2012: The End of Baby-Boomer Marketability|
POSTED BY NOLAN B. CANOVA, July 28, 2011 Share
As I watched the graceful and mercifully smooth landing of the Space Shuttle Atlantis on Thursday morning, July 21, 2011, knowing this was the closing of the Shuttle era, I had cause to reflect on an issue that I've been meaning to write about for quite some time. And that is that so many wonderful eras of all kinds have opened and closed during my lifetime of nearly 56 years, I had to wonder how much of it was a logical outgrowth of technology and commerce and how much of it had to do with what I call "Baby-Boomer Marketability".
The Baby-Boomers are traditionally thought of as members of the post-WWII birth explosion between 1945 and 1964. The post-war prosperity of the '40s & '50s signaled better times ahead, and young parents, often including returning soldiers, were eager to buy a home and establish a family. The market's ability to streamline this was made easier after the war. The future was never brighter, especially for young people and for those who could exploit this new generation of some 70 million strong.
Those of us who grew up in the '50s, '60s, and '70s likely remember it as a great time to be alive (I know I do), and the publishing media seized on our fanciful and optimistic outlook to sell us on fantastic stuff (like space flight and the Moon landings) to the fanciful and sometimes outlandish. But we ate it up.
MANNED SPACE FLIGHT
For those of us who were alive to see the first Moon landing, the gradual deterioration of the space program is beyond tragic. Man-as-pioneer is what got this country discovered and explored. It seemed obvious to me that manned space pioneering would be the next frontier (or borrowing from Star Trek, "the final frontier"). Nearly all science-fiction back in the day assumed this would be the case by the 21st century. Currently, unmanned space-probes are better than nothing, and do good work, and the Hubble Space Telescope has brought us breath-taking pictures of deep space we could never personally visit. But, the Space Shuttle program, while useful for many missions in near-Earth orbit, admittedly limped along, unable to validate its original intention to fly cheaply. The talking heads of TV news, following the final Shuttle landing, lamely talked of the "next generation of space vehicles" and "Mars landings" all while thousands of NASA employees are being laid off and the country still can't get its budget act together. It's obvious that the Mars landing I hoped to see will not happen in my lifetime. Nor a moonbase, recreational space station, or anything else.
UFOs AND THE ALIEN PRESENCE ON EARTH
Continuing on the space theme, this is a big one, and has ties to conspiracy. UFO "flaps" were common back in the day, and thousands of books and magazines were published on the subject. Though the 1947 Roswell, New Mexico case is routinely trotted out as the "original", that is a retro-confabulation, due to its re-discovery by author Stanton Friedman in the late '70s, before which Roswell was rarely mentioned by "serious" researchers. Now it's taken for granted as the biggest and the best and the first. I do not agree with this assessment, but that is not the point of this article. Nor is it my point to establish whether or not UFOs and alien visitation are real. The point I want to make is it was such an easy sell to a generation eager to believe in such things, that we'd believe anything and pretty much did. Oh, we still have the occasional UFO sighting in the present day, but I don't envy the serious researcher (whom I still support); the availability of fancy editing software to even amateur photo/videographers, the "evidence" is suspect right out of the gate. Of course, defenders can always claim "government cover-up" if their cover is blown. All that is very marketable...or was. Every year, some sacred UFO story from the past is uncovered (or declassified) as a secret military project or lost spy technology or just muddled judgement. It could very well be we had aliens visit us, but I'm abandoning hope that confirmation will occur in my lifetime.
P.S. I still nurse a personal conspiracy theory that various governments, including our own, were not above staging a fake space-alien invasion, and developed elaborate measures to do so before abandoning it as impractical. And speaking of conspiracies...
