“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They
contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.” – Attributed to Socrates by Plato, over 2,000 years ago
It’s been accepted by many that things were better back in the day; Greek mythology featured a Golden Age and the religions of Abraham had the Garden of Eden. As we age, only a few of us embrace new music, politics, sports social customs, technology, movies, literature, and other popular forms of entertainment. There is a tendency to believe that modern art and entertainment is inferior, that today’s athletes don’t work as hard or care as much and would lose to the icons of the past, and that governments all across the world are getting worse.
Yet there are glitches in that theory. If you actually read older publications you can see that these complaints have always occurred. In the famous baseball book “The Glory of Their Times” early 20th century baseball players reminisce about the good old days and generally how their modern counterparts are inferior in terms of work ethic, injury proneness, toughness, and skill. Of course, they were referring to players of the 1950s- 1960s, whom we would today consider some of the greatest men who ever played the game. Similar glitches can be found by browsing any sports magazine of any year. The Glory of Their Times: The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played It (Harper Perennial Modern Classics)
Many older comic book and pro wrestling fans love to point out that the current product is horrible. Yet when I read the letter pages in old comic books and old wrestling newsletters and magazines, I see the same thing. If you are 35 years old, you may have been raised as a Hulkamaniac, but the adults in 1984 thought Hogan was a cartoon character and the previous face champion Bob Backlund was a purist. Meanwhile, the senior WWWF fans of that time preferred the 1960s Bruno Sammartino over Backlund. Children of the modern eras see Steve Austin or the Rock as being the true symbol of WWE’s greatness. In terms of actual match pace, movesets, and production values the modern era of pro wrestling is superior to the old stuff. But you wouldn’t know this by listening to grumpy old men in their 30s to 60s. They have a point with the product changing, but they are no longer the target demographics anymore. Kids seems to like storylines and talk and women with hardly any clothes. They start to chant “boring” or “what” when there’s no action. It is what it is. I personally watch the old stuff.
Comic book writer and editor Jim Shooter, whose opinion I respect, got into the act as well, by ripping the work of modern writers such as Ed Brubaker (Captain America) and Brian Azzarello (Wonder Woman). Shooter had reviewed issues and listed dozens of harsh criticisms of their modern storytelling techniques. I personally saw his points from the 1980s Editor-in-Chief point of view, but it’s 2012 now. I personally enjoy Brubaker’s Captain America and Azzarello’s Wonder Woman DC New 52 relaunch.
Comic book fans like to say the 1990s sucked because of Image and Marvel and DC copying Image (modern art that did not hold up, dark anti-heroes, crossovers), yet the 1990s also had wonderful comics like Sandman, Preacher, Marvels, Kingdom Come, Astro City, some good Valiant Comics, Bone, Death, a Daredevil revitalization, renewed interest in Superman and a bunch more. People have selective memories to prove their point.
Go on any music forum and read how Britney Spears can’t sing, Katy Perry sucks, or Lady Gaga is overrated. It’s a generational thing. Your ears are trained as a kid. If you’re a child of the 1980s you probably worshiped Michael Jackson. I didn’t listen to him that much as a kid and have problems listing 10 of his songs. Yet it seems to me like Gaga’s songs are all catchy. Perhaps because when I was a kid I liked video game and electronic music the best. It’s personal taste, not a sign that we are headed to the Moral Decay Apocalypse.
It’s a pure nostalgia-fest when people act like grumpy old me; nostalgia is an illusion, not something that you should be proud of, or actually devote your life to “reforming society” to “get back to” a distant era.
If you had a time machine, you would be shocked about how similar society is in the past. Sure, humanity changes clothes and their openness about sex, gadgets and standards of living change, medicines change, minorities fight for their rights, etc., but the basic human nature is the same. Take the walls of Pompeii- 2,000 years ago people wrote stuff that sounds like lewd Craigslist ads or rude Tweets; truly the original Facebook wall.
I believe that when people criticize today’s musicians, singers, actors, directors, artists, writers, athletes, and society in general, and put the past on a pedestal, they are being skewed. It’s even unconsciously self-hating of their present lives, and want to be kids again. People are projecting their own deep issues on today’s movers and shakers. Perhaps they feel out of time.
Granted, there are a few factors that seem to actually be having a huge influence on human nature: the fast rate of technological growth, the rising population, and the depletion of resources to sustain an overpopulated earth, but I don’t see how that somehow creates “bad” entertainment or art. There are more creative outlets and products thanks to the internet and even 3rd would countries having TV, but all that means is that more people are exposed to the products. The percentage of crappy or bad stuff may have always been 90% no matter what the year.
So many people in polls claim TV programming is getting worse and reality TV gets bashed. Actually there is a greater amount of high quality television programming available because of the vast number of channels. Do you long for back in the day when you had five channels? Really? Okay, grumpy old man. I guess we all have lower standards now, correct? Could it be that the standards have changed? Do you want to get into an “objective vs subjective” debate? I believe our memories have collectively screened out the worst of the stuff from earlier periods. I find it laughable that people ripped the new Dallas show (before even seeing it). Like the original Dallas was true top quality art? Entertaining yes, but it still had the limitations of a soap opera. Meanwhile, the ratings went through the roof for both the original Dallas and the pilot episode for the new one.
Critics like to say that just because something sells it doesn’t mean it’s good. Well, what does that say about the tastes of humanity? From the very beginning, the so-called art critics have been setting standards for the masses? Why does the minority control these standards. Cases in point, critics have said: Hulk Hogan is a “bad wrestler”, Transformers 3 is a “bad movie”, Michael Bay is a “bad director”, Rob Liefeld is a “bad artist”, Justin Bieber is a “bad singer”, and many believe Stephen King is a “bad writer”, especially compared to the “classical” writers. Yet all of these people and things have been gleefully consumed by the majority with no qualms.
Although I don’t approve of all the things Jon Stewart says, he did put together a great skit about this, and I 100% approve of “Even Better Than the Real Thing”: