Live Through This

Why the 21st Century Isn’t All That Bad

Cheer up, you old souls.

The 1960s were totally exactly like this. Illustration by Tavi.

I know I’m not alone in imagining that being alive in the 1960s meant I would walk down a naturally yellow-tinted street, wave to my friends John, Paul, Ringo, and George, hop into a van of friendly strangers, and drive across America till we found ourselves (and ourselves) in California, Joni Mitchell waiting for us at some canyon next to a lady who sells magical beads on a rug. Or that in the ’80s, I would’ve gone to school with Molly Ringwald during the day, and gone to clubs with Debbie Harry and Stephen Sprouse at night. Tumblr is full of teenagers moping about being born in the wrong decade and YouTube is full of people complaining that the Little Monsters of today will never know music like it once was. Most of the time I feel convinced that the whole internet is devoted to trying to preserve, remember, and figure out what life was like without the internet.

But you know something? It’s not all that bad, this here 21st century. At least, I hope not. Here is a list of things that will either make you more OK with being a youth nowadays, or convince you I am in total denial about this whole thing.

First, a few good things that did not exist before.
 
 

1. Harry Potter

It’s about time that I tell you that I have never read or seen Harry Potter. I don’t know why! I just never got into it? Got around to it? Please don’t hate me. I’m not trying to be one of those people who pride themselves on having different taste—I’m actually quite ashamed. But I have never really regretted this lack of a relationship with HP so extremely until this past summer, when the last movie came out. Picture a cluster of people I’ve been in school with for years huddled together, crying, and me jaunting over to fake-sob and pat everyone on the back and scream IT’LL BE OK, WE’LL ALL BE OK! while they close me out of the circle and speak to one another in spell names.

It’s not that I felt uncool or abnormal. (One thing that’s so great about Harry Potter is that it transcends both the “mainstream” and “indie” categories.) It’s that I missed this great cultural bonding moment! Years from now, when you are a person on the social prowl at your new friend’s housewarming party, a Harry Potter mention will spark enthusiasm in everyone there. Meanwhile, I will hide under a table and nibble on cheese.
 
 

2. Mean Girls

Again, cultural bonding. I am 99% sure that 99% of the people who are currently teenagers know 100% of Mean Girls by heart. It is a fact. I surveyed every teenager alive and then put a percent symbol next to it so you know it’s real. If you ever find yourself in an awkward situation with a bunch of peers you don’t know, a Mean Girls reference is sure to break the ice. If no one knows what you’re talking about, you have obviously been tricked into joining some kind of cult for stupid people and you need to get some new friends, goddamn.
 
 

3. The Disney Channel of the early 2000s

I’m just going to keep talking about generational bonding until you all realize I just really want a friend :((((((((((((
 
 

4. Awkward humor

While shows like The Office, Community, Arrested Development, Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, and Curb Your Enthusiasm are only possible because of shows like Seinfeld before them, there’s no way they could’ve been made before nowadays. This shit is hilarious. If you are a smart dork who has always talked like you belong at the Parks department of Pawnee, IN, you are about to have the social world in your hands, you little butterfly, you.
 
 

5. Miranda July

An embarrassing amount of my time is spent searching my brain for some kind of reference that will make my current setting feel somehow aesthetically pleasing. I can tolerate school because I feel like I’m in my favorite John Hughes movie, I don’t mind suburbia because there’s something kinda cool and creepy about it in a the-neighborhood-in-Edward Scissorhands kinda way. This can be difficult, however, since things no longer look like this. Cars today are just ugly. Clothes are kind of ugly. CAN’T EVERYONE JUST CHANGE THEIR LIFESTYLE SO THE OUTSIDE WORLD IS EASIER ON MY EYES????

Sure, lots of pretty movies have been made nowadays, but so few of them actually take place now. Or if they do, they’re stylized beyond recognition. Like, what do Wes Anderson’s characters do about food? Vintage Hot Pockets? Get real, man.

Miranda July’s movies, especially Me and You and Everyone We Know, which is more visually intense than The Future, will make you happier about where you live and ugly cars and boring blinds.
 
