Border Mail Column – Wednesday 18 July 2012
I watched the promos for Channel Ten’s new ‘dramality’ series, The Shire, and thought here we go again. Another television series aimed at reinforcing the stereotype of Generation Y as self-centred, obsessed with their looks and completely disconnected from the real world.
At least the network did not label it reality television, which as we know bears little resemblance to what is real.
Of course I had the choice not to watch.
For those unfamiliar with the ‘dramality’ genre, it is a combination of drama and reality where the characters are not actors, but are given a plotline to follow and then are filmed.
The characters are themselves, or as much as they can be in front of a film crew and potential audience.
I didn’t watch the complete episode, opting to view as much of it as I wanted to online, and that wasn’t much.
Vernesa’s insistence on having Botox injections in her unwrinkled twenty-something forehead was the point at which I hit the stop button.
My greatest concern with the show is the way it represents Gen Y and perpetuates the myths about them; something that has troubled me since the first of this generation hit their late teens in the early part of this century.
Is it their fault that they have grown up in the times they have, and enjoy not only the fruits of the labours of their parents but also their grandparents?
They are portrayed as living for the present, not being resilient, wanting everything for nothing, having no regard for anyone; their ambition and self-confidence viewed as either positivity or arrogance depending on one’s perspective.
But, hasn’t every generation at sometime lived for its own moment?
Recall stories of the Roaring Twenties: the kicking up of heels and ‘let’s forget about tomorrow ‘cause tomorrow never comes’ attitude because the world could realistically have ended tomorrow and did for so many of Australia’s young men.
But for my parents, born in the between the war years, and who married young and built a future for my siblings and me it didn’t end.
We grew up in one of the most fortunate generations ever and experienced the opportunity for free tertiary education, choosing when we to have our children and the jobs we wanted.
During the 1960’s the threat of nuclear war was fertile ground for the sprouting of flower power, free love and ‘Peace man’.
Popular thinking was that the ‘flower power’ generation’s lack of morality would be the world’s undoing.
Each generation thinks the next will ruin the world they built, or as John Stuart Mills so aptly put it in the late 1800’s, ‘That which seems the height of absurdity in one generation often becomes the height of wisdom in another.’
So, back to Gen Y.
My experience of my own sons and their friends and the many students I have taught at TAFE and university paints a very different picture of this generation.
Whenever the critics start laying into this generation I want to ask them if they would be prepared to take on the jobs many of them do in the service industries staffing checkouts and making coffee, or working antisocial hours in places like the Woolworths distribution centre to earn enough money in their Gap year to enable them to have a university education?
We are unlikely to see the life of real Gen Yers on our television screens: happy and well-adjusted is not the stuff popular television programs are made of. That is a shame.
But we can vote with our remotes.