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Move over generation X. Here come the 'global teens'

It wasn't supposed to be like this. Young people born from the early 1960s to late 1970s believed that the future was theirs. As baby boomers aged, employment and prosperity would be passed along. Instead, "Generation Xers" complained that they were propelled into a changing, recession-driven workplace that offered little but "McJobs." They became the first post-war generation to be worse off than their parents, left with reduced expectations and downsized hope for the future.

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Work hard, play hard, spend hard, live hard. The children of the baby boom -- what Douglas Coupland calls "global teens" -- have no time for Generation X whining and self-doubt. They are after style, comfort and the top of the food chain; the sooner their older siblings move aside, the better. The CBC's Laurie Brown speaks with three global teens, then (fittingly, from a shopping mall) with Douglas Coupland about Generation X's successors. 
. The generation that followed Generation X (children of the baby boomers, born in the 1980s) has been dubbed "Generation Y," "Generation Next," the "Baby Boomlet," "Echo Boomers," the "Baby On Board Generation," the "Velos Generation" and "Millennials."
. Douglas Coupland called them "global teens" because of their easy acceptance of globalized "Benetton culture" or "Pepsi culture." (In more derogatory moments he calls them "mousseheads," after their "tribal identifier" of immaculate hair.)

. In Douglas Coupland's second book, Shampoo Planet (Pocket Books, 1992) Tyler Johnson, a 20-year-old American kid of the Ronald Reagan era, rejects his upbringing in a hippie commune to seek a career with the corporation "whose offices his mother once firebombed." Obsessed with name brands and hair care products, Tyler lives at home "to save money — build equity — hone my abilities, increase my marketworthiness, and all of this activity takes time and freedom from poverty. Poverty. Ick."

. Works of fiction by Douglas Coupland include: Hey Nostradamus! (2003) All Families Are Psychotic (2001), God Hates Japan (2001), Miss Wyoming (1999), Girlfriend in a Coma (1997), Microserfs (1995), Life After God (1993), Shampoo Planet (1992), Generation X (1991). Non-fiction: School Spirit (2002), Souvenir of Canada (2002), City of Glass (2000), Polaroids from the Dead (1996).

. In 2000 The Economist said the global teens or "millennials" had "the clean slate and new day that implies: born in the 1980s, the richest generation in history, the best educated, healthiest, the first to grow up knowing nothing of war, famine, disease and poverty." They are often characterized as being the opposite of Xers: happy, optimistic and driven. Born to lower expectations, they are more flexible and willing to take the entry-level jobs that Xers are now too old for.

. As for the Xers: In 1999 Statistics Canada reported that half of Canadians aged 20 to 34 were still living at home, more than at any time in the previous 15 years, and that many had moved out only to return. Another study indicated a predilection among boomers to hire their own children instead of Xers. Today, many Generation Xers remain uncomfortably bracketed by an unyielding stratum of boomers above them, and an army of ambitious go-getters below.

From Shampoo Planet:
. Comfortmobile: well-appointed sports car, equipped with throbbing stereo system and lavish leather seats.
. Modernarium: a global teen's ultramodern bedroom, intended to resemble a first-rate business hotel room, complete with mini-fridge, computer and "extremely tasteful black modular sofa units, a TV and CD sound system built into the man-high 'entertainment totem'".
Medium: Television
Program: Prime Time News
Broadcast Date: Nov. 4, 1992
Guest(s): Douglas Coupland
Producer: Laurie Brown
Duration: 2:25

Last updated: April 19, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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