 

Hailee, Chloe, and Elle with Natalia Vodianova in Vogue.

6. Talented people

Moping about the latest Disney Channel offerings aside, our generation has some really good representatives. You just know that Chloe Moretz, Hailee Steinfeld, Elle and Dakota Fanning, Gabourey Sidibe, Jennifer Lawrence, and Saoirse Ronan will be like, those classic stars who will still be going to the Oscars when they’re 80 and making speeches reminiscing about that time they all rode a golf cart together on the set of The Powerpuff Girls, while a short red-haired blogger ran along the side telling them how pretty they all are.
 
 

7. Pixar

Thank you, Pixar, for The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Up, Cars, and Ratatouille. But especially for The Incredibles, and Jack-Jack, who only supports Hazel’s fear of babysitting.
 
 

8. Good nostalgia

Our nostalgia might not be cute or heartwarming, but it is hilarious and sweet in its own way. Here, there’s even a Tumblr for it already.
 
 

9. And more.

Like, a lot more! To me, this includes things and people like Adele, Nicki Minaj, Girls, Janelle Monae, Hunx and his Punx, Arcade Fire. And that’s just music-wise! I’m sure I’m missing a trillion things.

OK, now that the laundry list of redeemers is done, these are more general.
 
 

10. Whatever idea we have of the past is romanticized, greatly.

The internet is a big, talkative, bottomless pit. Way back in ye olde 1960s, tweets were delivered not by obnoxious smart phones, but by birds resembling the doves on the Woodstock poster, reaching people staying in communes on different ends of California. Right? RIGHT?

Probably not. I don’t want to upset any adult readers who maintain that the ’60s or ’70s or what have you actually were that magical (hi Dad), but they sure weren’t the version I’ve scrapped together from movies and old photographs. In reality, things back then were still kinda trashy—there was already a tabloid culture, for example. And when things weren’t trashy, it was often because conformity was much more a rule of Being a Person than it is now. Of course, that means rebellion was more fun back then, but ultimately, it’s a positive thing that no one would ever make this video today, no?

People complain about how ladies used to be so classy, and how nowadays they are such goddamn hoes, but the expectation to dress like that was about showing you had money, and being conventionally attractive, and finding a man. I guess things are still like that in a lot of ways, but at least there are more options now if those goals aren’t in your interest, more people creating spaces where those aspirations aren’t relevant. Plus, it’s easier to be of color or a girl or queer nowadays, and that’s, you know, nice.
 
 

11. If a song, a book, anything is really good, it will transcend time.

I get really depressed thinking about how much more special my favorite band would have been if I’d discovered it in a record store in the middle of nowhere, and it was unlike any kind of culture I’d previously been exposed to, and I had to get to the store and bring home this big fat circle and put it on this box and put the needle on the circle and even then only get a crackly sound to hear it at all. But, if not for the internet, I wouldn’t ever have found a lot of the music and movies I love at all, or at least for a while. Most of the time it’s harder to appreciate a song or video online since there’s so much of that stuff, but the very best will always stick out. A powerful song is a powerful song, and while certain songs might’ve come out at just the right time for culture’s sake, they can still get to you on a personal level as much as they might’ve if you’d been alive back then.
 
 

12. The internet, OK?

Look, I’m not going to get into an argument with anyone over whether the internet is, ultimately, a good or a bad thing. It’s here and it’s not going away, so we better make the best of it. We had a good decade there where 99% of the online world was stupid YouTube videos and celebrity gossip, but I think creative communities are growing now, and only like 90% of the internet is that annoying and stupid. Every month we talk about some of the 10% that can be funny and smart and beautiful, and I’d hope you’d think that Rookie fits in there, too. And now I must be off to go make us a membership card for the Internet Elite! Seriously though, the combination of creativity with community is inspiring. Also, finding people who like the same stuff as you is way more convenient now and for most people pretty comforting.
 
 

13. Options.

Though I would love to stroll down my yellow-tinted ’60s street with my buddies from Liverpool, I’m also really glad I get to enjoy Hole, and David Sedaris, and other things that came later on. Part of being a teenager is figuring out what stuff you like, and those who are teenagers now have a whole all-you-can-eat buffet of things to enjoy.

