gender and generation x
gender and generation x
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"KRS's mission is to continue putting out exceptional records by important artists, and our tradition of being queer-positive, feminist, and artist-friendly continues as well. We are now distinguished by being one of the few female-run indie labels in the US, which we are proud of, but all that really means is get out there and start your record labels, ladies! At KRS we believe in doing it yourself, and we see our job as helping bands to realize their visions. In a culture that rewards making mediocre music with a quick buck, we feel lucky that we get to work with artists who challenge mediocrity on a regular basis. Plus we love the music. Enjoy!"
Girls Who Interrupt: Going Global with the Bad Girls of Generation X
by Christine Henseler (December 22, 2012)
(an imperfect essay to which I welcome your input, added comments and examples)
by Christine Henseler (December 22, 2012)
(an imperfect essay to which I welcome your input, added comments and examples)
“Generation X” is a label that both defines a demographic born roughly between 1960 and 1980 and a worldview that is culturally represented through characters who defy and cynically question social templates, who reside in subcultural or marginal spaces and/or indulge in commercial and popular culture as a means of identity and (political) expression. “Generation X” is a label whose marketing boost in the early 1990’s clearly defined a set of characteristics—of a disillusioned, nihilist, hedonist youth—most closely related to the fiction of Douglas Coupland, Richard Linklater’s cult film Slacker, and the grunge music of Nirvana. During this same period, writers all over the world added similar attributes to this emerging “X” ethos, including Australian Andrew McGahan, Icelandic author Hallgrímur Helgason, Scottish writer Irvine Welsch, and Spaniard José Ángel Mañas. Together they outlined a GenX experience based on boredom, indifference, violence, sexuality, drug addiction, and a strong taste for punk, grunge, rock, television, and film. In the minds of the general public, the stories they told gave birth to a label that was clearly created by and about men, with only a few exceptions found in popular US movies, such as Reality Bites (1994), Girl Interrupted (1999), and Prozac Nation (2001). Adding to this gender-bent picture has been a glaring absence of scholarly studies on gender and Generation X, although some important contributions have been made by authors such as Andrea Harris and Helen Shugart, among a few others. If, as Generation X Goes Global proposes, Generation X defines a demographic as much as a cultural expression, then where are all the women authors, artists, and filmmakers? And, more importantly, why are they not being talked about within a GenX framework?
Scholars who have concerned themselves with Generation X have largely left unattended the label's significance in relation to gender, and even class, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and nationality. My goal here is to stir up the age-old, male-infused GenX crockpot and add some spice to the final dish served to the academic and general public. The case studies I present below are just the beginning of a reconstruction of the Genx moniker through the eyes of several female writers, artists and directors from around the world. They include novelists Amèlie Nothomb from Belgium, Justine Ettler from Australia, Wei Hui and Mian Mian from China, and Spaniard Lucía Etxebarría. Spanning disciplines, I also examine the work of British visual artist Sarah Lucas and French film directors Virginie Despentes and Coralie Trinh Thi.
The visions and voices of these, according to the press, “bad girls” of their generation, connect across continents to shock, delight, ignore, anger, and piss off their audiences. Their range of expression crosses artistic genres and fans across a wide area of styles and topics, from horrific violence and pornography to romantic love and utterly light humor and sarcasm; from references to classical high art and literature to texts saturated with popular culture, from delightful expressions filled with lyrical poetry to flat and raw narrative style and content. Their use of hybrid aesthetic techniques project multiplicities and multiple selves, a sort of aesthetic outgrowth of the cohort’s “in-between” position—in-between the Baby Boomers and the Millennials. Their works vacillate radically between the spaces and signs afforded by their gendered location from below, the side, and the in-between. They emphasize process over product and they embrace the continuously moving potential of multiplicities, contradictions, questionings, and remixings. Most importantly, and unsurprisingly, close attention to body politics encase their differing relations to social expectations. They redefine and undermine Generation X’s male canonicity in significant ways, and they disrupt literary practices and expectations along the way. The common characteristics of their works emphasize the existence and importance of a worldwide phenomenon that redelineates and reevaluates the relationship between a female GenX consciousness and mainstream definitions of “Generation X”. It is time for these GenX bad girls to interrupt the male-centered ethos of Generation X. 
The Social Cruelty of the In-Between: Amélie Nothomb
Belgian author Amélie Nothomb (b. 1967) is one of the most successful Generation X writers known to Europe. Nothomb is an extremely popular, visible, and productive writer who has published a novel almost every year since 1992. Although a Belgian national, she was born in Japan and was raised in China, Bangladesh, Burma, Coventry and Laos, as well as in New York City, until she moved back to Belgium when she was seventeen years old. As such, she flatly rejects being categorized by gender or nationality. Her semi-autobiographical voice speaks in direct, clear, and colloquial speech patterns whose effects are often shocking in their simplicity. Her narrative has dark, pessimistic, at times absurd and horrific overtones and her works often confront established social and cultural patterns. For example, in her first novel, Hygiène de l’assassin (The Hygiene of the Assassin, 1992), the female protagonist interviews, confronts, and exposes a dying Nobel Prize-winning author’s deep-seated misogyny. In Stupeur et tremblement (Fear and Trembling, 1999), she follows the travails of a young girl’s nightmarish experience with cultural protocols while working at a Japanese firm. And in Acide Sulfurique (Sulphuric Acid, 2005), she takes reality television show’s desire for spectacle and blood to the extreme through a TV death camp that becomes a nation’s obsession.
A leader in contemporary “pop literature”--a term often used to define and undermine female Generation X texts--Nothimb's methods of contradiction and confrontation are rooted in a strong, present narrative fabulist voice that emphasizes her talent as a storyteller (Guyot-Bender 122). Her novels thrill the general public because they contort the most mundane into the bizarre, the popular into high literary and philosophical references; she blurs the real and the unreal, the normal and the abnormal, the attractive and the repulsive, the beautiful and the ugly, the abstract, the sublime and the grotesque with the earthly and the humane (Guyot-Bender 122). Her work destabilizes some of the most mundane experiences, pointing to an “endless metamorphosis” and a “competing attraction and repulsion” created through a deceptively simple linearity and lightheartedness, black humor and acidic, profane and orgiastic tones, and an “underlying narrative violence, wherein the virtuous flirts with the gruesome” (Guyot-Bender 121). These constant in between locations, meanings, and expectations are some of Nothomb’s most pronounced Generation X traits, for they disrupt language and question social norms in a way that both attracts and discomforts her readers. In addition, one of Nothomb’s most identifying characteristics is the power she infuses in her distrust of language. In “Nothomb’s Dialectic of the Sublime and the Grotesque,” Martine Guyot-Bender argues that the author’s public image and narrative voice constantly remind readers of the “illusionary nature of language: can’t trust it, but can’t live without it” (126). As a Generation X writer, she resides in the in-between, marginal, and hybrid spaces of literary and physical constructions that defy conventions by remixing them in continuously surprising guises.
Interesting to note in this context is that scholar Martine Guyot-Bender believes that Nothomb’s oevre projects the feeling of a “collection of contes cruel” given that she creates characters who, regardless of their initial situation in life, “eventually end up absurdly entangled in a web of uncontrollable abjection, horror, humiliation, and other types of sadomasochistic interactions with no real escape” (121). From this perspective, although displaying more nuance and mutation, her work falls in line with the concept of “social cruelty” presented in Spain by Eloy Fernández Porta and Vicente Muñoz Álvarez in their short story volume, Golpes: Ficciones de la crueldad social. Telling is the blurb on the Spanish book’s back cover that describes, “social cruelty” as a combination of forces and powers that result in the division of people as pop stars or objects of sadism. Subsequently, one could claim that Nothomb’s own characters and situations are less divisionary than they are multiple, contradictory, and eerily balanced, presenting one of the most powerful female examples of the movement between the extremes of popular culture and sadistic behavior. This never-settling movement does not deny inherent contradictions, but, in fact, embraces the unsettling multiplicity and disunity of the self in contemporary society. As such, Nothomb’s work presents one of the most astute and cynical takes on life and art, a perspective that nuances and gives contour to the more flat, although often socially sarcastic work of GenX tales by male writers like Bret Easton Ellis in Less Than Zero (1985) or Praise (1992) by Andrew McGahan.
