Like wine and garbage, decades change as they age, adopting new flavors, textures, odors. At first they seem almost like part of the present. Gradually, differences begin to appear, in style and then in attitude. You catch an old episode of Homicide, and you find yourself noticing the hairstyles -- funny, they didn't look odd the first time you saw the show, way back in 1994. Then you flip through an old magazine, and you're startled to see prominent Republican pols preaching peace and warning of the dangers of the imperial state. Did Jack Kemp really call Clinton's Balkan war "an international Waco"? Did Democrats really support a president who declared, "You can't say you love your country and hate your government"? What country was this?
But by then the memory of the actual decade is fading, and soon it's been replaced by a few iconic clichés. Everyone knows the standard '60s montage set to the strains of Hendrix or Buffalo Springfield. The '70s in turn were reduced to Nixon, disco, gas lines, and wide lapels. They don't have a '90s montage yet, but wait another 10 years -- it'll get here.
Finally, something splits open: The era is so distant, so alien, that when you look past those familiar icons you see a landscape where every little thing seems faintly strange. The most ephemeral cultural detritus becomes fascinating. Everything is an artifact.
|:: posted by Donald Melanson, 11/06/2005|| Comments (0)|
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