Global teens


From U.S. News & World Report (August 17, 1992)

by Greg Ferguson

In his 1991 novel, "Generation X," Douglas Coupland examined the lives of post-baby-boomers. In "Shampoo Planet," due out this week, he looks at the next generation that of teens and people in their early 20s. U.S. News's Greg Ferguson spoke with Coupland about what he calls "Benetton youth" or "global teens."

What defines a Benetton youth? Younger people nowadays are socially liberal and fiscally ultraconservative. One key defining difference with younger people, besides their haircuts, is that they've never known an era when there was a more liberal ideology. Their memories really do begin with Ronald Reagan. These kids are tricked into a sort of career psychosis because they don't know that there are any other options, and maybe with the economy in the toilet, there aren't. But at college, everything they do is geared toward their careers, even their extracurricular activities.

Do they differ much from people only a few years older? Yes, parental role models for people in their late 20s and early 30s are Fred MacMurray and Lee Remick. Benetton youth tend to have parental units like Robin Williams and Joni Mitchell.

How does having hippie parents affect them? It's sort of a wacky irony that Woodstock parents had "Beverly Hills 90210" kids. I'm not wild about hippies; I have trouble with much of what they've done. But what I did come to realize while writing this book is that they were searching for something valuable in spite of the bad haircuts and clothing. Benetton youth are looking for that same timeless essence but with a radically different sensibility. Generations really do exist. And it's a weird, almost solipsistic, conceit on the part of their parents to say, "Hey, we understand you kids completely."