“Sydney’s Empress of Grunge”: Justine Ettler
The feminist effect of a narrative that does not divide but rather unevenly teeters between pop and sadism is best embodied by the work of Australia’s “Empress of Grunge” writer Justine Ettler (b. 1960). Ettler belongs to a tradition of “grunge” authors who appeared on the literary scene in the 1990s and include figures such as Andrew McGahan, Fiona McGregor, and Neil Boyack. Theorized in Australia as a social protest movement, a reaction to the hegemony of capitalism, and a rebellious embodiment of the abject, grunge literature was generally interpreted as a manifestation of a disillusioned middle-class youth, its strategies residing in an unflinchingly real look at inner-city life through characters “in various states of boredom, alienation, and fragmentation” (Muller 152), characters drowning their paralysis in violence, drugs, sex, and alcohol.
Much like in Spain, China, or Australia the existence of a vast number of grunge novels led critics to categorize them as “dirty realist” and to disregard or ignore the novels’ literary quality and impact. This near-sighted perspective stalemated further critical inquiries by focusing on their representation of social malaise and individual paralysis rather than on wider, more complex cultural dynamics and generational values. Critics’ reference to the authors’ young age, use of colloquial language, swear words, and ugly depiction of urban life, all mirrored the discussions found in other countries during the same time period.
Most interesting in this context is Justine Ettler’s relationship to the work of Bret Easton Ellis, whose novels Less Than Zero (1985) and American Psycho (1991) may be considered one of the strongest influences on Generation X. In her novel The River Ophelia: An Uncompromising Love Story (1995), Ettler adopts Ellis’s work to dislodge readers by adopting an interventionist position through a female point of view. In her essay “Intervening in a Male-Dominated Field: The River Ophelia, the Brat Pack and Social Realism” Ettler admits to the deep effects left by reading Ellis’s novel. She says,
When I read American Psycho I couldn't help wondering what he would do if he had a female protagonist, instead of taking the male point of view. I couldn't help thinking, well what do these women feel? So part of my take on the Brat Pack was to write something from the point of view of a woman who is a victim. I thought of all the women Bateman chops up and kills and humiliates and wondered, well what's it like from their point of view? How do they act when
they go home and ring a lover and he's out fucking somebody else, or after they've been physically abused?
Her first intervention, as she calls it, consists in appropriating the brat pack writing style and subject, and adopting a woman’s point of view. Her main character, Justine, narrates scenes filled with sexual violence, abuse, and pleasure, as in this first scene in which, “Sade grabbed me and started tearing all my clothes off. He kissed me hard and I tasted blood in my mouth. He dragged me to my bed and ripping my underpants in half pushed me down on the bed and fucked me plunging right in up to the hilt so that it hurt. My head hit the bed-head with each thrust. (11). Her second intervention links the more violent and pornographic work of Ellis to his forefathers, Bataille, Sade and even Shakespeare. Her approach here is more mythical and theoretical in the sense that she subverts “a kind of lineage of texts that have argued that sex and violence, desire and power, are at the heart of our culture” (Ettler). But her intervention is also literary, she says, because, like the brat packers, she confines her intertexts solely to popular culture and subjects her literary allusions to a female perspective meant to undermine and question male heterosexuality.
In The River Ophelia, Ettler plays with popular, classical and technological discourses and its textual effects on female heterosexual identity. She transposes “the Marquis de Sade’s Justine and Juliette and the pre-Raphaelite river Ophelia of Millais to a contemporary urban culture” (Kay). Her novel describes the underbelly of urban life through female characters that she presents as weak, obsessive, dependent, and victimized, yet with moments of clear sexual agency. Her narrative style is raw and colloquial, presenting readers with a repertoire of sexual fantasies and enactments of everyday life that teeter between excitement and boredom. Bringing to mind Andy Warhol’s philosophy on sameness, her every day scenes of sex, drug, and boredom, “have the same currency, the same weightiness, which is to say they are at once negligible and unbearably burdensome” (Kay).
The flat narrative plot of The River Ophelia questions the construction of female identity by scrutinizing power relations and the dominance of heterosexual systems. She allows male “dominance” to (literally) tear up the female (physical) experience and point of view. In the five sections of the novel, titled “Sade,’ “Ophelia,” “Hamlet,” “Juliette,” and “Justine,” she conducts a significant hybrid move toward alternative genres, namely the psychological thriller, the romance genre, and the use of excerpts of a diary and conversations with therapists. With each entry, the story takes on new dimensions, and relativizes the victimization that she presents at the onset of the text. Echoing Nothomb, Ettler explains that the effect of her genre hybridity is meant to, “dislodge some of the authority that novels, and society at large lend to psychoanalysis and psychological interpretations of behaviour: if every recital of the story is different, then all that's left to interpret is language” (Ettler “Intervening”).
Language is what smacks readers in the face as fucking, vomiting, cursing, cutting, bleeding, hurting, dying and drowning add a shockingly vulgar component to the physicality and smell of this grunge novel. Ettler’s explicit physical detail coincides with Generation X’s tendency to pronounce the effects of bodily fluids, sicknesses, and addictions. When women writers adopt what I would call Generation X’s slight toward “urban naturalism” (a term I deem more appropriate than “dirty realism”), with a violent twist and a woman’s point of view, they are more likely than their male colleagues to be ostracized for using a language unbecoming of young women. As such, this grunge writer’s narrative speaks directly to a forlorn social blankness regarding women’s explicit attention to biology.
Reality Roads Rule: Virginie Despentes and Coralie Trinh Thi
Two of the badest of girls on the GenX scene are French film directors Virginie Despentes (b. 1969) and Coralie Trinh Thi (b. 1976). In the year 2000, they produced a film called Baise-Moi [Rape Me] (2000), adapted from a novel by Despentes of the same title, that left viewers breathless in its cold and angry violence by two female protagonists. Despentes is not your traditional novelist or filmmaker. She worked multiple jobs as a maid, a prostitute, as pornographic film critic, in a record store and as a freelance rock journalist. Her writing is just as manifold given that she has written songs as well as novels, blogs that intersect journal writing with journalism, a documentary called Mutantes (Feminist Porn Punk), which was aired on TV Pink, and a non-fiction book titled King Kong Theory, which recounts the critical fallout of Baise-Moi and her experience working in the French sex industry, as a prostitute.
While Despentes may be a GenX bad girl in the extreme, she vehemently denies having Baise-Moi called an exploitation tale about “bad girls in dirty pictures” (Kelly). Her response to an interviewer clearly indicates her level of awareness of the position of women on and off the screen, exclaiming that:
It is so pathetic that we still talk about “bad girls in dirty pictures” movies. How would you call the movies with bad boys carrying big guns and flirting with girls? Regular cinema? Entertainment? So one gender has to justify “that was not just an exploitation tale” and the other gender just take the gun, the violence, the sex - the greatest thing in cinema industry - and no one ever asks any questions about that prerogative. Fine. Baise-moi has nothing to do with “bad girls”, it is a low budget, punk, violent movie. Forget the tits and cunts, for one second. The key words here should be: gun, death, fake blood. Not “pussy pussy pussy”. We did not know people would be so amazed about the “pussy pussy pussy” angle. I don’t care those two characters have cunts. They are archetypes: violent outcasts. Should not be always defined by them having cunts. (Kelly)
Despentes explains that when she directed Baise-Moi on a tiny budget, her goal was not to present her female characters in ways that were censored or shaped by their bodies. Instead, she wanted to make a punk movie with strong emotions expressed through anger, since for her, “anger is not depression, anger is working with desire and humour. Anger is destructive, but very active” (Kelly). And so she told the story of two women, Nadine, a prostitute, and Manu, a slacker who has been gang raped. They both kill two men and decide to go on a killing spree while enjoying each other’s company, dancing in their underwear, having sex with strangers, and drinking. They go on a violent spree against society by traveling from place to place, killing random strangers, rebelling against sexual and physical norms of conduct, and in the end, at a beach, being killed (Manu) and arrested (Nadine) by the police. Their story is one of violence and negation, of a search and destruction of identity that rebels against mainstream and male society, but effectively leaves death, emptiness, and male heteronormality behind. And in the process, the film “[co-opts] the road movie’s masculinist ideals” (Heller-Nicholas 165) through the friendship of two women who discuss their own construction as atypical avengers in ways that make viewers aware of the film’s subversive motifs (Heller-Nicholas 166).
While the religious-right placed so much pressure on the government that it banned the film in France, film critics were divided in their reactions: on one hand they saw the film as terrifying and considered it a “mongrel movie,” “undeniably repellent” (Heller-Nicholas 164). On the other hand critics recognized its feminist trangressional character citing its power in shifting “the existing male dominance of explicit sexual imagery [to] what society defines as pornography from the margins to the mainstream” (Heller-Nicholas 164). In line with this shifting performance, critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas explains that one of the most powerful qualities about this film, the one that adds to the female GenX consciousness I am trying to outline here, is that these characters could not be placed into a pre-determined role but rather shifted between spaces and emotions. Despentes emphasized this shifting quality when she said: “I think what is important in our movie is that for me, for the first time, you can see a girl having sex and being a slut and then laughing and then having fun and then being violent and angry and then being stupid” (166).