Use the internet to discover shit you like, and use the beauty of tangibility which so many believe no longer exists to absorb yourself in it. If you hear an album you love on Bandcamp, buy it on vinyl so you can watch those golden sounds get churned out. Watch videos of your favorite bands performing live on YouTube, then form your own. Listen to a great mix on 8tracks, then make mixtapes to decorate and give to your friends. Find zines on Tumblr or Etsy and then make your own.

I was talking about this with Anaheed and she remembered some Winona Ryder interview where Winona was like, “I wish people still baked bread!” You can still bake bread, Noni! And people can still play records and read magazines and listen to the Who. It’s just that, well, most people don’t. And you know? Maybe that even makes it more special. ♦

55 Comments

  • WitchesRave October 28th, 2011 3:30 PM

    I loved this since i spend A LOT of time wishing i was in a different decade because of how it awesome it seems in films and television, but then i remind myself that the portrayals of the 60′s, 70′s,80s and even 90′s are of white middle-class american kids, which is definately not the 99%..

  • Demmy October 28th, 2011 3:44 PM

    Nice post.

  • Naomi October 28th, 2011 3:47 PM

    this might be really… i don’t know the anxious part of me coming through but MEDICINE! medicine is so much better and we have better tampax!!!

    • Tavi October 28th, 2011 4:30 PM

      omg yeah! i was so disturbed when i first read “are you there god? it’s me, margaret” and they had to wear PAD BELTS (ew)

  • fizzingwhizbees October 28th, 2011 3:55 PM

    YOU MUST READ HARRY POTTER. DOOOO ITTTT. YOUR LIFE WILL NEVER BE THE SAME.

    …in case you couldn’t tell by my username, I’m a pretty big HP fan. Actually, you haven’t read it, so of course you can’t tell. Silly me.

    In other news, this article is everything I love about the world and more, despite my desperate desire to be a flapper in the 20s.

    • Marguerite October 28th, 2011 5:47 PM

      Yes! Reading Harry Potter is a must! I was surprised when i found out my 9 year old cousin hadn’t read it – get reading Tavi – its absolutely worth it!

  • Lisa October 28th, 2011 3:58 PM

    THE INTERNET. I’d like to think if I was born in another decade I’d get to see my favourite bands live, wear awesome clothes, BE AWESOME. The truth is though, without the internet, I wouldn’t know most of the music I listen to now, I wouldn’t know anything about art, I wouldn’t be able to learn foreign languages outside of school… and I wouldn’t even speak English. I imagine I’d still be a creative and “different” person, but my life would be a lot more boring and lonely.

  • catdeneuve October 28th, 2011 4:01 PM

    fantastic post!

  • Mustachefan October 28th, 2011 4:27 PM

    I get what you’re saying, of course, but honestly what’s so bad about moping on the internet… isn’t that what’s it’s for? If I dream about living in the 60s, that’s my dream, okay?

  • Dahlia October 28th, 2011 4:28 PM

    Love this post although I still wish I lived in the 60′s the 70′s the 80′s and the early 90′s. Haha practically every decade but this one lol. Still this article totally makes me love this decade especially Harry potter. I’ve read every book about 20 times, not kidding. Read it, I’m sure you’ll love it! :)

  • Hunter October 28th, 2011 4:43 PM

    COOL DRAWLING :)

  • Pashupati October 28th, 2011 4:45 PM

    The Internet made me discover stuffs, but I realize some of the stuffs I like now and maybe wouldn’t have discovered give off a similar “personal vibe” (wtf does that means) as the stuffs I discover as a child without the Internet.
    (weirdly not being able to relate to parts of this post despite knowing That’s So Raven, Mean Girls and stuffs made me feel like I missed some the 21st century, but there is a whole lot more 21st century to go by so that’s ok.)

  • Nomi October 28th, 2011 4:56 PM

    i’ll be under the table with you
    let me share your cheese

  • Raindrops October 28th, 2011 5:02 PM

    I really like this article, it’s just really true.
    We live in the 21st century and not the 60s but so what?
    There’s nothing you can do about it so let’s make the best out of it and don’t forget the advantages of nowadays.
    Great said! :D

  • Sonja October 28th, 2011 5:18 PM

    Tavi, your illustration is unbelievably excellent.

