Generation E :: Part 2 Alphabet Soup
E is for Entertainment
© 2003 David Hughes
X. Generation Y. Generation E?
seems that nowadays when some new incomprehensible out-of-the-box
demographic of society emerges, that the likes of you and I have no
hope of figuring out, the great social philosophers of our world turn
to the alphabet for help. And why not, when you have twenty-six
beautiful letters to choose from? But what does all this generational
alphabet soup do for us anyway? Do we really understand Generation X
better because we have a label for it? Not really. What does the
“X” stand for anyway? And who is Generation X? Nevertheless, not
to be outdone by other alphabet wielding cultural commentators, I have
chosen the letter “E” for three simple reasons:
E = Entertainment
I have a one letter creativity IQ
The first rule of entertainment is to jump on the bandwagon of
trends the public is clamoring for. You loved “X”, so why not
“E”? (If you don’t believe me about this rule just flip through
your TV Guide and count the number of Reality
TV Shows on this week…thank you Survivor).
kidding aside, let’s get one thing straight…generations look
different today than their chronological ancestors. A
generation used to be defined as “a body of living beings
constituting a single step in the line of descent from an ancestor”.
Today a “generation” is defined by its attitudes, values and
culture, not by its segment of the ancestral timeline.
have a generation in western culture today that spans over 50 years
and it will continue to grow, never being defined by a specific period
of time. It is Generation E, the generation of entertainment. It was
birthed in the early 1900’s with the introduction of cinematic film.
However, it did not hit its full stride until the 1950’s with the
introduction of the television set. Around the same time another
entertainment phenomenon took its first steps…Rock & Roll music.
It is no coincidence that these two Behemoths of the entertainment
industry came into being at the same time. Television made Rock &
Roll what it is today. It wasn’t just the new music that was
appealing, but the dancing and the images that went with it…and TV
propelled those images. Anybody here remember Elvis?
early 1980’s gave birth to the most powerful medium of music and
television: MTV. Rock & Roll was not just about great music, it
was about image first and music often took a very back burner-like
second. One of the first music videos to be played on MTV was called
“Video Killed the Radio Star”. In other words, if you had success
as a musician on the radio but were not very attractive, your days of
stardom were over…because after all, your image was going to be
it was not just the marriage of music and television that impacted our
culture. From sitcoms to crime dramas to talk shows, modern day
entertainment has radically changed the dynamics of our society. Take
a look at some of these stark examples of TV viewing, and consider how
they may have affected the values and behavior of society:
average American youth (2-17 years of age) spends approximately 19
hours a week in front of the television.
If we do a little math, we can approximate that number to mean
that the average American will watch over 69,000 hours worth of
television in their lifetime.
That’s 7.9 years, or 2,883 days! Yikes! Over 10% of your
lifetime will be spent in front of the television. (By the way,
this doesn’t include the countless hours spent in movie
theaters). Actually, it’s not all that hard to do when you
consider it’s less than 3 hours a day. How many of us plop in
front of the tube at the end of a long day at work or sit down to
watch a couple of games a week? I know I do.
Specialists in studying the typical television viewer have
determined that their average attention span is less than one
second. That means that in order to keep the attention of those
watching TV ads, the images and sounds of the advertisement need
to be changing on a second-by-second basis. It used to be that an
ad was someone standing with a curtain behind them holding the
product and talking about it. Today commercials are like
micro-movies. There is even an awards show (the TV commercial
“Oscars” if you will) that gives out statues annually to the
best TV ads. Oh…and by the way, the average American youth will
view 20,000 TV commercials each year!
No wonder this is the generation that wants everything for
the age of 18, the average American youth will have viewed
approximately 200,000 acts of violence on television. I am pretty
sure that has no affect on society.
of 4-6 year olds would rather watch TV than spend time with their
collectively watch 250 Billion hours of TV annually.
If you were to calculate the financial value of that time, based
on a minimum wage of $5.25/hour: $1.3 Trillion.
of Americans can name all Three Stooges. 17% can name just one of
the Supreme Court Justices.
are just a few of the statistics of Generation E. I am curious about
how many schools, churches, political groups and businesses have
learned to adapt their “product” to a society that is so saturated
in an entertainment mindset. In many cases it’s the only way to keep
our doors open. Generation E, as a whole, is
losing an understanding of
the value of education, spirituality, civic responsibility and
the rewards of hard work. Entertainment has become the spoonful of
sugar that helps the medicine go down.
essential [goal] is to excite the spectators. If that means playing
Hamlet on a flying trapeze or in an aquarium, you do it." –
of this generation’s
highest priority is in how much a certain thing can entertain them.
Any personal long-term benefits that may be provided by that thing
come second. Even cars today are selling themselves based on their
entertainment features (i.e. quality of stereo, DVD, on-board
computing system, etc.). “It is very fuel efficient, great. But can
it play my DVD?”
it or not, Generation E is not going to be persuaded out of its
entertainment lifestyle. Hey, we’re all a part of it anyway. Trying
to change the mentality of this generation, to abandon entertainment
and the self-gratification it has produced, is like trying to knock
down a Weeble-Wobble...“Weeble’s
wobble but they don’t fall down.” Try as you might, you may
momentarily shake the system, but it will always return to its full
and upright position.
at what happened on 9-11. Even Hollywood jumped into the fray and
raised money for the victims. Every TV Station put its programming on
hold and showed coverage of the tragedy. But,
apart from news coverage, it didn't
last very long before they were
“back to our regularly scheduled program,"
and people were beginning to say
“…I need a break…”
the question that surfaces is this: Where is this generation going?
Collegiate Dictionary – 10th Edition
where w = 52 weeks
per year; h = 19
hours per week; y =
70 years, the average lifespan of an American.