Despite differences in reception, Heller-Nicholas, in her book on Rape-Revenge Films, motions to one quality that all critics could agree on, and that was its new kind of energy, an energy that one critic identified as “rather fun and refreshingly innocent in its cinematic strategies. If it’s sensationally confused, it’s also energetically driven” (164-65). It is this energy that I believe to be a particularly important element in the GenX context. What makes this piece an insightful Generation X example is less its cold-blooded violence than its technique, as seen in the film’s use of hand-held digital cameras, natural lighting, and unsimulated sex, all, often, accompanied by loud punk music. Leading roles were played by former porn actresses Karen Bach and Raffaëla Anderson and included real sexual acts, even during the graphic rape scene. These methods spoke directly to GenX’s emphasis on the real-life effects of violence, drugs, alcohol, and sex, as well as urban street life, nightlife, and crime, as may be seen in Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho (1991) or Tesis (1996) by Spaniard film director Alejandro Amenábar. On a televisiual level, the rise of a reality-based consciousness and stylistics (as found in Richard Linklater’s GenX film Slacker) presented women as not necessarily pretty, not always on their best behavior, and not always kind or in control. In fact, the road rage found in Baise-Moi feeds directly into the craze of reality-based media entertainment as first popularized by MTV through shows such as “Road Rules.” The rules that Despentes and Trinh Thi break on this particular visual road is one that literally defies artistic conventions through real-life performances. The film disrupts the clear divisions previously imposed on the experience of reality and the construction of fiction by and about women. And as such, their punk veritée aesthetic, as Heller-Nicholas calls it, makes Despentes and Trinh Thi two of the badest of girls on the GenX scene.
Brit Art’s Bad Girl Goes Au Naturel: Sarah Lucas
Going au naturel may be one of the best ways to characterize female Generation X aesthetics; a natural/raw/pure state certainly presents a powerful perspective from which to integrate popular culture into a particularly faXionable rendition of “the real.” To engage in this performance, I travel to Great Britain’s visual art scene where Sarah Lucas (b. 1962) was originally designated the country’s BritArt “bad girl.” Lucas emerged from the Young British Artists group of the 1990s. Her work is associated with the ‘coolness’ of Pop Art, tabloid culture and use of everyday materials and ready-mades to redefine the way we look at and think about sex and gender. On a personal level, Lucas often presents herself in androgynous unisex clothing and short hair, and in her work she undermines sexual stereotypes found in art history by presenting women as ordinary, provocative, deliberately androgynous, crude, and obscene. As such, Lucas’s artwork translates and challenges academic language and theory through innuendos rooted in the vernacular, and she translates street slang into physical form, and anger and embarrassment into humor and parody (Malik), as seen in her photographic self-portrait on a toilet smoking a cigarette titled “Human Toilet Revisited” (1998) or the sculpture of a middle finger called “Receptacle of Lurid Things (1991).”
In 1994 Lucas produced an exhibit titled Au Naturel, a French expression meaning “of nature,” “in the raw,” or “pure.” Au Naturel is a crossover installation between art and popular culture. The show opposed official culture and art criticism by displaying minimalist grunge aesthetics with a sense of lightness centered on material culture and vernacular innuendos. In the piece that provided the title to the show, Au Naturel, Lucas uses a mattress, melons, oranges, a cucumber, and a bucket to present male and female body parts. By representing the body through fruits and objects, Lucas focuses on sex and sexuality in a way that both satirizes and “destroys any emotional or sentimental connection to the body” (Malik 7). Her use of domestic materials of human scale to defy art history’s attention to the more male-defined materials related to industrialization, such as metal or wood, clearly plays with high art’s relationship to material objects and their gendered connotations (Malik 18). Fruits and vegetables rot in open air and “[evoke] decay, disintegration and liquification” (Malik 18), in need of constant replenishment and connection to the world outside of the gallery (Malik 18). The traditional notion of “stasis,” as in the notion that art pieces remain in a gallery for a long period of time, is quite literally undermined by the pieces’ need for constant renewal, its reference to circularity and temporality, emphasizing the transformative qualities of the human body (such as aging) and its physical (sexual and menstrual) needs and desires (Malik 30). Lucas asks her viewers not only to question the static canvas, but also to recognize her work’s finite existence.
In a series of “Tabloids” reminiscent of Andy Warhol’s reproductions of news events, such as his orange car crash series, Lucas uses images from Britain’s trashiest tabloids, such as The Daily Sport or The News of the World, to project the banality of the sexualized and marginalized images of women in consumer culture. But, as Malik indicates, “sexuality is not in itself the subject of the [works], but a mechanism by which the borders of culture as a colonization of the interior self is frequently manifested” (57). In addition, she problematizes tabloid’s notions of a popular low-brow consciousness in her use of shock, outrage and disbelief. In Sod you Gits, Fat, Forty and Flabulous, and Penis Nailed to a Board, Lucas shows a series of marginal female images—an overweight woman, a dwarf—and of sadistic men as abject others meant to unsettle the male gaze and replace high cultural values with sensationalism, with that which displays no cultural value at all (Malik 59-61).
Lucas’s absorption of the low, the quotidian, and the banal suggests a self-conscious subversion of the sophistication associated with the French title to her show Au Naturel. Her work questions the natural as a construction of institutional visions from above by adopting a confrontational position that, nonetheless, is presented through an objective lens often defined by the word “coolness.” As the interesting work of art historian Amna Malik explains, as an artist educated in Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis and feminism, Lucas surprisingly does not adopt an outright feminist critical position but presents a more detached approach to gender and sexuality, a detached, seemingly emotionless lens that can be likened to GenX works, such as Ellis’s Less Than Zero. Through a deadpan sense of humor, Lucas presents viewers with bodies and objects of consumption that unsettle notions of femininity and masculinity and assimilate any perceived divisions between high art and advertising. in Lucas’s work, summarizes Malik, “the oscillation between ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ positions of humour is a ruse, a strategy to pull out the representation of sex from an overtly sexual subject and to leave it, as it were, rolling around on the gallery floor, metaphorically clutching its stomach in laughter at the absurdity of it all” (91). In Lucas’s art, as may also be found in the fiction of Spaniard Lucía Etxebarria, humor or laughter, becomes “a release of the body’s conformity to codes of behaviour and established rituals” (85). Lucas’s work unsettles any specific subject positions adopted by the viewers—moving in and out of use-value and meaning” (Malik 87)—and emphasizes play “as a structure rather than a form of behaviour" (85). Her art adds a lightness that is possibly meant to move beyond the weight and confines of traditional theory (85). “Lightness” in this context, provides a powerful feminist tone from which to understand these “pop,” “light” or “decaffeinated” works (characteristics often applied to both male and female GenX art and fiction), a “lightness” that quickly dissolves into the questions our knowing laughter incites.
Rocking Around Chinese Tradition: Wei Hui and Mian Mian
The lightness of being a GenX woman in China emerged as throught the term xin xin renlei, literally meaning “new new human beings” (a telling spin-off of Douglas Couplands’ Japanese shinjinrui, or new human beings). The male version of China’s Generation X was categorized as “hooligan literature” or “punk” (pizi wenxue), and was best represented by writer Wang Shuo. On the female front, Wei Hui (b. 1973) author of Shanghai Baby, (2000), and Mian Mian (b. 1970), author of Candy, (2003), were dubbed the “Beauty Writers” (meinü zuojia) because of critics' emphasis on the authors' personal appearance rather than the quality or content of their fiction. Attention to their works shifted critics' perception of beauty to bad, banning their novels in China in the year 2000. They were censored by the state and considered “distasteful, immoral, and harmful” (Lu 168). The government criticized the authors' unabashed expression and description of sexuality, drug use, adulterous affairs, and prostitution. Their critiques perfectly mirrored those in Spain, the Czech Republic, Russia, or Chile in which female and male authors emerged after dictatorial regimes and contended with the clashing conditions of traditional societies merging with contemporary consumer cultures. For this reason, their works were both enthusiastically embraced by young readers while rejected by the male establishment as examples of flat presentism selling out to Western consumer capitalism.
