October 31, 2019
Let’s admit it: We all have an idealized view of how things were when we were young. Our senses were sharper, and our feelings were more intense. So, we look back with nostalgia at how things were.
But the fact is that some things – some important things – have really gone to hell in a hand basket since we Boomers were kids. I’m not talking about morals (although I wouldn’t say they have improved since, say, 1961). I’m talking about other aspects of what might be called our “culture”, for lack of a better word.
Herewith, my personal Top Five Things That Have Deteriorated:
- Movies. Go to the Cineplex today and you will have a choice of movies that truly, well, suck. Sequels of sequels, movies based on TV shows that weren’t very good to begin with, endless variations on superhero themes, gross-out comedies. Movies have ceded any claim to artistic merit, yielding to streamed services such as Netflix, Amazon and HBO, and have instead settled comfortably into the late stages of cultural decadence. And if you don’t believe me, look at a list of the top films from 1970, which included, among many others, M*A*S*H, Little Big Man, Brewster McCloud, Five Easy Pieces and Patton. Could (or would) any of these films be made today?
- Music. Call me old, call me crabby, tell me “OK Boomer”, but today’s popular music is unimaginably awful. Numerous learned musicological studies (plus my own still-sharp hearing) have demonstrated that music today really is louder, less melodic, and more beat-driven than ever before. Singers are either auto-tuned or they torture every note. Again, look at 1970 – would you really trade anything produced today for the Beatles, Crosby Stills & Nash, Simon & Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell, Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones, the Supremes or other artists at or near the top of their games fifty or so years ago?
- The way people look. We had some bad trends in the late 1960s and the early 1970s, including sideburns, bell-bottoms and the generally hirsute look. But people, in general, were slimmer and paid more attention to the way they looked. I can’t account for the upsurge in obesity over the last 60 years or so but looking at photographs of people from that time is almost heartbreaking. Go to YouTube and watch a couple of segments from Soul Train for confirmation. And we were spared the indignities of tattoos, pink hair and grotesque piercings, to boot.
- Education. Just an observation, but many people under the age of about 50 seem to have difficulty with grammar, spelling, US and world history, simple mathematics, geography, civics, and other things that used to be taught in high school. I blame this on our school system, which now concentrates on gender identity, victimhood, inequality and other subjects instead of making children diagram sentences and memorize multiplication tables. (Sorry, breaking my “no politics” rule here). It’s great to be more inclusive – students should read Jane Austen and Richard Wright as well as Mark Twain and Nathaniel Hawthorne – but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t learn how prepositions work.
- Produce. All too often, peaches taste like cotton, and tomatoes don’t taste like anything. The wonders of modern agribusiness give us year-round access to produce of all sorts, but none of it tastes very good. I write this from France, where tomatoes still taste like tomatoes and even apples taste like they came from an orchard and not from an apple factory.
I know this sounds like the rantings of an aggrieved 66-year-old, so, for some balance, in my next post I will write about five things that have actually gotten much better since I was young.