We've seen too much: cultural over-saturation from 2000 beyond
Not to be trite, but it has to be said that if you were born anywhere from 1990 onward it seems like you drew the short straw on the era you get to claim as your own. I, like many of you - I suspect - have come of age with the searing knowledge that the life my parents and grandparents respectively led before is vastly different from mine. I’ve listened intently while my grandmother has told stories of driving to clubs in Chicago to party with drag queens. I’ve been awestruck by my mother talking about how the Yuppie age progressed. And then I went to university in lieu of one of the largest global recessions in history. That’s not to say that what I’ve spent of my twenties I haven’t enjoyed - socially, I have - however, it's been fascinating to watch the world change as people have less and less money and more and more social media access. As a generation, we are no longer truly awed by anything. Bianca Jagger only rides a white horse into a nightclub once.
Recently I had the pleasure of reintroducing myself to one of my favourite documentaries, one which affected me at the time I first saw it years ago, but has now taken on greater significance. If you are a scholar of style and editorial matters, the name Diana Vreeland shouldn’t be unfamiliar to you in the slightest. This icon of twentieth century culture is the very reason people fight to work at Vogue today, the catalyst behind what we understand as 'celebrity', the reason we appreciate the gap-tooth. This film, The Eye Has To Travel, (go watch it, revel) outlines the style mavericks voyage from the Belle Epoch to writing the Swinging Sixties, and it left me ruminating over the marketability of glamour and style. Of “Cool”. Can you Imagine? Literally and factually stating that you came of age during the Belle Epoch? No, me neither.
What is Cool, and furthermore, why does it seem that word which used to mean so much now languish with general cultural apathy?
Ms Vreeland was at the forefront of a movement that saw how individuality, creativity, excess and hyperbole can make any person desirable. These people - Anjelica Huston, Mick Jagger and the like - they were other. They were leading unique lives, seemingly based completely on their own desires. The reason I've prefaced all of this is because I cannot remember the last time I rushed to buy a magazine, or followed a celebrity with any aspirations to emulate their lifestyle. In the millennial age of social media where you can access most people's lives, there is no thrill in wanting to be a movie star or celebrity, and attaining that adulation. We are the generation that lived through 2007 Britney.
The point that we are slaloming toward is that it seems that we have reached the point where we have simply seen too much to care. Celebrity is no longer glamorous when the machine that makes it happen is so jarringly apparent. The phenomenon of Studio 54 was predicated on exclusivity and glamour. Movie stars and celebrities didn’t have - nay weren’t allowed to have problems then, because we knew nothing of their lives. We just knew they had money and access. It's all well and good to have wanted to party with Rick James in Manhattan through the early 80s, not knowing that the same drugs would lead him to kidnap and hold someone hostage in the 90s.
We seem to have had all of the fall out and stripping of glory from that era, but with nothing tantalising to replace it. The next swell hasn’t come. The roaring 20s were a response to the First World War and the Great Depression; the swinging 60s were a response to the Second World War, rationing and economic uncertainty. Every cultural boom, every period of excess and debauchery, is predated by conflict and stagnation, and we seem overdue for another. We’ve had the war (or rather, a sad confusion of many wars) and the financial strain, but no release. This isn’t a cry to return to those times; there was, of course, a flip side of desperation, inequality, and often excess to the point of banality. That is impossible to maintain. But it does remain curious that no one has created the next movement. We don’t have the next Cool thing yet.
I suppose that's what the next decade will be for. People always say the 20s are the best years of your life - we will see.
- Nicholas Hayden