Born in the 1970s, neither Wei Hui nor Mian Mian had any historical memory of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Their adolescent experiences were fully determined by China’s open-door policy and modernization plans (Lu 168). Their urban literature was more influenced by North American popular culture than by traditional or national Chinese culture (Lu 169), thus embodying a shift from the Chinese writer as “the ‘architect of the soul’ and conscience of the people’ to a deliberately anti-intellectual figure who appeared in the wake of consumerism and commercialization” (Lu 168). This cultural change is readily apparent in the all-Western references included in Hui’s novel Shanghai Baby. Each of the short chapters begin with a quote from North American writers, thinkers and artists, from William Burroughs to Nietzsche and Bob Dylan. The narrative style combines textual and musical registers steeped in popular rock culture in seemingly flat, raw, and unusually uncut prose of sexual adventures. This inclusion of Western registers is perhaps best represented by the moment in which the protagonist undertakes a final check of her boyfriend’s luggage and finds, "a cartoon of Ted Lapidus cigarettes (you can only get them at specialist outlets in Shanghai), Gillette razors, mouthwash, five pairs of white underpants and seven pairs of black socks, a Discman, Dylan Thomas’ selected poems, Salvador Dalí’s diary, a filmography of Alfred Hitchcock and a framed a picture of us" (91). Western products and popular culture do not only infuse and intertwine with the character’s personal histories, but womanhood is also quite literally seduced by the West in the shape of the protagonist’s German lover, Marc. Commercial culture becomes the site for multiple and differing sexual identity constructions as the main character, Coco’s, process of dressing up or down reappears throughout the novel, expressing her self in passive and active states of mind through clothes.
In line with the narrative’s construction of gender identity in a world of global commercial flows, Shanghai Baby includes in its midst a metafictional awareness of the protagonist’s location in time and space. Coco works as a novelist working on a semi-autobiographical book and her intelligent observations are psychologically charged and culturally and socially aware, as when she observes that, “This is a unique Asian city. Since the 1930s it has preserved a culture where China and the West met intimately and evolved together, and now it has entered its second wave of westernization” (25). In line with Douglas Coupland’s defining novel, Generation X, her comments on the changing dynamics of China in the 1990s are sociological in character, often self-defying, ironic, cynical, and clearly portraying a scene of increasing cultural hybridity. The urban, multi-cultural collàge in Shanghai Baby consists of a colorful gathering of middle to upper class individuals, often independently wealthy, of all sexual orientations, sporting designer chic in nightclubs and gallery openings, and pertaining as much to the margins of society as to the mainstream. At the same time, her descriptions appear highly stereotyped, suggesting either cultural naiveté or an urban scene that is just beginning to understand and come to terms with western cultural influences.
If Shanghai Baby gives a GenX rendition of an alternative and westernized Chinese middle-to-upper class youth, then Mian Mian’s novel Candy may be considered Wei Hui’s grungy cousin portraying a life in Shanghai’s underground world of prostitution and crime. Candy’s prose is less refined (at least in the English translation) than in Shanghai Baby, and the characters are addicted to men, heroine, alcohol, and music. The story is delivered through a psychologically unstable female character whose life experiences are filled with contradictions about how she views the world, her lovers, her self, and is viewed by others. Contradiction defines this character’s identity for in one instant she expresses her belief in eternal romantic love, in the next she attempts to kill her boyfriend or is violently raped. Death and dying, boredom and gloom, a search for meaning in an environment that portrays the underbelly of Shanghai’s world, clearly connects this novel to the Brat Packers and to grunge literature worldwide, in particular to Justine Ettler’s work in Australia. Together, Shanghai Baby and Candy present a dichotomous relationship between popular culture and grunge, two cultural expressions of the same coin that change the gendered currency of Generation X.
Remixing Generation X: Spain's Lucía Etxebarria
Lucía Etxebarria has been called everything from a “chica mala” [bad girl], to an “angry young woman" and a “Spice Girl de nuestra narrativa contemporánea” [Spice Girl of our contemporary narrative]. Etxebarría has been angry, aggressive, and loud about the plight of women and women writers in Spain, and she has been humorous, sarcastic, and playful in her embrace of commercial and popular culture as significant sites of feminine identity formation. Her narrative is as humorous as it is raw and direct, it is as self-reflexive as it is sociological, it reaches into the past of woman’s mythical precursors (as in her use of the mythical figures of Eve and Lilith) and toward cybernetic futures, as most clearly visualized on the cover of her book La eva futura/La letra futura (The Future Eve/The Future Letter, 2003). If her hybrid cultural convergences and remixings (or, as some have accused her of, plagiarism) are any indication, Etxebarría is a true Generation X’er on many levels. Etxebarria was born in 1966. She speaks English and French fluently, she has lived and traveled abroad, and she has worked for multinationals, magazines, advertising firms, has translated books, and has appeared in films. Her early novels flow over in references to the more punk and grunge-oriented alternative scenes of Nirvana, Courtney Love, Tarantino, techno, dance, and Jack Kerouac. Her first book publication was tellingly titled La historia de Kurt y Courtney: Aguanta esto (The History of Kurt and Courtney: Take This, 1994), reedited in 2004 as Courtney y Yo (Courtney and I). She has noted the direct influence of Elizabeth Wurzel’s novel Prozac Nation and Brat-Pack’s female contributor, Tama Janowitz’s short story collection, Slaves of New York (1986). Both appear as strong intertextual references in her first two novels, Amor, curiosidad, prozac y dudas (Love, curiosity, prozac and doubts, 1996) and Beatriz y los cuerpos celestes (Beatriz and the Celestial Bodies, 1998).
Etxebarria has been vocal about the connections between Generation Xers like herself and the social significance of its label. In the essay “Qué nos arrastra a todos a este infierno: una mirada crítica sobre los noventa [What is it that pulls us all toward this Hell: A Critical Look at the Nineties],” Etxebarría turns to the over-hyped suicide of Kurt Cobain as a symbol of alternative identity construction. For Etxebarria, Nirvana’s song “Smells Like Teen Spirit” defined an entire era in Spain. Spinning off of the influence of Douglas Coupland’s novel, she believes that what appeared in Spain as GenX/slacker culture, a resistance to leave the family household, lack of interest to find work, and a general philosophical laziness, was the effect of a world that was not speaking the same language of her generation. She suggests that previous social models did not appeal to GenX’ers because they did not speak to their ideologies and real relations to family, religion, politics, or economics (125-27). This lack of understanding between generations was particularly acute in Spain where conservative and patriarchal models of behavior were still highly prevalent in the post-dictatorial period of the 1980s and 1990s.
For Etxebarria, the grunge movement and nevermind attitude born in Seattle reacted against the divide between mainstream ideologies and commercial culture and the feelings of a disenfranchised group of youth. When grunge arrived in Spain, she says, it had already metamorphosed into a movement that attracted rich yuppies playing beggars in Levi jeans, much like in the work of the male GenX author par excellance, José Ángel Mañas. Etxebarria believes that Cobain’s death embodied the psychological state of youth in the US and Spain: one that she sums up with the word “despair” (130-31). For Etxebarria, the negative effect of this despair was found in part in 1990s drug culture. Generation X was the first group that matured under the belief that any problem could be solved with drugs: “Te deprimes, tomas prozac. No te pones, Viagra al canto” [You get depressed, take prozac. You can’t get a hard-on. Viagra to the rescue] (134-35). Translated into narrative practices, her characters escape and trip on a variety of drugs, from ecstasy to coke and heroine. But contrary to her male colleagues, the drugs in her novels parallel with the negative psychological effects of woman’s position in society. The prozac in Amor also clearly points to one of her favorite female authors, Elizabeth Wurzel, perhaps the most well-known North American Generation X author of the 1990s. The overall theme of Wurzel’s Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America (1994), heavily influenced by Sylvia Plath and Bob Dylan, speaks to the social malaise of society as a whole and the psychological effects of the questioning of social/familial conventions in Etxebarría’s texts.
Spanish author Lucía Etxebarria believes that the appearance of new models of womanhood, often condemned to culturally subcultural or marginal status, like Madonna, Sharon Stone, Courtney Love, the self-portraits of Cindy Sherman, and the cyber-super heroine Lara Croft, have allowed for alternative female role models of identification (154). Enveloped in heterosexual discourse, but attracting the lesbian eye, these women have played with what Etxebarria identifies as an essential artistic component of the last century: appropriation, the process of integrating foreign codes to transform future messages (155). Etxebarria recognizes that the art of the twentieth century consists in decontextualization. This method allows her to transmit to the world at large a message “en el que puedo plasmar todo lo que me rodea, todo lo que yo soy, todo lo que podré llegar a ser” [into which I can shape everything that surrounds me, all that I am, all that I can be] (273). This proclamation refers both to aesthetic production as well as to feminist positioning; it is a world defined by the remixing possibilities of bits and pieces in the construction of a new, more inclusive landscape for the X Generation.
