For some reason, after the subject dying down for a while, we have a new generation gap, with new stereotypes, and new tits for tats. Or, we might have such a thing: it could be that all this discussion is a simulacrum, that people started talking about these things because other people were talking about them, and the entire thing is a reaction to a reaction.
And yet, some of it seems as if it is, in some way, addressing real trends. The fact that members of the millenial generation want to be celebrities, while it might be a strawman, or even a strawman of a strawman (who is alleging that these allegations were made, after all?), bears some looking at. Is it true that all millenials dream of celebrity, that they think that their artistic talents, personality, and appearance are so great that they deserve the world's eyes? Are they always looking for other's to admire and talk about them, via social media and art and music scenes? Do they all, in short, want to be celebrities? The answer, in my eyes, is yes, and also no.
Part of the problem is that the Boomers, who are still the ones making these judgements, grew up in an era that is atypical of human experience, but which they take to be typical. The following is a somewhat cliched and thumbnail social history, but it is still mostly accurate: In the heady days after World War II, Americans moved into suburbs, and fell in love with television. The porches and stoops of the 30s were gone, replaced by private patios. Small town bonds of churches and fraternal orders and community organizations were replaced by shopping malls and consumer culture. The mass media, already big in the 30s and 40s, grew into a nationally controlled gatekeeper of information.
In this era, people were divided into two classes: the Celebrities, who had passed through the approval process of big media, and the Audience, who was everyone else. There was, of course, still some in-between people. Small press and community theater still existed, but the overall paradigm was that someone was either a Celebrity, in the public eye, or a member of the Audience, out of the public eye.
And then, at some point, this changed. This happened before the internet, with zines and cable access television and indie music and a number of other ways that people found that participating was more fun than watching. When the internet came out, and people could easily create and share their own content, it accelerated. Young people started moving to cities, and enjoying public spaces again. For the generation born around and after 1980, having a public persona just became a fact of life.
And for people born in the atypical time when life was lived on patios and recrooms, when there were no sidewalks and community spaces were ignored, the fact that people want a public persona, that they want to be in a band, or in a community theater, that they want to post art online, translates into wanting to be a Celebrity. Because they grew up assuming that the only people who would ever have a public persona are people who would be elevated by the national media to Celebrity status. The stereotype of millenials wanting to be celebrities comes from applying a binary distinction to them that is no longer valid.
And what is additionally odd about this is that this is not a new and wild invention of the millenial generation: it is merely a return to form. Before the reign of mass media, most people's entertainment was participatory: dances, telling stories at the inn, playing amateur sports, singing in a church choir, or a number of other local pursuits were how people exercised their public persona. It seems likely that being merely a member of the audience is not what would appeal to most people, and the millenia generation have merely returned to form.