Sunday, May 28, 2000
I also saw my younger sister's school play last night. Largely written by the students, aged 13-15, "From Cool To Sick" ostensibly explains teenage life to the older generation, being careful to empathise that, on the whole, they just weren't going to understand anyway. All I know is that, sitting in the audience, I felt frequently confused and strangely threatened by the whole thing, while my father thought it was an excellent comedy. I think what I found disturbing was the overwhelming, cynical shallowness of it all. It's bad enough when adults complain that adolescents only think about music, clothes, presentation, parties, drugs and the opposite sex; when kids consciously choose to present that side of themselves it feels slightly sickening, like the kids on stage were somehow exploiting themselves.

Seeing my thirteen year old sister in a devastatingly short satin dress which positively clung to her body was disturbing enough on a personal level, but it was the simulated rave scene which got me the most - not in its overall accuracy; it was more like West Side Story set to The Chemical Brothers - but rather in the stone cold perfection of the actors. Even the incongrous "whoop whoop" calling the clueless teachers assumed constitutes raving didn't manage to detract from the chilling familiarity of these spandex and lycra clad girls of 12 or 13 dancing with vacant faces, every muscle in their still unformed bodies taut with the strain of self-presentation. If I was at a rave and saw this I wouldn't bat an eye, but having it fed back to me while I sat passively was bizarrely alienating and unreal, like hearing your own voice on tape and being unable to recognise yourself. What defines our generation, I think, is not a sense of immorality so much as amorality - teenage life is so complicated, so internalised and isolated from the overall concept of "society", it's like traditional values mutate into meaninglessly meaningful "codes" of behaviour. Those codes presented on stage did not comply with any recognisable moral conventions, and while most of them I understood, there were a couple of things in there I felt too old to pick up on. I'd hate to think that I was already crossing that generational divide, but I suppose I'm now in the position where I can partially eulogise my youth, and therefore I must be on the way to becoming the enemy. Scary...


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