In Etxebarría’s novels and books of essays, the process of appropriation centers not on one stable figure or image, but rather on the constantly changing and metamorphosing, mutating, and converging notion of subjectivity. The process includes multiplicity, contradiction, individuality, and a materiality closely connected to social reality since her work, and that of other GenX women, “está comprometida con la realidad…yo lo que hago es realismo puro y duro” [my work…is committed to reality…what I do is pure and hard realism] (Etxebarría). Etxebarría’s work is determined by a fluid approach to the construction of the self, whether she spins stories through short stories, novels, essays, blog entries or Facebook. As one of the characters in Amor so eloquently summarizes through the trope of music: “Me diluyo en música, me borro, me extiendo, me transformo, me vuelvo líquida y polimorfa” [I dissolve into music, I erase myself, I extend myself, I transform myself, I become liquid and polymorphous] (35). Music becomes a source of inspiration, identification, and cultural transformation that not only redefines and remixes female identity, but also questions, undermines, and asks us to rewrite the mono-dimensional male map of Generation X.
Remapping Generation X
To remap Generation X within a critical paradigm, I end by turning to Italian philosopher Rosi Braidotti and her work on Nomadic Subjects: Embodiment and Sexual Difference in Contemporary Feminist Theory. This turn is not meant as a full-fledged theoretical framework to this essay, but rather as a few suggestive (moving) points of contact. What I enjoy about the work of Braidotti is that in line with the cross- or transcultural approach to Generation X that I present here, she rethinks feminist practices within transnational mobile parameters that locate subjectivity within the more material and differentiated experiences of individual bodies. In the spirit of the GenX cases described above, she views the body as less essentialist than as a “site of multiple, complex, and potentially contradictory sets of experiences defined by overlapping variables such as class, race, age, lifestyle, sexual preference, and others” (4). To define these multiplicities, Braidotti uses the image of the “nomadic subject” as one that refers less to physical displacement, than to the subversion of a set of conventions (5).
This subversion of conventions can be best understood in the case of female Xers by focusing on the function and form of their cultural products. The above case studies provide ample evidence not only of the defiance of conventions and “place” allotted to women (independent of their class, race, sexual preference, or lifestyle), but also of their powerful embrace of the physicality of the “in between.” The “in-between” becomes the perfect trope to understand Generation X’ers historical location in between the Baby Boomers and the Millennials, in between woman’s good girl and bad girl image, in between high and low linguistic registers and genres. In sum, female X’ers physicality of the in-between is literally embodied through a self-conscious approach to language, a disruption of literary and artistic traditional practices and stereotypes, and close attention and description of woman’s biology and anatomy.
The above X’ers simultaneous rejection and emphasis on the female body suggests that the “impure,” the bloody, hurtful, ugly, repulsive, horrific, cruel, sadistic, victimized and pornographic, can and must coexist with the beautiful, sublime, strong, flirtatious, light, humorous, popular, and fashionable (the above-presented dichotomy between sadism and pop). In Baise Moi, a raw expression of reality is expressed through unsimulated sex acts that unsettle viewer’s touched-up relation to the female body (in advertising and film, for example); the use of minimalist techniques in the artwork of Sarah Lucas strips the body of socially constructed beauty artifacts and questions the temporality of its physicality. In the work of Ettler, Mian and Etxebarría, drugs and alcohol function not only to strip the body of dignity, to relate the dirty, contaminated, inebriated, but also to pronounce their relationship between the body, society, and identity. A current case in point includes the huge success—over one million copies sold in Germany with over 23 translation rights worldwide—of the British-born, German writer Charlotte Roche (b. 1978). Her book Feuchtgebiete [Wetlands] (2008) attests to female Xer’s continued appropriation of anatomically explicit material to engage with subverting stereotypes and expectations regarding female identity and agency.
While for most critics Generation X remains, and will always retain the dirty, the addicted, or the bored, the meaningless and the flat, a closer study of the female GenX repertoire converges texts and bodies in a dynamic dialogue that adds physical contour to a male-conceived consciousness of Generation X. The work of female Generation X authors, visual artists, and directors coincides in many regards with the aesthetic approach of their male colleagues. Their themes center on an urban experience filled with sex, drugs, alcohol, and the boredom of everyday life; violence and explicit sexuality is common; western popular culture saturates their discourse, their tones are often cynical, sarcastic, and humorous, and their linguistic register is crude, colloquial, and flat. But contrary to the case of male X’ers like McGahan or Mañas, woman’s discourse may rarely be interpreted as apolitical. Female X’ers fluidly undo what Braidotti calls “the illusory stability of fixed identities” (15) by retaking and remaking traditional male voices and institutions and intertwining the unwrapped female body in the process. For example, Ettler rewrites the work of Bret Easton Ellis from a woman’s perspective and Despentes and Trinh Thi redetermine the road and rage movie genre in their own image and liking. In sum, their political agendas, in the words of Braidotti, are constituted by “disengaging the sedentary nature of words, destabilizing commonsensical meanings, deconstructing established forms of consciousness” (15), and, in real GenX fashion, spitting them all back into readers faces.
Braidotti uses the image of the polyglot to unravel the security and familiarity that comes with the notion of a fixed identity, suggesting that the term “polyglot” may not only refer to an individuals’ ability to manipulate several languages and cultures, but also to refer to “the condition of people who are in transit within their most familiar tongue” (15). The image of the polyglot works especially well in this context given that we are literally talking about women who write and live in different countries, yet whose generational consciousness (independent of nationality) joins to speak one language. The cultural products of these GenX “polyglots” literally embody a fluidity of linguistic and cultural registers that unsettle readers’ expectations by juxtaposing voices, perspectives, and genres. The result is a linguistic multiplicity and hybridity that simultaneously expands and implodes in upon itself. The above X writers, artists, and filmmakers present a gender politics in which their physical and psychological reality is inherently related to their linguistic and visual relation to the world. Their, on one hand flattening or stripping down of language, material, and fabric, has direct impact on the presentation of the female body au naturel. On the other hand, their multiplication of linguistic genres and registers is directly reflected in the pop/sadism dichotomy through which many of these women present themselves and their characters.
To be a GenX polyglot inherently means being an individual who can cross boundaries. This crossing is presented as a verb, as a verb rooted in the actions of process and change. For Braidotti, the “female nomad” is a framing metaphor for a contemporary subjectivity beset by the process of production and reproduction. This subjectivity allows for a greater awareness of the power of signification, or in her words, of “figuration” as located in a fluid reappropriation of the old and new. The female nomad shifts through what she calls “the stock of accumulated images, concepts, and representations of women, of female identity, such as they have been codified by the culture in which we live” (169). The recognition and appropriation of this “stock” of material to create new modes of female subjectivity is inherently determined by more metamorphosing and contradicting models of womanhood, as in the case of Etxebarria’s reference to Lara Croft and Courtney Love, and Braidotti’s own reference to the artwork of Cindy Sherman, in particular her “History Portraits,” to point to the representation of a multiplicity of new and other female subjectivities. The process is one of remixing, rather than rejecting, locating feminist agency between shifts, transitions, and repetitions (Braidotti 170).
The case studies I present above remix critics male-centered conception of “Generation X.” A more nomadic approach to the study of Generation X suggests that woman’s transnational and polyglot contributions both subvert and expand our understanding of the “X” moniker. In this essay, the historical portraits that linger in the GenX halls of fame, from Douglas Coupland to Richard Linklater and Nirvana, are interrupted by the “bad girls” of Generation X to take stock of a more comprehensive generational consciousness. More than their male counterparts the work of female Generation X’ers from around the world actively straddle contradictory and contested in-between spaces. The girls who interrupt and erupt in the pages of this essay realize that being “bad” does not imply being X’d out of their generational history.
Braidotti, Rosi. Nomadic Subjects: Embodiment and Sexual Difference in Contemporary Feminist Theory. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994. Print.
Brooks, Karen. “Shit Creek, Suburbia, Abjection and in Australian ‘Grunge’ Fiction.” Australian Literary Studies 18.4 (1998): 87-100. Print.
Despentes, Virginie. Baise Moi. New York: Distribooks, 2002. Print.
---. Bye Bye Blondie. Paris: Livre de Poche, 2006. Print.
---. King Kong Theory. New York: The Feminist Press at CUNY, 2010. Print.
---. Les Jolies Choses. Paris: Editions J’Ai Lu, 2000. Print.
