Generation X’s Utopia

There exists simultaneously an inevitability and an impossibility to the dreams and dissatisfaction of Andy, Claire, and Dag. While they have retreated to the Mojave in order to sustain an honest lifestyle, they entertain each other with fantastic stories, all nestled within a particular pop-cultural landscape of Americana. In these stories they reflect a thought that pains Andy, that their parents and media outlets promised them as children vision of the country that never came to pass, would never come to pass. From Claire’s kitschy vision of Texlahoma to Dag’s romantic End of the World’s, in these stories and in their lifestyles these people are chasing after the Utopia, adding on miseries in the search for a perfect world. And while they are alone as a group, a generation in the broadest text, Andy has enough self-awareness to see that they are following the path that youth travels in every generation: being pulled on by “a mood that surely must have been held by most young people since the dawn of time as they have crooked their necks, stared at the heavens, and watched their sky go out.” (3-4). Andy and friends are traveling to find what every parent promises their child and cannot deliver, a world without pain, the Utopia that cannot be.

Thomas More popularized the term Utopia in 1516, crafting an island state in the Atlantic as a rhetorical tool for political argument. It is widely considered (though still debated) analogous satire, as More would have been casting  existing governments in unfavorable lights when compared to the ideal, peaceful, educated state. Commonly misconstrued as a perfect state, Utopia refers more to an unreachable state:

“Utopia” (Latin: Ūtopiā) is derived from the Greek words ou (οὐ), “not”, and topos (τόπος), “place”, with the suffix -iā (-ία) that is typical of toponyms; hence Outopía (Οὐτοπία; Latinized as Ūtopia, with stress on the second syllable), “no-place-land”. In early modern English, Utopia was spelled “Utopie”, which is today rendered Utopy in some editions.

In English, Utopia is pronounced exactly as Eutopia (the latter word, in Greek Εὐτοπία [Eutopiā], meaning “good place,” contains the prefix εὐ- [eu-], “good”, with which the οὐ of Utopia has come to be confused in English pronunciation).[2] This is something that More himself addresses in an addendum to his book Wherfore not Utopie, but rather rightely my name is Eutopie, a place of felicitie.[3]

From Wikipedia

The Americana ideal imprinted in Andy and friends’ pop-cultural awareness, while textually different, carries the same burden on the imagination as the Utopia: a perfect place that, by its very definition, cannot exist. They’re constantly on the move, looking for a place to call home but never finding it once the allure of novelty fades. In their stories, conversations, and flippant definitions they decry the modern world, partly out of perspective (it does kinda suck) but with the unshakable feeling that this wasn’t the way their lives were intended to turn out, that “maybe we were all promised heaven in our lifetimes, and what we ended up with can’t help but suffer in comparison” (7). Despite their protests, Andy, Dag and Claire have still been infected by the perfect American image. Their relationship to popular culture is ambivalent; they are disgusted by the excesses of mini-malls and yuppies, but those processed images of perfection loom over their imaginations. From the ugly reality they run, but they’re still chasing the mood, imagining to live like Texlahomians while being disgusted with the fantasy. In this state they’re always on the move, following the American Dream and evading its capture until the worst, undocumented eventuality: they assimilate into the dominant culture, they grow up.


~ by benjyblanco on April 17, 2010.

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