The Null Device
Following the death of J.D. Salinger, author of Catcher In The Rye, the seminal formulation of mid-20th-century teen angst, the Observer's Barbara Ellen asks whether Holden Caulfield's angst, alienation and stance against "phonies" has any relevance to today's affluent, materialistic teenagers:
Watch Skins, which has a new series on E4, but also take an honest look at your own teenager/s. Compare them with your teen self. Better dressed (check), more affluent (check), perma-partying (check), healthier, better looking, better skin (check, check, check!). There have been times when I've stared at my teenage daughter and thought: "What happened to acne?" Not only acne, but having to wear horrible clothes, because you didn't get an allowance, or sitting in cold bus shelters for hours with your friends because there was nowhere else to go.
They were humbling mechanisms of youth, so boring at the time, but also so important because they gave you an incentive to get a life. All gone. A particular breed of metro-teens already has a nice life, thank you very much. In fact, many of them seem to have the lives of salaried twentysomethings. Alienated? Only if being alienated is being infatuated with one's youth, to the point of having no interest in previous generations. Do a Holden and resent and judge "phoney adults"? You'd be lucky with this lot. They barely notice we're alive.
One realises that things are more complex than that – recessions, vanishing university places, the feeling that this relentless selfdom is doubtless a mere carapace with myriad complexities bubbling beneath. Besides, I like the carapace – that merit-less self-glorification, the stubborn refusal to glance out of their yoof bubble to see how the rest of us may be doing. At least they're not wasting their glory years picking their noses to the Smiths. However, this doesn't alter the fact that the dislocated, angst-ridden "blah" of Catcher is no longer a good fit for modern teens. The defining work for this generation would more likely be the Argos catalogue.Ellen concludes with the claim that the truly lost generation aren't the hoody-wearing, Vice-reading, iPhone-toting party kids but their broke, exhausted parents, though, alas, there is no market for a book about middle-agers raging against "phoney teens".