---. Teen Spirit. New York: Ud-Union Distribution, 2004. Print.
Ellis, Bret Easton. . American Psycho. New York: Vintage Books, 1991. Print.
---. Less Than Zero. London: Simon and Shuster, 1985. Print.
Ettler, Justine. “Intervening in a Male-Dominated Field: The River Ophelia, the Brat Pack and Social Realism” Hecate 21. 2 (1995): 61. Print.
---. Marilyn’s Almost Terminal Ne w York Adventure. Reinbek, Germany: Rowohlt Publishing, 1999. Print.
---. The River Ophelia: An Uncompromising Love Story. Sydney: Picador, 1995. Print.
Etxebarria, Lucía. Amor, curiosidad, prozac y dudas. Barcelona: Plaza & Janés, 1997. Print.
---. Beatriz y los cuerpos celestes. Barcelona: Destino, 1998. Print.
---. Courtney y yo. Memoria de un capítulo cerrado 1994-2004. Madrid: Espasa, 2004. Print.
---. La Eva futura/La letra futura. Barcelona: Destino, 1998. Print.
Guyot-Bender, Martine. “Nothomb’s Dialectic of the Sublime and the Grotesque.” Novels of the Contemporary Extreme. Ed. Alain Philippe-Durand and Naomi Mandel. New York: Continuum, 2008. 121-30. Print.
Harris, Andrea L. “Generation XX: The Identity Politics of Generation X.” GenXegesis: Essays on Alternative Youth (Sub)culture. Ed. John Ulrich and Andrea L. Harris. New York: Popular Press, 2003. 268-97. Print.
Heller-Nicholas, Alexandra. Rage-Revenge Films: A Critical Study. Jefferson, N.C., McFarland, 2011. Print.
Hui, Wei. Shanghai Baby. Trans. Bruce Humes. New York: Washington Square Press, 1999.
Kaysen, Susanna. Girl, Interrupted. New York: Vintage Books, 1994.
Kay, Ferres. “Justine Ettler: The River Ophelia.” Hecate 21.2 (1995): 72. Print.
Kelly, Alan. “Virginie Despentes Interviewed.” 3:AM Magazine. May 5, 2009. Web. August 28, 2011. < http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/virginie-despentes-interviewed/>
Leishman, Kirsty. “Australian Grunge Literature and the Conflict Between Literary Generations.” Journal of Australian Studies 23.65 (1999): 94-102. Print.
Lu, Sheldon H. “Popular Culture and Body Politics: Beauty Writers in Contemporary China.” Modern Language Quarterly 69:1 (March 2008): 167-85. Print.
Malik, Amna. Sarah Lucas: Au Naturel (One Work). Cambridge, MA.: MIT, 2009. Print.
Mañas, José Ángel. Historias del Kronen. Barcelona: Destino, 1995. Print.
McGahan, Andrew. 1988. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1998. Print.
---. Praise: A Novel. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1992. Print.
McInerney, Jay. Bright Lights, Big City. New York: Vintage Contemporaries, 1984. Print.
Mian Mian. Candy. Trans. Andrea Lingenfelter. New York. Little, Brown, and Company, 2003. Print.
Muller, Vivienne. “Waiting for Gordon – Grunge Realism and Andrew McGahan’s Praise.” Images of the Urban: Conference Proceedings. (1997): 152-56. Print.
Munarriz, Miguel. “Lucía Etxebarría: ‘No Hay chicas malas y chicas buenas.” El Mundo. April 25 1999): 63. Print.
Newall Rademacher, Virginia. The Art of Seduction: Truth or Fanfiction in the World of Lucia Etxebarria’s Online “Friends” and the Blogosphere. Hispanic Issues On line. Forthcoming. Web.
Nothomb, Amèlie. Fear and Trembling. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2002.
---. Hygiène de l’assassin. Paris: Editions Albin Michel, 1992. Print.
---. Loving Sabotage. New York: New Directions Publisher, 2000. Print.
---. Sulphuric Acid. New York: Faber & Faber, 2008. Print.
Porta, Eloy Fernández and Vicente Muñoz Álvarez. Golpes: Ficciones de la crueldad social. Barcelona: DVD Ediciones, 2004. Print.
Roche, Charlotte. Feuchtgebiete. Köln, Germany: DuMont, 2008. Print.
Shugart, Helene A. “Isn’t It Ironic?: The Intersection of Third-Wave Feminism and Generation X.” Women’s Studies in Communication 24.2 (2001): 29-45. Print.
Vila-Matas, Enrique. “Compañeros de viaje.” El País Jan. 7 (1998): 28. Print.
Welsh, Irvine. Trainspotting. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1993. Print.
Wurzel, Elizabeth. Prozac Nation. New York: Riverhead Books, 1994. Print.
 Other names to add to this list include Chinese writers Wang Shuo, Russian Viktor Pelevin, Frenchman Michel Houllebecq and Frédéric Beigbeder, Chilean Alberto Fuguet, Bolivian Edmundo Paz Soldán, and Mexican Antonio Serrano, Germans Christina Kracht and Benjamin con Stuckrad-Barre, among many others.
 I should clarify that the case studies I present are not comprehensive of individual writers and artists’ works, nor do they give a picture of female X’ers from countries all around the world. Quite simply, a female “X” consciousness does not exist everywhere—India is one of those glaring exceptions—and the space of an entire book would be needed for such a study. My goal here is to present a series of more culturally fluid and gender-oriented examples meant to begin to open, question, challenge, and remix the features and frames formerly associated with the “X” moniker.
While individual studies have been published about all of the writers, directors and artists I examine below, their work has never been pulled together within a GenX framework.
 In this essay I concentrate on artistic content and form rather than political and feminist agendas. I speak to these author’s representations of a feminist GenX perspective independent of the existence and effects of a feminist movement in any given country. This restricted approach is in part determined by the space of this essay, and in part by the awareness that individual’s assimilation of feminist ideals often crosses national and linguistic boundaries. Each woman’s material reality is determined by a host of personal experiences and by multiplicities, complexities and contradictions that cannot (only) be tied to national and cultural enclaves, and can certainly not be used to identify a series of aesthetic commonalities.
 Women who belong to Generation X aesthetically and demographically (born between 1960-1980) have been invariably called “bad girls” or “femme fatales” in their respective disciplines and countries. Scholars and journalists conceive of their narratives as unconventional and defiant of male literary expectations, and they either emasculate or hyperfeminize the worlds they construct. In China, GenX narratives are often reduced to the physical appearance of their authors, who are termed “Beauty Writers.” In Germany, critics reduce their work to the demeaning term “Fräuleinsliteratur,” loosely translated as “Misses Literature.” And in almost all countries, female Generation X cultural products are reduced to the “light” and “popular” (read feminine and ephemeral) effects of a publishing industry selling out high cultural values to consumer capitalism.
 Some other novels by Nothomb include The Hygiene of the Assassin, Loving Sabotage, Fear and Trembling, Sulphuric Acid, The Character of Rain, Tokyo Fiancee, Life of Hunger, The Stranger Next Door, The Book of Proper Names.
 In Australia, Justine Ettler’s work partakes in what has been theorized as grunge realism, best-known by novelist Andrew McGahan’s work in Praise and 1988. Grunge specifically defines a middle-class youth in various states of boredom and alienation; its roots in grunge provides a counter-hegemonic stylistics of ugly dimensions often viewed as a reflection of social conditions and of geopolitical expressions centered on the abject construction of youth in urban and suburban Australia (Brooks).
 Authors generally included in the “grunge” literature category in Australia are Andrew McGahan (with Praise, 1988), Leonie Stevens (with Nature Strip), Fiona McGregor (Suck My Toes), Neil Boyak and Simon Colvey (Black and Snakeskin Vanilla), Ben Winch (Liadhen), Justine Ettler (The River Ophelia), Edward Berridge (The Lives of the Saints), Christos Tsiolka (Loaded), Gaby Naher (The Underwharf), and Leonie Stevens (Big Man’s Barbie) (Leishman 94).
 Examples of what can be identified as “grunge” novels in several parts of the world include the work of José Angel Mañas and José Machado in Spain, Wang Shuo in China, Andrew McGahan in Australia, or, Bret Easton Ellis in North America.
 For Les Jolies Choses Despentes won the 1998 Prix de Flore prize and in 1999 the Saint-Valentin prize.
 In 2010 Despentes also published a novel called Apocalypse Bébé which was awarded the Renaudot prize, Teen Spirit and Bye Bye Blondie, and she made a comic scenario titles Trois Etoiles.
