On Teenagers, Pop Culture, and Counterculture.

Relaxing after a (not-so) hard day’s work yesterday, I thought to myself, This pop culture malarkey’s all a bit fucking silly ain’t it?


Yup much of what I grew up liking, much of what I currently like, much of what dominates the shelves in my local newsagent and local HMV strikes me as…somewhat pointless.

This does not mean that I like what I like any the less; I simply thought of the more productive things I could do with my time as opposed to reading (or rather, taking in news) about has-been celebrities with malfunctioning follicles, pre-ordering the next Marilyn Manson and Static-X albums and wondering whether or not to go to the latest DevilDriver gig.

I mean, many people place so much stock into these cultural confectioneries and even go as far to use them as identity markers, to mark out their distinction “from the herd”, as it were…..

….BUT very often when one looks at a raised middle finger – particularly if that finger belongs to an adolescent – you’ll see the strings lifting it to high heaven.


Peeps take the teenage years, and everything that comes with them, for granted today; yet how many people observe the fact that the Teen, as we know him (or her) , exists largely as a result of cultural conditioning? Hell, prior to the 50s, such a thing never existed! Things such as charts and the like simply went unheard of.

I wonder if teenagers (particularly Western teens) prior to the 50s behaved significantly differently to those that came after them; did they generally exhibit higher levels or maturity, self-control, autonomy and purpose than we did? Than the generation that currently exist?

One of the greatest doublethinks we currently have right now is the fetishization of the teenage years as A Time of Great Rebellion and Individuality(TM); when one looks at the way teenagers typically behave, one finds oneself wondering why common wisdom often proves to be an oxymoron. Teenagers indeed do rebel against the adults that raised them and the authority figures that lord it over them – yet what the fuck do they, as a group, have to offer as an improved paradigm? Most often you see adolescents bemoaning they grey conformity of their elders, only to huddle together in their herds of newer, shinier groupthinkers. Watch them get oh-so deep ‘n’ meaningful over the latest PC causes, such as the superficiality of the media machine – and then judge those around them by the yardsticks of youthfulness, dress sense, musical tastes, looks…..

Youth culture – a tragicomedy without the canned laughter!

And of course, I can’t neglect the countercultures that “rise up” in response to the superficiality of whatever the dominant youth culture espouses. Even given my own bias here, I will say that in many ways what peeps call counterculture merely inverts whatever gets offered up as the mainstream – hell, even the phrase “alternative” says all that needs to be said here, does it not? One can only judge oneself as such from the perspective and standards of the mainstream muppets, no? For all the protests made by counterculturalists against the mainstream, the reality is that both remain locked in a symbiotic, mutually-reinforcing relationship that shows no signs of severance any time soon.

(Amongst the counterculture, the most amusing spectacle remains the alternatives who rally against the commercialism, conformity and consumerism of the mainstream,all the while dressed up in their mass-produced Che T-shirts and listening to the latest peer-group approved anti-corporate band on their factory assembled, multimillion-selling personal music device. You guys only fool each other – and the person you see when you look in the mirror!)


And the winners? The authority figures supplicating the clone colonies in their war of trend without end. Play the organ, get them to dance, take the cash, dole out the peanuts – and run like fun! It works, to their credit – these guys milk the infantlization inherent in pop culture for all its fiscally-enriching goodness.


Yes, I love the new Machine Head and NIN albums; yes, I look forward to Manson’s newie; yes, I still think the ’80s as the best era for mainstream popular music culture yet…..

….but these remain a fraction of my loves, values, wants and desires; an enriching and much loved fraction, but a fraction nowt-the-less….

There remain other things I can fit into my time alive – and it bodes well for me to remember that….


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12 Responses to On Teenagers, Pop Culture, and Counterculture.

  1. Why do you think the 80’s were the best era ?

    • MRDA says:

      I just like the music and some other aspects of the pop culture (like the cartoons – though I like most of those a bit less than I once did admittedly)!
      Musically, 80s pop acts struck me as more daring and experimental, both in terms of musicianship and lyrical content; even the most manufactured bands of that era had more spirit than most chart acts today. I’m not quite saying the lyrics touch, say, Tool in terms of lyrical depth, but they certainly trump the vapid bollocks I hear nowadays.
      And of course soaring instrumentals & vocals drum machines coupled with the heavy beats of drum machines just kick arse!

