A Generation Raised By Television
Scrawled across the back of a bathroom door in a shitty bar just south of 3rd on Fairfax in Los Angeles is the proclamation “we are a generation raised by television to believe we will be rockstars, movie stars, and celebrities. But we’re not…and we’re just waking up to that.”At first I didn’t realise it was a misappropriation of a Chuck Pahlianuk quote from Fight Club, I thought it was a genuine capturing of the zeitgeist in graffiti form – but I’ve had time to consider the meaning and I think it’s true.
When I was a young boy I was always off school sick. My early childhood is dominated by memories of watching the same VHS copy of The Mask in hospital, again and again, Jim Carrey defining the era in my mind. It was these days, when I was at home, lying on the sofa, wrapped up in my covers, coughing and spluttering, watching VHS and DVDs, that pushed me to watch more and more, different things, stretching my taste beyond the bland.
I first watched Citizen Kane on one such of these sick days, The Searchers too, The Fugitive. This was my education. I can barely remember anything from my school lessons, but from those boring days alone with a television I can remember the slightest nuances of delivery from Harrison Ford, or John Wayne, or Joe Cotton.
And it was from these lessons from old movies and TV sit-coms that I learnt to enforce the same narrative patterns on my life, great narratives of discovery and transformation. Great narratives imposed on mundane reality.
We are frequently reminded that it is narratives that create an emotional link. Storytelling is the key to any great campaign, or presentation, or piece of work.
But these narratives aren’t organic – rarely do they come from any place of truth – they are filtered through the lens of our upbringing. Filtered through the lens of the televisions that raised us.
We try and shape our lives to these false narratives.
No love is good enough unless it is Hugh Grant standing in the rain telling us he hadn’t noticed.
Every moment remembered becomes a scene on our internal movie screens.
Culture has shaped our perception of reality, for better or worse. Storytelling and narrative have become hardwired in our brains.
How can we use this in the development of our advertising? In our persuasive tracts embedded in presentations? In our lives?
Yes, we are a generation raised by television. But we are now a generation who understand television, we know the patterns and can manipulate them, we have seen every narrative played out again and again, broken up by commercial breaks. Cut us and we bleed narrative.
We can subvert narratives.
We can transform narratives.
We can transform culture.