 The film, said Depentes, fell in line with “the work of Scorsese, Ferrara, De Pala’s Scarface, Tobe Hooper, Wes Craven [. . .], we wanted to shoot the same kind of story: strong friendship, outcasts, graphic violence, sex and a bad ending” (Kelly).
 Based on pressure from the religious right, the French government placed a ban on Baise-Moi (the first ban since 1973).
 Many articles define Sarah Lucas as “Brit Art’s bad girl,” but one nameless pdf essay, although created for or out of a course, nicely summarizes the reasons for her majestic title. It is called “Sarah Lucas is notoriously known as the Bad Girl of Brit Art”, and may be found at: http://www.courseworkbank.info/courseworkbank.info.php?f=R0NTRS9BcnQvU2FyYWggTHVjYXMgaXMgbm90b3Jpb3VzbHkga25vd24gYXMgd
 Wei Hui’s second novel is titled Marrying Buddha (2005).
 The emergence of these authors and their unabashed descriptions of female sexuality, addiction to drugs and alcohol, led to a subsequent boom in narrative written by younger women born in the 1980s who circumvented censorship laws by publishing directly on the Internet.
 When viewed within a GenX context, one in which sexual promiscuity, alcohol and drug consumption is nearly an everyday event, Shanghai Baby appears nearly poetic, its sexual content tame, its takes on the underground rather colorful, and its protagonist ambitious (Lu).
 See the book reviews by Munarriz and Vila-Matas.
 While highly personal as well as social, Wurzel’s docufiction of depression falls in line with another well-known text, the memoir of American author Susanna Kaysen, Girl, Interrupted. First published in 1993, and adapted to film in 1999, the novel speaks of the experience of young woman placed in a mental institution for girls for 18 months. Through the female perspective of a nonconformist, played by Winona Ryder, the novel emphasizes the disturbing realities of a society that abuses, restricts, and chains the mental freedom, behavior, and physical expression of young women. Although the action takes place in the 1960’s, its themes are viewed through the eyes of a young adult Generation X’er who is able to make significant connections between then and now. Etxebarria’s first two novels, Amor, curiosidad, prozac y dudas and Beatriz y los cuerpos celestes, clearly fall in line with the same themes of female depression and discovery in a world where social expectations seem at odds with reality.
 Interestingly, Etxebarría defends herself against plagiarism charges in several of her novels by stating that she is using them in intertextual ways. Her defense falls well in line with the legal issues confronted by today’s remix artists.
 On Etxebarría’s use of Facebook and blogs, please see the work of Virginia Rademacher.
The Morphing of Generation XX
by Andrea Harris
"In 2003, when I co-edited the volume, GenXegesis: Essays on Alternative Youth (Sub)Culture (with John M. Ulrich), which is about American culture, Generation X meant one thing. Now, 9 years later, it means something else. In the 2 decades that it takes for a generation’s cultural productions to unfold, much changes. Members of this generation are still writing, performing, and so on, but we are not young, and this is no longer “youth culture.” The oldest members of Generation X are now 50 years old. Given the 20-year plus span of a generation, the tendency to look for generational spokespersons is problematic because people transform over time. In addition, analyses of Generation X have pointed out the particular problem of designating a spokesperson for a generation that has sought to defy labels. While my focus in 2003 was on gendering Generation X, for that discourse was often gender-blind in a problematic way (and still is), what strikes me most now while looking back are the many broader changers in Generation X. The evolution of digital culture as well as all culture at a fast pace has caused “acceleration” at a pace Douglas Coupland couldn’t have imagined in 1991 when he wrote his novel, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, an influential text that attempted to define a generation in its early stages.
In the case of my chosen spokeswomen, much has changed in their careers. In the time between conceiving of my article and seeing it to publication, the career of Courtney Love (of the now defunct band Hole, whose career peaked in 1994) had already changed radically. I argued that her lyrics and persona from her mid-90s albums combined a radical punk and feminist sensibility. By the early 2000s, she had turned a corner, and is now a celebrity of the red carpet circuit whose media presence ebbs and flows with her erratic behavior. Although Hole released an album in 2009, the recording bears little resemblance to her fascinating songs about sexual violence and alienation from the 1990s. Her ironic self-presentation in tattered ball gowns has given way to her utterly straightforward appearance as a woman wearing couture and clinging to her pseudo-fame.
The band Sleater-Kinney, whose music I also analyzed in order to examine representations of gender in the generation, broke up in 2005, and each of the three members all went their own ways. Carrie Brownstein’s subsequent career is most interesting in terms of Gen X culture. She temporarily quit music and wrote a music blog called Monitor Mix. As of 2010, she is again in a band with Janet Weiss, also of Sleater-Kinney, and other members of the same scene, called Wild Flag, whose music is similar to Sleater-Kinney’s. Brownstein’s show Portlandia, which aired in 2011, with Fred Armisen, interestingly and accurately parodies the 1990s Northwest music and cultural scene of Gen Xers who are made to look foolish in the show, for example, decorating entire apartments in recycled products found while dumpster diving and interrogating waitresses about the precise origin of each component of their meals. These are grown up Gen Xers, wielding cultural power in the form of demanding that their maid perform menial tasks while they watch. In the show, Brownstein and Armisen skewer hipsters, a particular kind of Gen Xer, a latter-day slacker in a sense. Due to the “accelerated culture” of the aughts, journalists began to call for the death of the hipster by the 2009 or so, right around when Brownstein and Armisen began to parody the hipster in their show. While Sleater-Kinney did not call themselves a feminist band, it struck me in 2003 that their songs revolved around feminist issues. Brownstein now seems to be looking more broadly at her generation and her medium in the intervening years. Ironically, the “generation with no qualities” has produced so many cultural artifacts about itself throughout the aughts and continues to do so in this second decade of the 21st century. While certain Xers fall by the wayside like Love, others go through metamorphoses of one kind or another like Brownstein.
In the case of my discussion of gender in the discourse of Generation X in 1990s United States, needless to say, much is different. Feminism’s third wave is still flourishing, as well as interrogating itself, as it evolves. New media such as blogs, which have a central place in gender discourse now (see Feministing among others) are a factor that simply didn’t exist nearly a decade ago. Culturally speaking, feminists of the third wave have distanced themselves from the broader Generation X model as well as from the feminist generational model of waves. Identity politics models that examine race, class, and sexual orientation serve the aims of feminism well now, just as they did in the second wave. Third wave feminism is also overlapping a great deal with the feminism of younger generations. The text Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future, written by the Amy Richards and Jennifer Baumgarner and has just been published in a 10th anniversary edition, and Jessica Valenti’s books (she is a very young Xer by birth date if not self-definition) such as Full-Frontal Feminism are galvanizing the next generation, the millenials, just as the second wave influenced the third wave.
The acceleration noted by Coupland has impacted all aspects of Generation X as it has unfolded, coupled with the simple fact of the passage of time and the aging of the generation. Social networking sites, the omnipresence of smartphones, iPods, all these affect American culture at large. Generation X has the distinction of being transitional in this sense, bridging the gap between the pre-digital Boomer Generation and the digital millenials. This affects the way gender is understood, but gender still needs to be brought squarely into the mix of our generational debates, much as it did in the early part of the decade."
Textbox from Generation X Goes Global, pages 160-62
It’s a Girl Thing—Transgressive Heroines and Challenges to Gender Roles in American Cinema
by Cristina Lee
"Gen-X popular culture has been integral to cleaving a space for representations of empowered women. The wave of 1980s Hollywood teen films was crucial in this cultural shift. Movies which prominently featured female youths at center-stage included the likes of Flashdance (1983), Girls Just Want To Have Fun (1985), The Breakfast Club (1985), Pretty in Pink (1986), Dirty Dancing (1987) and Heathers (1988). While such films often reaffirmed the pursuit of heterosexual, romantic love for the heroines, they also provided a platform for exploring the experiences of females.
Bolstered by the commercial success of the Girl Power movement and Riot Grrrl subculture, Third Wave Feminism in western countries in the 1990s continued to “carve out new possibilities for female subjectivity” (Lentz 398). Of particular note was the salience of a new generation of aggressive, militantly independent young women in popular culture who reconceptualized notions of female identity and agency. They could be seen in films and television programs such as Heavenly Creatures (1994), Scream (1995), The Craft (1996), Girls Town (1996), Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1996–2003), Run Lola Run (Lola rennt, 1998) and Go (1999). For example, when Vanessa Lutz embarked on a jaunt to Grandma’s house in Freeway (1996), the ‘Red Riding Hood’ fairytale was turned on its head. The foul-mouthed, trailer-trash heroine was prone to outbursts of violence and fury that contradicted ideals of conventional girlhood, and she was wholly reliant upon her own self to survive within a coercive, hostile environment. Vanessa continually exposed the flaws of patriarchal institutions and the ineptitudes of authority figures. In the 2000s, postmodern pastiche has seen the continued presence of empowered women who are as hyper-sexualized as they are dangerous. Examples include Charlie’s Angels (2000), Alias (2001–2006), Kill Bill (2003) and Salt (2010). Representations of transgressive females in Generation X popular culture (including those texts starring Gen-Xers) underscore major socio-cultural shifts that challenge traditional gender roles, and signal an awareness of the cultural constructions of female (youth) identities."