  2. ubermensch says:

    to quote takashi murakami….
    “the meaning of the nonsense of the meaning”

  3. i know we’ve disscussed some of these things before…but, yes, i agree.
    this especially been on my mind for two reasons;
    1. i just wrote that nietzsche paper, and half of it was necessarily about the problems of ressentiment and reaction that goth/industrail culture has, and hell, all counter cultures have it.
    it sucks because people can be so easily sucked into denying self-cultivation and self-service in the name of what they think it staying “true” to their sub-culture. they want to stay convinced that they are the most badass, the darkest, the most rebellious, that no one can accuse them of being posers and all that jazz.
    again, group mentality wins over and people would rather appeal to the group than to their own well-being.
    the problem is that on some level, i myself see preservation of the culture to which i belong as important thing, and i to want to work for it. but…as a separate issue from that of what i’m doing with my mentality.
    we all have different spheres of influences in our lives that we appeal to, and for me, wanting to “preserve” the purity of industrial culture just means supporting the music and clubs, and that’s it. i’ll dress up while i want to, i’ll respect the customs to the extent they appeal to me, but it doesn’t mean i have to worship new gods or modes of thought just because it’s considered “badass”.
    which leads me to the second thing:
    2. the release of the new manson cd:
    i like manson, but i don’t like telling people that because i like manson the same way i like aqua, or other mainstream pop acts, not as some big dark anti-social band
    sadly, i’m starting to find the same thing happening within the industrial culture i belong to; there’s certain bands i don’t like to tell industrial people i like(p9, for one) because they already have these notions about them, about why people listen to such bands.
    p9 in particular, has become the new manson w/out the mainstream tinge; there’s already a pigeon-hole for “psyclon fans” that i loathe to fit into, and i hate people putting that shit on me like i’m so immature for having listened to a certain band, especially when i’ve had insights into the music that few will ever had (e.g. having been there when it was made, hearing the secret explanations behind the songs, etc.) and having to listen to these people act like they know more about what my opinions than i do.
    people with that kind of attitude tend to think that they’re rooting out the undesirables, but really they’re just turning it into another cattle farm by telling every one they’re not industrial unless x with the strongest of paternalistic attitudes.
    it’s the other side of the coin, really.
    we as members of the counter-culture should remember that peer pressure to conform in these settings is nothing compared to the mainstream, and so if we do give in to things like this against our strong feelings, we are being huge push overs…like escaping a gulag to starve to death at a table full of food just because we’re too afraid to pick up a fork.
    we need to thrive on dissent as well as a celebration of differences, and that means internally as well.
    whoa….long note…

    • MRDA says:

      The extreme reaction is understandable to an extent, I suppose; the desire for redress often burns strong for those who choose to walk the “alternative” path. Even if one does feel a genuine sense of individualism totally separate from scene politics, there may also be something of a “wound” from previous rejection by the cultural mainstream and those who adhere to it. From that births the sense of ressentiment and the the promising rebel could fight himself “fighting” against the dominant order in a stereotyped “in-duh-vidualist” manner, rather than selfishly severing himself from it and setting up his own standards. Wave goodbye to those blooming buds of selfhood – they just got choked by the weeds of the countercultural ‘We’….
      Short form: Justice begins with the self, perhaps? Maybe….
      But as long as one, such as yourself, keeps that self-cultivating bent it proves harder to get suckered into the more hypocritical, counterproductive aspects of “alternative culture – one can take the fun stuff and leave the politics by the wayside.
      As for the MM & P9 thang, I sorta get where you’re coming from with not wanting to get tarred with the mark of Dalit for loving these bands, but wouldn’t your admitting your liking for them, as opposed to the “cooler, TrOoER” bands in the subculture, mark you out as someone who doesn’t “worships new gods” but likes the bands for your own reasons? Being someone who likes both bands for both musical/entertainment value and thematic/lyrical value, I can’t really be arsed to give too much of a shit about the social metaphysical reasons behind their popularity.
      If I like it, I’ll endorse it as mine, whichever side of the cultural fence it resides.
      I liked your gulag metaphor, and wouldn’t mind reading that paper you put together…. 🙂

      • well, i didn’t mean to say that i didn’t tell people, i just said i didn’t like telling people.
        and for the exact reasons you said,
        i’ve noticed that i myself have some truly “knee-jerk” reactions towards iconoclacism, like not being able to hold back when i know i’m going to be chastised about something i like, or when i’m in class and some one says “everyone stand up,” i can never get myself to stand. some times it’s silly, sometimes it’s not, it’s just this funny compulsive rebellion ^_-
        so ummm i think i have your e-mail, so i’ll send you the paper. ^_^

  4. phyrbyrd says:

    The cult of the teenager is a relatively new thing, yes – but to be ‘young and fiery’, as it were, has been a description applied to hundreds of years of youth. ‘Young and stupid’, too, a lot of the time…

  5. bastardzero says:

    Che shirts on credit card wielding Starbucks kids = Funniest thing ever.

  6. rinku says:

    You mean there’s a distinction between the pop culture and the counterculture? I always saw the two as the same thing.

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