  • Ann October 28th, 2011 5:19 PM

    This is so funny! When i was in high school we were bummed out that we missed the ’60′s, too. And I was born in 1960!

  • Kathryn October 28th, 2011 5:30 PM

    This was such a great article!
    The only one I can’t relate to is Miranda July. I really really really really need to watch her movies.
    Also: “CAN’T EVERYONE JUST CHANGE THEIR LIFESTYLE SO THE OUTSIDE WORLD IS EASIER ON MY EYES????” hahahah can’t say I haven’t thought that myself.

  • Motherfunker October 28th, 2011 5:38 PM

    haha, this is so true. I’m nostalgic for things i didn’t even experience, but this did make me feel a teensy bit better.

  • Sphinx October 28th, 2011 5:38 PM

    Nothing can be as perfect as you imagine.
    That’s why the past always seems better. Cause it’s in our heads.
    And the thing is, there will always be stuff you like and stuff you don’t like, no matter what decade you’re born in.
    You just have to look for the stuff you like, and the internet has made this so much easier, seriously.

  • Marguerite October 28th, 2011 5:45 PM

    Why is Kids Bop on here? Worst thing that happened to the world!

  • mangachic October 28th, 2011 5:47 PM

    Harry potter, mean girls and arrested development. what could be better?
    But YOU HAVE to read harry potter. You’ve probaby been told this a million times but it’s still absolutely true. And you can relive the cultural moment when you tell your friends you read it and squeal over your favorite parts. (It has to be squealing.) It is seriously the most amazing thing ever and a good use of your time. The last three books especially are so delightfully dark. Maybe even better than the virgin suicides.

  • broguishrogue October 28th, 2011 6:33 PM

    this was a lovely article, i feel the very same. and hey, who cares if you don’t live in that time period? BE the time period. that was me being inspirational or something. anyways, fantastic.

  • Raebbies October 28th, 2011 6:52 PM

    well, I STILL wish to live in the 90s again…just so I can attend a HOLE concert with all the original band members init. and see kurt cobain…alive.

  • littleDani October 28th, 2011 7:08 PM

    YES. For a while I felt like I was born in the wrong generation, but our generation is so awesome because we get to look back and draw from all this inspiration from previous decades more.

    Also, I’ve never ever been into Disney Channel. Ever. And I’m a huge Disney fanatic, but Disney Channel is one facet of the Disney empire I could never get into.
    Geez how many times did I just type Disney? :|

  • jessejames October 28th, 2011 7:13 PM

    This reminds me of Woody Allen’s ‘Midnight in Paris’…. Everyone’s nostalgic for the decades they’re not in.

  • unicorn October 28th, 2011 7:46 PM

    everytime i want to live in another decade i think “well that would be great and all, but you have a computer now. and the internet is the best thing ever. forever.”
    and then i say to myself, also harry potter. and skinny jeans. and all the awesome bands that are available on the internet that wouldnt have been there in the 20s.

  • sedgwick October 28th, 2011 9:38 PM

    far out i have actually seen every single episode of that’s so raven!

  • aribeary October 28th, 2011 9:42 PM

    This just made me more depressed.
    None of this stuff interests me, only the internet does since I get to live through different generations with it.

  • bufflehead October 28th, 2011 11:13 PM

    Tavi you never fail to state things perfectly; wonderful post. I think about this a lot because I have trouble seeing previous decades in normal colors. Also I have never read Harry Potter either and I think I will start a cult of those people who get pushed out of the spell name circles.

  • Madeleine October 28th, 2011 11:39 PM

    @jessejames Yes! Midnight in Paris–see it, Tavi! Great 1920′s and 1880′s clothes, too!

  • Yulia October 29th, 2011 1:10 AM

    I’ve always dreamt to live in 30s, but right now i’m glad that i was born in this decade. There’re so much things going on around!

