What makes your previous generations funny?
April 4, 2017 1:59 PM   Subscribe

I'm curious about humorous stereotypes about older generations, outside of the US and the UK. A bit more information is inside.

My curiosity was prompted by rewatching some British sketch comedy: mainly Fry & Laurie and some Mitchell & Webb. In both of these shows, older generations (especially post-war) are often portrayed as stuffy, puritan, and manners-obsessed, with a dash of being blase about the terrible. It's a really strong stereotype - strong enough that it can be used as a basis for a joke and people will immediately get it.

Which made me wonder, what kinds of stereotypes about previous generations exist outside of the US and the UK? For example, if I were a Japanese writer working on a comedy sketch that had a post-war character, would there be any stereotypical traits I'd be likely to use? What if I was a French writer? An Indian writer?

I realize now both of my examples are post-WWII, but I'm not actually asking about that generation only (it's just a particularly salient one and easy to make reference to). If your country has particularly strong stereotypes about people who were adults in the 80s, that would also be relevant.
posted by Kutsuwamushi to Society & Culture (3 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Strange that this hasn't gotten any answers yet, but I'll go...

East Asians don't typically try to cast a humorous light on the older generation, due to the concept of filial piety discouraging anything that might be seen as making fun of your elders. But where there are stereotypes of older people, they tend to be very frugal - repairing and reusing things long after most people would have given up on them. They're also often loquacious, often depicted as talking your ear off, sometimes in a naggy way, sometimes in a "in my day" kind of way, sometimes just talking about any random thing. And lastly, they are often shown as superstitious.
posted by satoshi at 5:42 AM on April 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think part of the reason this may not be getting many responses is that in many cultures the "generations" are not as well-defined in the US. I had read about Generation X and Baby Boomers and millenials and so forth before coming to the US from US media, but I hadn't realized the extent to which these constructs are used in everyday conversation before actually living in the US. I mean you might speak of your parents' generation or your grandparents' generation in India, but there are no words for those generations so their characteristics are not as discussed or salient.

The other issue is that Indian culture is much more heterogeneous than American culture (I realize American culture is not as homogeneous as it seems from the outside, but Indian culture takes that to an extreme - 20-odd distinct languages, hundreds of dialects, huge class-based differences). Any time you talk about generational differences in an Indian context, you would need to caveat that with many other descriptors e.g. I could talk to you about Tamil Brahmin people in their 70s and 80s and a bunch of stereotypes would come up, but they wouldn't necessarily apply to, say, Punjabi Sikhs in their 70s and 80s.

In general, the stereotypes in India point to prior generations being more conservative and more religious. Those of your grandparents' generation were likely to be a bit more Anglophilic (again speaking of a thin middle-class slice of Indian society, in the South) - wearing suits to work, valuing English. The stereotype of my parents' generation (corresponding approximately to Baby Boomers) would be somewhat less conservative, but not markedly so, a bit obsessed with sending their children to medical school or engineering college. My generation (early 30s), which was the last that grew up before Internet became pervasive among the middle class even in primary school - somewhat conned by their parents into going to engineering college, finding out that their classmates who ignored those pressures are actually doing pretty well. Those even four years younger than me (my cousin) were much more exposed to the Internet, and seem a lot freer and less conservative than the bulk of my classmates (more drinking at bars, more parties, more unusual career choices etc.). They also grew up in a time of increased wealth as more and more Indians entered the global middle and upper middle class. But again, I'm speaking of a very thin sliver of Indian society.
posted by peacheater at 6:35 AM on April 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Just as a really general observation about generational stereotypes:

This is a thing I discuss sometimes with my sons. Every "classic" respectable dance in existence was the outrageous, overly sexually overt, scandalous popular dance of its era when it first came out and was being done by the youth. You know, like The Waltz. Classic literally means it has stood the test of time. If it has been around long enough, it is a classic. Then we imbue that idea with lots of other traits, like respectability, that are basically tacked on merely due to the age of the thing.

So, in a nutshell, the traits of older people get stereotyped in a certain way simply due to their age. In their youth, they were political radicals. Fifty years later, their political beliefs have not changed one bit, but the world around them has. Now the exact same set of beliefs makes them a stick in the mud old fogey because those beliefs are associated with a previous era.

You are an Old Fogey simply because you lived long enough. Whatever traits are common for your generation will be viewed as old fashioned and uncool by the youth when you hit a certain age.

I am waiting for tattoos and crazily dyed hair to be eye-roll-worthy marks of a has been, stuck in another era.
posted by Michele in California at 9:39 AM on April 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

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