Lentz, Kirsten Marthe. “The popular pleasures of female revenge (or rage bursting in a blaze of gunfire)”, Cultural Studies, 7(3), 1993: 374–405.
Girl Power and Riot Grrrl were influential on an international scale. The popularity of figures seen as emblematic of such movements, such as the Spice Girls and Courtney Love, extended beyond the USA and UK to other countries as far as the Antipodes and Asia.
Textbox from Generation X Goes Global, pages 197-98
Speaking Intimately: Iranian Diasporic Generation X and Negotiating Sexuality Online
by Sanaz Raji
"By the 1990s, the media landscape changed in the Iranian diaspora and the internet became an important mediated space for Iranians and Iranian diasporics alike. One website that encapsulates the Iranian diasporic online expression is Iranian.com. Established in 1995 by Jahanshah Javid, the site was modeled after the The New Yorker, which is reflected in its initial title, The Iranian until it changed to the net-friendly title of Iranian.com in 2004. Before the creation of Iranian.com, there were very few Iranian exilic media outlets catering to non-Persian speaking diasporic Iranians. As Javid further stated in an interview with Afshin Molavi for Iranian.com’s 10th anniversary that, “I saw a very large Iranian community spread out in the U.S., Canada, Western Europe, and Australia which understood English better than Persian. I knew many were longing to tell stories of survival and assimilation, as well as homesickness and nostalgia” (2005: Iranian.com). Essentially, Javid created a bridge between Generation X Iranians, both in the diaspora and in the homeland, who felt that neither the Iranian exilic media outlets nor the media outlets in the homeland reflected their generation’s experiences and view points. This is especially true with regards to conversations about gender issues and sexuality.
Some of the first material posted on Iranian.com in the first three years dealt with taboo social-sexual issues such as homosexuality, menstruation, and experiences with dating, sexuality, and relationships. This accumulated to the famous debate during June-July 1998 between writers, Laleh Khalili and Dayi Hamid on the pros and cons of Iranians dating one another. It was Laleh Khalili, a regularly contributor on Iranian.com who wrote a piece on the June 15th 1998, entitled, “Loving an Iranian Man”, which explained the pit-falls that a liberated, educated Iranian woman faced when dating an Iranian man. Khalili felt that these pit-falls were due in part to cultural pressures that young diasporic Iranian couples experienced. This include family expectations and avoiding being the center of negative gossip. While Khalili readily admits that she carried for many years a cliché image of Iranian men as being incredibly sexist and superficial, her piece seemed to suggest that being involved with an Iranian man for an Iranian diasporic woman presents more complications than good. Khalili’s piece was satirically countered by Dayi Hamid on the July 9th 1998, in the piece, “Loving an Iranian Girl” which he describes himself as the caricature of Khalili’s stereotypical Iranian man, a “sports-car-driving, cellphone-carrying, club hopping, chauvinist pig” (1998: Iranian.com) Hamid further dismisses Khalili’s piece by satirically describing the liberated educated Iranian diasporic women (what Khalili views herself to be) he has met as, “torshideh” meaning the “pickled” ones, a disparaging term alluding to unmarried, single Iranian women. Hamid uses satire to take apart Khalili’s argument that Iranian men in the diaspora use culture selectively when dating an Iranian woman. In Hamid’s humorous personal observations, he shows that liberated educated women can also use Iranian culture in a superficial manner similar to the BMW-driving, club hopping, Iranian men that Khalili had encountered. The debate between Khalili and Hamid brought about more confessional pieces on Iranian.com. Most of these posts were concerned with relationship dilemmas of Iranian diasporics with debates about sexuality and gender issues along with sexual explicit story telling. From 2001, Iranian.com had two agony aunts, Kobra Khanom and Abjeez who advised Iranian readers about issues regarding dating, relationships, sexual compatibility, and mental health issues.
The debate between Khalili and Hamid brought about further intimate conversations, or dard-va-del otherwise, to “reveal one’s heart” regarding experiences of interracial dating, same-sex relationships, and marital issues. At the same time, a satirical response to these confessional pieces on Iranian.com became a very common theme as evident in posts by Siamack Baniameri and Azam Nemati. In 2000, “sexual satire” in addition to satire related to politics, and being diasporic, among other themes was regularly displayed in photoshopped images on Iranian.com. By 2006, more young Iranian diasporics used the medium of YouTube and constructing video- mash-ups hyperlinked to Iranian.com that took a satirical look at being Iranian diasporic from a post September 11th perspective. These commentaries could be dismissed because of their slapstick and at times, vulgar use of humor. However, these commentaries revealed tensions of Iranian diasporic sexual identity that has rarely been examined in Iranian diasporic scholarship.
The conversations that Iranians diasporics are engaging in online, some have also challenged the traditional cultural rules of how Iranians address and communicate with one another. Iranian culture is based on “a dialectical relation between the inner self (private) and the outer self (public). It involves hiding the core meaning of one’s thoughts from the public” (Graham & Khosravi 2002: 224). As Mark Graham and Shahram Khosravi (2002) and Janet Alexanian (2008) noticed, confessional writings have proliferated in Iranian diasporic online spaces, which show a growing ease in discussing topics not usually brought about in public settings or among strangers. However, as Alireza Doostdar (2004) has examined among Iranian bloggers both in Iran and in the diaspora is the “vulgarity debate” which compromises of refusing to comply with correct and properly written Persian language on blogs. The vulgarity debate to Doostdar reflected a clash between the roshanfekr (intellectual) class who hold authority over issues of culture and language while the other group view blogging as a place to be free of “intellectualist pretense” (2004: 653). With the increase in participatory culture, the growth of confessional writing and the lack of intellectual pretense regarding that is written, has allowed for all types of people to participate in a wide variety of debates and intimate topics to be discussed and debated openly in Iranian diasporic online spaces.
Since the September 11th a steady stream of photoshopped images, video parodies of being diasporic Iranian along with narrative writings have explored sexuality and gender relations within the Iranian diaspora. The mediatedspace(s) of Iranian.com and the conversation regarding sexuality and gender further illustrates the struggle over authority. As Pnina Werbner argues, “the imagination of diaspora is constituted not merely by aesthetic products—novels, poems or film—but also by a compelling sense of moral co-responsibility and embodied performance, extended through and across national boundaries” (2002: 11). Iranian diasporics have been brought up with a collective memory of what Iran was once before the Islamic Republic took hold (Alexanian 2008: 132). Part of this “collective memory” is also tied with the performance of acceptable cultural and social mores. Much like the diaspora, Iranian sexual behavior is rapidly changing in the homeland, with dating and pre-marital sexual relations gradually becoming socially acceptable. As Mahdavi (2009) has examined, social networking groups like Orkut play an important role in facilitating information about sex, sexual health and even finding potential partners."
Textbox from Generation X Goes Global, pages 302-304
Spain and Its Lesbian Gen X
by Jill Robbins
"Several cultural critics have commented on the intersections between cultural production and capitalism, particularly in the age of globalization. Indeed, in Spain the neoliberal policies implemented from the late 1980s onward had a large role in limiting the literary expressions of identity to a field determined by the interests of the free market. This is true even for the “marginal” identities that straight Gen X authors like Lucía Extebarria might portray in their lesbian characters, which largely become normalized or else remain stereotyped as exotic, trendy, un-Spanish, and/or and pathological. When confronted by such characters in the novels of famous, and famously straight, authors, heterosexual readers often confirm their prejudices even as they congratulate themselves for their tolerant gaze. That is, such readers can comfortably identify with the authors, if not always with the protagonists, and lesbians can thereby be integrated epistemologically into a normalized heterosexist and capitalist order."
~ Excerpt from Generation X Goes Global
In Russia, Punk-Rock Riot Girls Rage Against Putin by Corey Flintoff
February 08, 2012 4:21 PM
Girls Who Interrupt: Going Global with the Bad Girls of Generation X by Christine Henseler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
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