By David Barnett
Back in 1991, Richard Linklater’s movie Slacker was released. It was a laconic, meandering, plotless film which couldn’t even be bothered to name its characters properly… in the credits they were called things like “Hit and Run Son” or “Walking to Coffee Shop”. Slacker took place over a single day in Austin, Texas, and the camera lazily passed in and out of the lives of twentysomethings dangling from loose ends in their lives. Witness this exchange:
Dairy Queen Photographer: “So, what? Do you fancy yourself as some sort of artist or what?”
Anti-Artist: “No, I'm an anti-artist”.
Dairy Queen Photographer: “Oooooh, one of those neo-poseur types that hangs out in coffee shops, and... Doesn't do much of anything. Yeah”.
Yeah. Last month I wrote about generation X, people like me born between the baby boomers and the millennials. I suggested that while those two age demographics were slugging it out about who had things worse, it was generation X who were now, in their forties and fifties, in a position to rise up and save the day. The piece got a lot of traction and is still being shared about. Some saw it as a manifesto, and I really do hope it ignites people into action. Just as many readers were outraged, blamed generation X for the lack of opportunities available to the millennials (those born, roughly around 1982 or later) and more than one person commented along the lines of “what have generation X ever done for us? They were just a bunch of slackers”.
For a long time, the terms generation X and slacker went hand in hand. As crystallised by Linklater’s movie, we were the young people who came of age in the late Eighties and Nineties who were aimless, feckless, drifting. The neo-poseur types who hung out in coffee shops and didn’t do much of anything. Yeah? No. Why did they call us slackers? Because we didn’t want what our parents wanted. We didn’t want the jobs-for-life, we didn’t want to work half a century in the same place with only a carriage clock and a “Don’t let the door hit your arse on the way out” at the end of it. We didn’t want to “settle down” by the time we were 20, and wear the same style of clothes our parents did.