Representing youth: outside the sunken nursery
Late in Douglas Coupland’s Generation X (1992), the idea of youth is dwelled upon and a particular metaphor stands out: ‘youth really is… a sad evocative perfume built of many stray smells’ (Coupland 1992:134). To see youth as something built up, or constructed, of many ‘stray smells’ is to recognise it as a complex, differentiated ‘conjunction point for various discourses’ (Acland 1995: 10), all informed by race, class, power, gender and sexuality. Youth is one of the sites where these forces cross, mix and clash: ‘at a splendid crossroad where the past meets the future in a jumble of personal anxieties and an urgent need for social self-definition’ (Fass 1977:5). The nature of this collision has given rise to much debate and discussion of youth, its representations and its expressions, and this chapter will examine some of the issues raised by these arguments. What this chapter cannot do is to survey the field and examine youth from all viewpoints, but many of its arguments connect to other chapters in this book. The diversity of youth cultural practices and texts is a testament to the differences within the constructed label ‘youth’ and this chapter will reflect and explore some of these diverse responses.