Defining Icons - Differences Within Generation Y Based On Collective Experience
i think the distinct differences between the early and later portion of Generation Y in how we populate and operate celebrity & fandom may have a lot to do with the collective experience of that portion of the generation and their outlook on other things we may not think to consider.
My portion of the generation had trash celebrities too, but they weren’t put on a pedestal or taken seriously. if they went missing for a milisecond, we just replaced them with someone else we also didn’t respect that much. Those were usually our pop one album/movie -or two albums/movies in two years - wonders. They weren’t considered A list.
Our part of the generation’s icons and legends were brilliant. We preferred and seemed to seek out people who had some super ability we could view as a completely unattainable goal. You had to have a special gift most of us were excluded from for us to put you on that level. Your talent had to be larger than life, nothing more than a mere wish for the rest of us. We couldn’t feel like “i can do that”.
Whitney’s voice. Michael’s entire gift. Janet’s showmanship. Kurt and Dave’s musicianship. Slash’s shredding. Biggie’s ability to make everything he was saying sound like it wasn’t as dark and menacing as he was describing, but bouncing off the walls begging you to dance along. 2 Pac’s ability to switch between the lewd, the revolutionary, and the introspective while keeping you fully invested. Celine’s voice. Mariah’s voice. Madonna. Angela Bassett’s dominance on screen. Meryl Streep. Robert Deniro. Al Pacino. Laurence Fishburne. Oprah. etcetera.
You couldn’t just do what these people do/did. You would have to be born with a natural talent, train for decades nonstop, and still hope for a miracle. And that’s how we wanted it. We didn’t desire them to be too human… because we had that luxury.
With this part of the generation, the focus seems to be more on having people you can completely relate to, people who aren’t so much above you that you have no chance of reaching them, but instead who are more likely to be a part of your friend group and whose talent you can identify with because you can participate and feel like you can almost do it just like them. They want to sing along without straining or sounding bad. They want to rap along without having to focus too much on the lyrics. They want to play along without needing years of training to do so. They want access to everything you’re able to do and to you. Basically, they want their icons to be available and attainable. They want to feel like these people could actually be their friends. They don’t want to feel like they’re “not on the level” of their icons. And it’s quite possible that having an unattainable talent will turn them off from you.
It’s almost 180 degrees from how we chose icons, but then this part of the generation’s experience is damn near 180 degrees from our’s at their age. This younger part of Generation Y doesn’t have that outlook of the accessible “American dream” of education, career, house, car, family, travel/vacations, and money to spare without crippling debt. They don’t see the world as completely within their reach such that their stars need not to be. We still had that delusion, at least to some extent.
It’s the opposite view for them; they are entirely disillusioned with that dream. They know that regardless of what “correct/proper/right” steps they take, they are very likely going to struggle to varying degrees. Schools are putting them in insurmountable debt. Jobs are requiring more education which means more debt and it’s still taking forever for people to get hired unless they know somebody or majored in something for which our educational system fails at providing an adequate foundation in K-12. Houses are smaller for more money and a lot of people they know are losing their homes or in danger of losing them. Cars, why? i have enough debt with these loans and credit cards i was using to feed myself and pay for this phone in college. Families are accidents they didn’t plan for, that are causing even more of a strain on them… and yet governments continue to block or remove options for family planning. Travel and vacations, what’s that?
When you stop to think about it… with so many things already out of their reach, it’s no wonder they elect not to have their icons be yet something else they could never be or have a talent they could never have.
So if you’re one of those people who has a tendency to side-eye a lot of “icon” choices by the 12-22 crowd these days, you may need to ease up on them a little bit. No, it doesn’t make sense to our part of the generation because “i mean I can do what he’s doing”… but that’s the point for them. It’s someone whose talent they can share and who they can identify as being similar to… it’s not something else out of their reach.