Ask a Librarian
Generations: Life & Times
Question: I have to write a paper that compares the life and times of my generation with that of another. What resources does the library have that could help me accomplish this task?
No matter when you were born, the artifacts of that era will define your generation more than any other element in culture. These artifacts are part of what's called the "Pop Culture" of an era, and it is within this culture that you will discover what makes one generation similar or different from another.
Examine the toys, food products, media and politics of your generation, and you will find that few things emerge within a culture without the influence of previous generations. Each generation likes to take credit for their inventions, but few can fully claim their ideas are original. What childhood memorabilia do you remember most fondly? For me it's Pez, Rubic's Cube, Star Wars, high top sneakers, the Jetsons, Smurfs and Seamonkeys, black felt posters (the kind you color in yourself), Miami Vice and the original Star Trek.
Today's young people will someday reminisce about their first graphic novel, cell phone, or Wii game. These items will undoubtedly define their generation, but each is actually based upon the dreams of earlier generations. The Captain Kirk of my generation was always calling Spock on his cell phone, long before cell phones actually existed. Graphic novels are the offspring of the less sophisticated comic books of a couple of generations ago, and the increasingly popular videogames of today are all based on my generation's brain-numbing, yet addictive Pac Man game. Recognizing these patterns makes comparison rather simple, in addition to demonstrating how our culture has evolved.
In spite of all the appropriation of ideas in our society, a few inventions remain the property of their originating generation, never to be improved upon. There has never been another family quite like the Smurfs, big hair has yet to return, and Miami Vice fashions have yet to make a comeback. While I never quite understood this as a child, as I put the finishing touches on my latest black felt poster, I begin to understand why.
TCPL has many helpful resources on Pop Culture, including the following popular titles:
American's Views About War. Torr, James editor (973.9 American)
A view of the nation's conflicting feelings about war as expressed through pop culture.
Bowling, Beatnics and Bell-Bottoms: Pop Culture of 20th Century America. Pendergast, Sara editor (306 Bowling) This five volume set highlights the inventions and trends that marked our lives over the past five decades.
Everyday Apocalypse: The Secret Revealed in Radiohead, the Simpsons, and Other Pop Culture Icons by Dark, David (261 Dark) Dark provides an enlightening view of our pop culture, suggesting that we use popular media figures as a way to gauge the moral mindset of society and our own, spiritual well-being.
Hip Hop Matters: Politics, Pop Culture, and the Struggle for the Soul of a Movement by Watkins, S. Craig (782.42164 Watkins) Explores the incredible global impact of this musical genre on politics and culture, and the struggle to control the future direction of the movement.
Jane and Michael Stern's Encyclopedia of Pop Culture: An A-Z Guide of Who's Who, What's What, From Aerobics and Bubble Gum to Valley of the Dolls by Stern, Jane (973.9 Stern) An illustrated guide that covers two hundred fads during fifty years of American history.
Prepared by Susan Naylor 4/19/09