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 members of the "G.I./Greatest Generation"note
that lived through The Great Depression
and fought in World War II
and their "Baby Boomer" childrennote
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.
Earlier (and somewhat milder)
variants of this gap occurred when the "Lost Generation"note
rebelled against Victorian societal norms as it came of age during The Roaring '20s
, and thirty years later
as those in the "Silent Generation"note
questioned the Red Scare
and the conformism of their parents, who in turn chastised them for their culture, especially their music
. This latter gap might be considered as a preview of sorts of what happened during the 1960s.
As Boomers eventually grew up and became parents, this trope lost some of its purpose
, especially as Generations Xnote
adopted their liberal views on social issues. However, intergenerational disagreements did not go away: in the 1980s, older "Boomers" who once were hippies faced Reaganite/Thatcherite older "Gen-X'ers"
; in the 1990s, younger, more conservative "Boomers" tangled with laid-back/bohemian younger "X'ers"; and in the 2000s, the older "X'ers" and older "Millennials" often had differing opinions on The War on Terror
. Beginning in the mid/late-1990s, a "technology gap" between tech-savvy kids and their neophyte parents arose, only becoming larger as technologic advances have piled up with time
However, there have been signs of a renewed Generation Gap between jaded, conservative younger "Boomers" and older "Gen-X'ers" squabbling with idealistic, progressive younger members of the later generation as well as "Millennials" and "Centennials"
, this essentially being another far-reaching confrontation between those over 45-50 and those younger
, the main difference being that the late-2000s financial crisis and the resulting strain on welfare state has put economics on a prominent position, whereas it had been a non-issue during the 60s. Gun control, a minor issue in the 1970s and 1990s, has become more prominent as well.
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 values of baby boomers weren't that liberal to start with: many polls in the late 60s and early 70s saw a rather large proportion of young adults espousing relatively conservative views, with members of the "Silent" Generation having far more liberal opinions, also being the ones to lead the numerous protests of the 60s. To boot, most people between 18 and 25 voted for Richard Nixon
of all people in the 1972 electionnote
, something that contributed to his landslide win.
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
A "generation gap" is a significant difference in values
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 II 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":
- 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 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.
- 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)
- 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.
- Millennials webcomics often shows generation gap between X and Y generation, like in the "Generation gap"  and the "Vote" episodes.