  • October 29th, 2011 3:12 AM

    I like all of this so much! You (being Tavi…hi Tavi!) always have such a great understanding of things, but then take it all further by mixing it all up, and creating new possibilities. I think you must be quite clever? ;-))

    Lovely drawing – looking at it reminded me of how I like so many of the things that you also like (like)! :-) But my favourite part has to be little Andy Warhol saying, “Art n’ Stuff” <3

  • Renatotherescue October 29th, 2011 6:46 AM

    haha, i was listening to bob dylan’s blues when i saw that the freewheelin bob dylan was in the drawwing! <3

    and yes, i kinda agree with this.
    there are some great thinks bout 21st century,
    and hey, because of the internet we are still able to enjoy 60's music/ pictures/ fashion/ cool hippy cars
    so even if the 21st century would be super suckish, we would still be able to dry our tears with video's of funny drunk singers in too-tight leatherpants
    cause really.. how could we survive without that?

    XXX

  • Filia-Zissy October 29th, 2011 7:17 AM

    Is that a picture of the american version of The Office? I only know the british original which is quite funny. They just had brilliant actors such as Ricky Gervais and Martin Freeman (who’ll portray Bilbo Baggins in the upcoming movie The Hobbit).

  • Lylou October 29th, 2011 11:10 AM

    Finally, 2011 gets some recognition! I am honestly in love with the last paragraph. I live my life by that mantra! Also, that ’60s drawing would make amazing wallpaper… just a suggestion.
    XXX

  • julalondon October 29th, 2011 1:01 PM

    Oh this was an awsome article Tavi, definitely one of my favourites on Rookie so far! I often think about living in the 60s or 70s would be sooo much more fun, especially because of the clothes and the music and stuff; but when i think about it, its just exactly how you said it: i can go to the vintage stores and buy old clothes and wear them and listen to the Beatles. We just have so much more opportunities to chose from nowadays, and that is, as a fact, a great thing!
    Oh and even my mum has seen Mean Girls!=)

  • Tessa October 29th, 2011 4:17 PM

    I love you for have never reading/seeing Harry Potter. You have no idea. I haven’t had any desire to do either. Same with Twilight, same with any other huge fad or trend that “everyone” is doing. Consider this a fabulous thing.

    And Yes. YAY! for awkward humour. I’d be nowhere without Arrested or The Office. I’ve seen it too many times, until I remember that there is no such thing.

    “For they were mummies”
    “NOOOOOOOO!”

    http://teafortessa.blogspot.com

  • reardo24 October 29th, 2011 10:16 PM

    Vladamir Nabakov (Lolita) once wrote this little paragraph here about a Russian word: toska.
    “No single word in the English language renders all the shades of Toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At its morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it, may be the desire, for somebody or something specific, nostalgia, love sickness. At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom.”

    After reading your post I just felt as if you should be passed on this passage.

    Being a 20 something girl from the ‘burbs, stumbling about on the internet, trying to reacquaint herself with things she once knew (internet, blogs, love of quirks and fashion, etc.) it was awesome, and may I dare say, nostalgia-inducing to stumble across this site. I love it and please keep it up!

  • oriana October 30th, 2011 12:28 AM

    This is so so so so true. I would be a totally different person if I didn’t have the internet. It’s kind of creepy actually. It has given me access to SO MUCH stuff. Plus, I love all of the other points you wrote about too of course! (The first paragraph of #5=ME).

    Not only that but I’m inspired by your last point, #13. I admit, I do sometimes weep a little bit at the fact that I can’t see Bob Dylan live or that I can’t wear platform shoes in a socially acceptable manor… but that’s okay because there are tons of other things that I can do which I wouldn’t have been able to do if I grew up back then. We’re lucky that we get all of the music and movies from every generation before ours, plus our very own new stuff, right at our fingertips. And hey, the internet in of itself is magical!

  • RockHatesMiriam October 30th, 2011 4:14 PM

    Potterhead forever ;)
    Middle aged ladies/politicians/Maury make it so bad.. But we have spongebob people!
    http://rockhatesmiriam.blogspot.com

  • Kidrea October 30th, 2011 4:35 PM

    Did anyone else feel like gabourey was just thrown in there?…like, to diversify that whole cutewhitegirl group?
    (no offense, tavi!)

