They didn’t die before they got old, but the “Zimmers,” a group of 40 British senior citizens who grew tired of feeling isolated and cast aside, went ahead and recorded the Who’s anthem “My Generation” anyway.
Now they’re the toast of the Web.
It shouldn’t surprise us, says British writer Jon Savage, just out with a lively new book called “Teenage: The Creation of Youth Culture,” a sweeping social history of adolescence.
In one sense, says Mr. Savage, 53, we’re all teenagers now — from age 6 until death.
“Youth culture is one of the great motors of the Western economy,” says Mr. Savage, who authored the definitive history of the late-‘70s British punk movement, 1991’s “England’s Dreaming: Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock, and Beyond.”
“The original consumer youth culture was defined in terms of a group of young people buying books, magazines, cosmetics, clothes — all fairly rapid turnover,” he says. “Everybody buys like that now.”
The wrinkle in Mr. Savage’s study is that it ratchets back the beginning of youth culture as we know it to the late 19th-century — to the sense of spoiled angst found in the diaries of Russian emigre Marie Bashkirtseff (1875), to Oscar Wilde’s novel of decadent eternal youth “The Picture of Dorian Gray” (1895) and onward to the landmark fin-de-siecle fantasy literature of J.M. Barrie (“Peter Pan”) and L. Frank Baum (“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”).
Customarily, youth culture is pegged to the post-World War II era, when a pent-up American economy and a baby boom coincided with the rise of iconic young figures like the erotically transgressive Elvis Presley and the glowering James Dean.
“It’s not revisionist; it’s just that people didn’t do the work,” Mr. Savage says of “Teenage” on the phone from his home in Wales. “Before I started this, I knew there were previous youth movements prior to the Second World War. I just went further and further into the prehistory.”
A key text, he says, was psychologist G. Stanley Hall’s 1904 study “Adolescence,” which helped define adolescence as more than puberty. Thereafter, it became what Mr. Savage calls a “cultural construct that’s placed on top of a biological event.”
“Teenage” crisscrosses the Atlantic to compare various youth movements and cadet corps that vied for the obedience and proper civic development of young men — the Boy Scouts and the Young Men’s Christian Association (both founded in Britain), as well as the Wandervogel (a German analogue to the Boy Scouts).
It breezes through criminological data and discussions of juvenile delinquency and urban gangs. It marks the advent of the nickelodeon and the subsequent explosion of motion-picture culture and traces the influence of black Americans on ragtime, jazz and swing, as well as the congeries of “animal dances” (“the turkey trot,” “the bunny hug,” “the monkey glide”) that long predated “the Twist.”
“Everything that I included had to be related in some way to youth or the idea of youth,” Mr. Savage says. “What does it say about youth? Is it trying to define youth? Is it trying to express youth? Is it trying to control youth?
“That was the acid test.”
It might seem a stretch for Mr. Savage to flit from zoot-suiters to French “zazous” to the famous young Dutch diarist Anne Frank, but it turns out that war is a pivotal element of Mr. Savage’s story. It was the cataclysmic World War I that decisively molded a generational identity among Europeans — especially the sense among disenchanted young Europeans that their peers had been sacrificed in a pointless war.View Entire Story
By Jay Sekulow
The left's outrage over the IRS turns to a plea to 'move on'
Independent voices from the TWT Communities
Positive propaganda for a nation in peril.
Al Maurer provides a common sense, conservatarian, Constitutional conservative perspective from the battleground state of Colorado
Manhattan-based free-market urban bloggers bringing original political content with fresh, young voices
Things to do, places to go, new spots to enjoy with friends and family from Norfolk to Washington, D.C., to Delaware and all points inbetween.
World's Ugliest Dog Contest
Spelling Bee finale
Marines train Afghan soldiers
Rolling Thunder 2013
Benghazi: The anatomy of a scandal