré Neblett has written three essay about Prince. Here is an excerpt from Siddhartha Mitter’s Boston Glove review of I Would Die 4 U.
“I Would Die 4 U” is not a biography, but three essays about Prince as icon, a term that Touré deploys in a particular way. “Stars entertain us,” he writes. “Icons do something much more. They embody us. They tell us something about who we are and who we want to be.” Icons have access to “truths about the soul of a generation,” and Prince, though born in 1958, played this role for the mass of Americans born between the mid-1960s and early ’80s who are known as Generation X.”
If you’re interested in knowing more about the digital behavior of Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials (usually referred to as Gen Y), check out eMarketers recent technographics. Here’s one that profiles Gen X Internet users.
Finally, some good news.
Forbes had a recent article about benefits Generations X and Y might reap from the Great Recession that began in 2008. Here’s an excerpt:
“The Great Recession has taken its toll on everyone, but if I were advising an X, Y or Z, I would suggest that it may also have handed them a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. What better time to get serious about saving for retirement or investing for the distant future than right after asset prices have been beaten down?
“Has the American Dream really died, or is it possible that the inflated prosperity before the crash of the housing market was the aberration and now we are back to normal?
Not So Quick.
But, here’s an article by Mortimer Zuckerman who says the Great Recession has given way to Grand Illusion. Ouch and ugh. Read more about his fact-based perspective in the Wall Street Journal.