The Generation Gap

A trope commonly from the period in which it was named, the 1960s. The Generation Gap is the idea that the psychological differences between the World War II generation and the Baby Boomers were so significant that they were incapable of understanding each other, and so were in conflict, often devolving into Kids Versus Adults. This mostly occurred because, at the time, the United States' political climate was changing, with many boomers vehemently protesting things like racism and the Vietnam War, all the while using rock and roll as a weapon against these issues. Many World War II era adults disapproved of this (as did many Moral Guardians), so the generational gap became a widespread phenomenon.

A second and arguably milder generational gap occured between the politically motivated Baby Boomers and more laid-back/openly hedonistic Generation X'ers; a third gap may now be occurring between jaded Gen-Xers and idealistic Millennials. For some time, with many mid/late-born Boomers, Generation X'ers and some Generation Y'ers becoming parents, this was gradually becoming a Discredited Trope. However, if recent debates over things like same-sex marriage and Internet surveillance prove anything, it's that the generation gap will never fully disappear as long as social standards change and technology advances.

Frankly, the trope has long been appropriated and manipulated by the popular media and the business community as a marketing gimmick - just look at The Man Is Sticking It to the Man. Many social historians will tell you that the Generation Gap was always to a large degree a "manufactured controversy", and that most of the cultural clashes between young people and old people were concerned not as much with values and belief systems as with codes of decorum and behavior. It's been noted, for example, that most members of the WWII generation disapproved of racism; it's just that they disapproved even more of the (to them) radical tactics used to combat it. Same with the Vietnam War, although at least there was a fairly solid consensus behind that.

The trope seems to be very common in 1960s and 1970s science fiction; see Films of the 1960s and Films of the 1970s. However, it also continued well into 1980s/'90s family sitcoms (even though the trope was beginning to die around that time).

Note: A "generation gap" is a significant difference in values and ideas between two generations. A simple parent/child conflict (such as a parent disapproving of the music his/her child enjoys) is not an example of this.



  • The Catcher in the Rye is a pre-gap example. Holden is disgusted with the superficiality (ie "phoniness") of the World War 2 generation and decides to embark on a life of rough living and debauchery.
  • Older than You Think: Consider this passage from the F. Scott Fitzgerald story "Bernice Bobs Her Hair":
    "Heavens, yes! What modern girl could live like those inane females?"
    "They were the models for our mothers."
    Marjorie laughed.
    "Yes, they were—not! Besides, our mothers were all very well in their way, but they know very little about their daughters' problems."

Live-Action TV
  • The Monkees TV show was undeniably symbolic of this trope. At the time, it was radical to even think about placing youth rebellion (with no parental figures) as protagonists on a prime time sitcom. However, the show attempted to create an understanding between the gap, and prove that America's youth wasn't all what it seemed, despite outside appearances. Their groovy theme tune (written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart) says it all:
    "Here we come, walkin' down the street. We get the funniest looks from everyone we meet..."
    "Hey, hey, we're the Monkees, and people say we monkey around. But we're too busy singin' to put anybody down."
    “We're just tryin' to be friendly, come and watch us sing and play. We're the young generation, and we've got somethin' to say.”
  • Family Ties is the Generation Gap after the generation that caused the first Gap... The hippy parents now have a conservative, money-obsessed son.
  • Freaks and Geeks exemplifies the Generation Gap in its late stages. The Weir parents are clearly pre-Boomers, while the Weir kids are early Generation-X'ers. Needless to say, when it comes to issues like sex and drug use, the Weir parents are little (if any) help.
    • And let's not forget Mr. Weir's blind bitterness towards The Sex Pistols!
  • All in the Family was heavily fueled by this trope.
  • A big reason why Pierce is such an outcast to the rest of the study group in Community. That doesn't stop the others from having Generation X vs. Millennial conflicts.
  • Speaking of, ads for The Great Indoors play up Joel McHale's jaded, cynical, worldly Gen-X-er's distaste for his idealistic but clueless, shallow, immature, distracted, and downright odd Millennial/hipster coworkers (Stephen Fry is there too).
  • Samurai Gourmet is subtly about the Generation Gap, from a specifically Japanese point-of-view. It's especially highlit in "Yakiniku Her Way", where protagonist Kasumi has to confront his twenty-one-year-old niece about her career choices over dinner. Since the series' point of view is a sixty-year-old Japanese man, the reasonable compromise is to insist that deciding to be a musician is fine, but not against your father's wishes.

Tabletop Games
  • Cyber Generation was based a Generation Gap, in this case between the cynical parental generation (the protagonists of the Cyberpunk role playing game) and their vastly more idealistic and Nano Tech-mutated children (the protagonists of this game)

Western Animation
  • Is It Always Right to Be Right?: Discussed Trope, as the parable says that "a gap appeared between the generations" and the animation shows a literal gap between old and young, followed by several more gaps as the various factions of society split off from each other.
  • South Park:
    • The ability of the adults to be unearthly clueless and allow the children to be Wise Beyond Their Years is due to that gap, which breaks the possibility of the two parties to share the same wave-length; the show puts this one into an extreme as it exhibits the children's point of view; essentially: Because the show is about the children, and the children cannot comprehend how adults behave; they perceive them to be stupid.
    • Actual example from the show would be "You're getting old"; The parents perceive the children's music to literally be shit, while the children hear literal bowel movements during the adult's music.

  • In the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, the heroes of past decades sometimes have very different attitudes toward crime and crimefighting than the younger crimefighters. The heroes who are still active from the 40s and 50s, for example, tend to hold a black-and-white view of morality and are much more conservative than the ones who were born in the 80s.
  • The Full Matilda, which partially takes place in The '60s, shows this between Matilda and her nephews David and Rodrick. Matilda is an old-fashioned black woman of the World War II generation, David is a hip baby boomer involved in the Civil Rights Movement, and Rodrick falls in love with a white woman.
  • Cat Stevens' "Father And Son"
  • The theme of The Who's "My Generation".
  • Alternate History and non-American example in Cal Bear's The Anglo/American – Nazi War . By the 2000s, teenagers living in the fifteen Administrative Regions which once made up the German Reich protest the unfairness of being held accountable for the crimes of their Nazi grandparents. When the Prussian wing of this rising political movement makes an armed bid for independence and reunifying Germany, this convinces the victorious post-war Allies to nuke Stettin from orbit and kill hundreds of thousands of people as they're convinced, judging by what happened last time, that a reunited Germany will start World War III. You may have noticed this alternate world kinda sucks.