Sunday, January 04, 2009

Avenue Q is to the 00's as Rent is to the 80's as Hair is to the 60's

On a whim, R- and I lined up at the new TKTS (with the fabulous new steps, like the Spanish ones in Italy) and saw Avenue Q last night. Can totally identify with the post-college ennui, the longing for the simplicity of meal plans and insta-friends living down the hall, where your purpose in life was simple. Though I'm also happy to be a bit older than that now and past it. Though Avenue Q does feel a tad bit dated in terms of production values and the use of porn on the internet, it mostly hits the values of our time pretty dead on, with pragmatic takes on racism (my favorite song: "Everyone's a little bit racist"), and a generally optimistic pragmatic view on life.

It's especially interesting though to compare Avenue Q with the last three musicals R- and I saw: Hair (the voice of the youth of the 60's), Rent (the voice of the youth of the 80's) and Avenue Q (the voice of the youth of the 00's).

Whereas in Hair, you have spoiled privileged kids fighting for fundamental civil rights, fighting for their lives, and in Rent, you have spoiled privileged kids fighting to rebel against something, to be like the Hair generation, but mostly just whining. Avenue Q moves past that, adopting a healthy pragmatism, where the only epic struggle these privileged kids are overcoming is to find "purpose" in life, ie a sense of Narrative or Story (as Stephenson neatly points out in Anathem) is what people look for once their basic needs are met. But seems like rather a luxury when compared to the struggled of the 60's or even the 80's.

(TAL's David Rakoff has this awesome post-it note comic/story Seasons of Love with an even more jaded view of Rent than my own.)

But I think this evolution is a good thing. That's progress. So I disagree with the disappointed tone of David Brooks' Organizational Kid which chronicled this years ago and was one of my first blog posts.

There was a great line by John Adams used in the recent HBO miniseries:
I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.
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