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The Beat Generation

I’m fascinated by the descriptions of generations — Millennials, Generation X, etc — and I liked this screenshot from a CBS TV show, that’s been doing the rounds on Twitter:

Screenshot showing dates for The Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Millennials, and Post-Millennials
From Bill Evenson on Twitter

Cue lots of jokes about Generation X not being listed.

The date ranges for births are always interesting on lists like this too. Each generation often has a twenty-year span, but here we have different spans for each:

  • 18 years: The Silent Generation, 1928-45
  • 20 years: Baby Boomers, 1946-64
  • 16 years: Generation X, 1965-1980
  • 16 years: Millennials, 1981-96
  • 22 years: Post-Millennials, 1997-present

The long 22-year period for Post-Millennials suggests we should already be slotting today’s toddlers into their own ludicrous pigeonhole.

It’s also interesting how these names are gradually settled on. Post-Millennials are sometimes Generation Z but there are other terms too.

The 1959 Project blog, about a year of events in jazz, recently linked to this video of a TV show, Look Up and Live from 1958:

It’s a Sunday morning religious programme, featuring a jazz background, and is a lovely (terrible) period piece about three kinds of teenager: the Delinquent, the Hipster and the Square. Right at the start, as the camera pans over the three actors playing these archetypes, the voiceover says:

As a generation you have been called by many names: the Silent Generation; the Waiting Generation; the Shook-up Generation; the Go Generation. But only one name has stuck: Beat. You’re the Beat Generation.

It obviously didn’t stick that well. Shame. The Shook-Up Generation would have been more fun too. While it’s only one example, I like that the generation’s description hasn’t quite been settled on, with its members then aged between 13 and 30 (using CBS’s dates).

I also like being reminded that “hipsters” were a bit different 60-odd years ago than the people we describe as such today. 2019’s hipsters seem more focused merely on “authentic” consumerism and styling than the “American existentialist” or “philosophical psychopath” of Norman Mailer’s 1957 essay ‘The White Negro’ (as one other example) but I guess that’s a different topic entirely.

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