So the other day I read in the paper that Ed Sheeran has recently broken the record for most tickets sold to a stadium tour of Australia. Ed sold an actual Million tickets, which dethroned Dire Straits’ 960,000 – a record held since 1986. This had me somewhat worried, I wasn’t sure I was kosher handing over such a significant record to a ‘new’ musician. This isn’t to lay claim to the position of absolute arbiter of what is and is not ‘good’ music – I was just unnerved to see a record held by a band I admired retreat into the future. Eventually I reminded myself that, in fact, I like Ed Sheeran. I own all 3 of his major albums and I probably sing his material in my ‘shower hit list’ more than I would like to admit. Still a small part of me felt somehow historically aggrieved that a piece of my cultural past seemed to have been diminished. I was raised on Dire Straits – I have precious few happy memories of my childhood, certainly not many involving those who would later become my abusers. One of the few strongly positive memories I have from my early days is the first time I heard Brothers in Arms. The sound of Knopfler’s iconic picking building a resonance deep inside me, that I still feel listening to the song today. Despite all this, I reminded myself that Ed Sheeran is both objectively good and, certainly based on my understanding of his career, entirely deserving of his success – I like everybody, love the rags to riches underdog stories.
I went to work that day and had a conversation about this record with many of my older colleagues and their responses fit largely into two categories. The first being those who didn’t really care for Dire Straits and thus were largely uninterested and the second being those who, like me, had a certain cultural nostalgia for ‘the good old days’. I mean there were others who were huge Sheeran fans and had actually attended the concert the previous night, but they are largely irrelevant to the point at hand… Those who were unimpressed that Ed had beaten out Knopfler almost universally appealed to the greater quality of Strait’s catalogue. Which is where the cracks started to form.
Flash forward to a fortnight later. I have just finished watching the 2017 remake of Power Rangers. Half of me is still buzzing uncontrollably from the opening of the films third act. Whereby fully CGI Zords have just run across the screen to the original western Power Rangers theme. The other half is struggling to understand the early stages of cognitive dissonance I felt setting in. When asked about the film’s quality I immediately, and unthinkingly, responded with ‘Shit’. But this answer did not satisfy me in the least. The film had been fun, light-hearted on the whole, but unafraid to meaningfully engage, or at the very least attempt to engage, with the struggles of being a teenager who for some reason does not fit a mould. I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was derivative in this sense though. Even going so far as to surmise the plot as – “The breakfast club become Power Rangers”. However, in many regards I preferred the Rangers, because what self-respecting geek wouldn’t prefer his teen coming of age drama to also feature a 100ft monster made of gold… in any case despite not really having enjoyed the bulk of the emotional material the film had to offer, I could see how a younger less confident version of me would have absolutely devoured it.
This was the uncomfortable moment where it all fell in to place for me. I had gotten old. There was now officially a noticeable cultural generation underneath me. I was no longer a member of ‘the youth’. This realisation hit me like a slap full across the face. Young was generally the first adjective I would use in any description of myself. So to realise that it was no longer us fully applicable as it had been a mere two hours before was shocking. But It made me realise that there was a beauty to this new positon, I could appreciate culture in a new way. More objectively than I had previously seen it, I could now look at emerging properties and trends that were not made for me.
Both Ed Sheeran and Power Rangers had shown me something that as I grow older my image of what is formative and relevant and classic needs to grow with me. Music and culture and art can be timeless – but that is an incredibly high bar to clear. Even the best art is likely just – very good. And as such will age and become less effective and affecting with time. The idea that 2017’s Power Rangers was just “The Breakfast Club, just as Rangers” highlights this for me more astutely than I would have first thought possible. The breakfast Club is a classic, but it has aged and that is not a tragedy it is a product of reality. Time changes all things and we too must change with them.
We continue to move forward as a culture and create new and exciting versions of the timeless tales we always have. Timelessness here represents not so much a film or piece of art that has transcended time but rather a story that is spun up from the collective unconscious every time it’s last iteration loses value or meaning. Instead of viewing this process with revulsion or fear I want to learn how to embrace it better, and I challenge you to do the same.