On the first day of class each semester, I ask my students to list on a three-by-five card their contact information, major, hometown, clubs/activities/athletic teams, favorite book, film, and music. Despite being an English professor, I am most interested in the third of that triad. I hope against hope each semester to see listed the Decemberists or Nick Drake or Sigur Rós or even U2. What I get instead is a lot of second-rate hip-hop, former American Idol contestants who’ve landed recording contracts, or—worst of all—“I listen to anything.” One semester a young woman who indicated English as a potential major also listed Britney Spears as one of her favorite musicians. I said to her, “Is that ironic?”
“What do you mean?” she replied.
Oh, that’s right, I thought. Millennials don’t do irony.
Tenure-track professor, everyone.
More ridiculousness from this article (which has all kinds of problems, but sticking to ‘kids these days’ in terms of pop culture):
When teaching excerpts from Susan Bordo’s “The Male Body: A New Look at Men in Public and in Private” a few semesters ago, I had to explain to my class who James Dean was.
I was stunned. Didn’t everyone know James Dean?
When I was their age, a college freshman, I papered my small campus with memorial signs in the early morning of September 30, 1988, the thirty-third anniversary of his death—the kind of dramatic and expressive but anonymous gesture to which I was given in those days. In my college dorm room, his famous image looked out from postcards, posters, and calendars. And yet some of my students had never even seen his brooding, unmistakable visage?
Putting aside the sort of annoying affectation that leads one to papering a college campus with posters of a 33-years-dead teen idol (and this was as true in the late ’80s/early ’90s—I’m four years younger than the author—as it is now), this is such a solipsistic idea of how pop culture works: ‘James Dean was so utterly important that he still meant something to me in 1988; thus he must still mean this to young people in 2013.’ Of course, the author wasn’t hanging memorial signs for Rudolph Valentino in 1988, was she?
Reading these posts, my first thought when I read “James Dean” was “the porn star? oh, nm, that’s Deen.” Suck it, prof.
(Ugh. That class would be the worst.)