The assassination of President John F. Kennedy can most likely be regarded as the mother of all contemporary conspiracies for baby-boomers. I can't hope to cover all the major points about this case in a single article, but it's basically "lone-nut gunman versus government conspiracy and cover-up". Best-seller after best-seller was written about this topic, and countless television specials which only incrementally advanced the notion that anyone but Lee Harvey Oswald could've shot the President on November 22, 1963. Every year around November, especially on a major anniversary, TV media will trot out the same tired pro-and-con commentary, usually ending with a computer-generated recreation that proves Oswald at least could've done it alone (or more specifically, that a shot came from the 6th floor of the Texas School Depository whoever was actually up there). I've noticed as baby-boomers age, the pervasiveness of these specials are less and less, and no new relevant books have been published in years. I will take to my grave, however, the late '70s House Assassination Committee's investigations conclusion that there likely was a second gunman...and the gov't took no action on it! The debate will continue, but the definitive conclusion may be left unresolved forever.
I'm grateful to have lived long enough to know the identity of "Deep Throat", i.e., the Watergate informant who helped bring down President Richard Nixon, would be solved. Ex-FBI head Mark First came forward just a few years ago to acknowledge his role shortly before he died. That ended Watergate's mystery, and of course, marketability. However, in this case, at least there really was a conspiracy to speak of!
Popular conspiracies after these, most notably 9/11 "truthers" and the like, I don't regard as necessarily baby-boomer supported, but I respect the movement's objectives nonetheless.
Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and various other weird permutations of prehistoric nature in current settings have been around for, well, actually centuries. But their marketability probably peaked in the '70s. Here again, I'm not going to make any points about the validity of the claims, I'm merely recalling a time when it seemed so popular and real and so about-to-be-proven. Unfortunately, in recent years, many of the classic so-called "irrefutable cases" have been proven to be hoaxes, sometimes by deathbed confession, or just muddled judgement. Like so many mysteries with only fuzzy evidence, it's an open-ended question that can have no definitive answer (pending an examinable carcass), and thus can be marketed indefinitely. Please don't get me wrong, I respect the serious researchers in these fields and still hope something can be found! But when it's harder and harder to separate the "research" from the "publicity stunt to sell books and videos", the golden age of cryptozoology has passed, at least for this baby-boomer.
ESP, Pyramid-Power, Out-Of-Body Experiences, and many Occult fascinations were huge through the '70s and '80s and are still talked about today, but within a much more limited framework. Mostly overnight radio (of which I'm still a huge fan) and the occasional TV/cable special. Like the above-mentioned topics, all suffered from decades of oversell with no real return, and are mostly relegated to the New Age section of your local bookstore.
Which beings us to a topic suggested in this page's title. Doomsday scenarios or those with life-changing attributes have been steadily predicted for centuries. Just to name two, Nostradamus and Edgar Cayce both predicted the finding and/or rising of Atlantis (the former by 1999, I believe). Y2K, the moment when the world's computers would crash came and went without incident (though to be fair, that was a short-lived prediction). A thousand "psychics" for a hundred years have predicted millions of things that never came true. And various religious-based end-of-the-world predictions have never been accurate right up to and including this year's bruhaha.
The granddaddy of 'em all has got to be the much-ballyhooed Mayan calendar's "end of the age" on December 21st 2012. Though many researchers qualify that as the end of a millenial zodiac cycle, it didn't stop the exploitation of the date as a money-making venture foisted on a sensitive public who had become afraid -- through life-long media bombardment -- that the End Was Near. Even a movie by the name of "2012" became a runaway hit with this theme.
And after 2012? When nothing happens and we all go back to our lives on December 22nd? There are no more "classic" predictions lined up! It's all over.
I respect that a lot of younger people are following in our footsteps and I wouldn't want to deny them their fun at tracking the weird and outrageous. Go for it. But...the main market it was originally sold to over the past 50 years will be at or nearing retirement and probably realizing we'd all been had.
But, hey, though a little cynical now from the experience, I can also say it was great fun while it lasted!
"Nolan's Pop Culture Review" is ©2011 by Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2011 by Nolan B. Canova.
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