    • Tavi October 30th, 2011 9:29 PM

      She’s included because I was thinking about talented women in their teens and 20s getting their due in Hollywood. Hailee and Jennifer were nominated for Oscars last year and Gabourey the year before, so she naturally came to mind.

  • EL October 30th, 2011 9:01 PM

    Pixar, Harry Potter and the internet are all products of the 20th Century, not the 21st…
    That being said, these products are totally better celebrated in the 21st Century – we can preserve our HP and Pixar movies on DVD now, and watch them anywhere on our iPads (with internet connections ANYWHERE – seriously, if you told me in the 90′s you could have HP and the Philosopher’s stone on your computer in the time it takes to finish a coffee in a cafe with wi-fi I would have pissed my pants. I think that was the last movie my family ever bought on VHS).
    Oh, and medicine for the shizz – seriously feminine hygiene and the HPV vaccine FTW.

  • maggiemadge October 30th, 2011 10:29 PM

    I must say that I would not know half the music or movies if it was not for the internet. The internet has given me a chance to present my photography through a blog that people all over the world can see. There are still going to be things that the internet will never replace like seeing a rock concert or seeing a old friend in real life. I also enjoy taking pictures with my mother’s old 35 mm camera and I still watch movies on VHS. Being in the 21st century gives you the best of both past and future since you are in the present!

  • maggiemadge October 30th, 2011 10:31 PM

    Plus that video on popularity was hilarious and just ridiculous. Again I am so glad to be in a generation where people are more open and accepting to others around them.

  • soph October 31st, 2011 8:20 PM

    It feels so great to realize that I’m not the only one who never read HP! I feel the the same way about “missing out”, but I guess every time I was about to sit down and get reading, a movie came out and I was like screw this I want to eat popcorn!

  • Marijke November 1st, 2011 7:01 AM

    I really loved reading this article! I too am one of those girls who would rather live in the, in my case, 30′s. The music, the clothes, the small town people… love it! But I should be grateful for living here in Belgium. We don’t have Mean girls, sure there are mean girls but we don’t have those very mean popular girls who rule the school. We are kind of divided in little groups but we are most of the time nice to each other and we just let everyone be. Maybe that’s because I live in what you Americans call a ‘small town’ where everyone knows each other. Sure there still are bullies but that’s inevitable if you ask me.

  • marie November 1st, 2011 12:47 PM

    Hi Tavi!

    While it’s nearly ten years since I was a teenage girl, I love your site, and really admire what you are doing.

    One thing which has improved dramatically in the last few decades is societies attitude towards the LGBT ( Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender) community. While there is a long way to go it’s not that long ago that gay relationships were against the law here in Ireland.

    I know that there is still a lot of bullying etc but at least now gay teenagers have positive gay role models in the media and things like the It gets better campaign, which couldn’t exist without the internet.

    Things are also vastly improved for anyone growing up with different learning styles or learning difficulties, things like dyslexia are recognised now. In the past these people were just branded as stupid.

    Not to mention the fact that we live in a far less racist and sexist society that we did in the past.

    So basically unless you are a straight white academically gifted guy the world is a much friendlier place to grow up than at any time in the past. : )

  • cancercowboy November 1st, 2011 1:02 PM

    people are nostalgic for the pop-cultural idea of this decade or other, rarely for the real thing. personally i’ve always been more nostalgic about the future i’m not gonna live to see, but i’m a SciFi-guy.

  • harohs November 3rd, 2011 1:11 PM

    Such a damn good article!

  • Eva November 9th, 2011 10:38 PM

    <3

  • soybrain November 23rd, 2011 12:46 PM

    omfg the first sentence is like SO true.

  • misspent youth April 29th, 2012 12:19 AM

    I’m always trying to tell people this! We’re so lucky we can appreciate movies, music, culture, and people from all these great decades, including our own. And we have it all at our fingertips because of the internet.

  • LilyB November 12th, 2013 1:27 AM

    Tavi! All of this is so true! Especially early 200s Disney Channel and Mean girls! Literally the best things ever!!