I was talking today about a thing on Pop Culture Happy Hour last week where there was this theory put forth that in order to have cool kids, you ought to not be cool parents. The idea being that cool parents produce dull kids and vice versa, since kids rebel. This is echoed in a Wired piece this week about geeks needing a wider, blander culture to react against or else you don't get creativity.

And I thought a lot of the appeal of these ideas is that it gives you a formula for creativity, a way of ensuring you can be cool, when in fact creativity and talent is often innate, unearned and unfair. Which is not to say that you either get sprinkled with the creativity dust at birth and you’re a prodigy and if you aren't you should just shut up and there's no hope for you and hard work means nothing--could not disagree with that more. I just don't think it's wholly created by your environment, doesn’t always fit in with your personality, at least not in a way that makes it easy.

There's a scene in the movie Prick Up Your Ears where Joe Orton's lover expresses his puzzlement at the talent of Joe Orton. He, the boyfriend, iirc, had an unhappy childhood, had a mother who committed suicide, is gay...he's "practically a textbook" case of a great playwright with that life and yet...it's Orton who's the one with talent. A guy whose personality and past doesn't seem to fit this at all. It’s like Salieri’s horror at Mozart in Amadeus. This idea that the art you love or create reflects the type of person you are.

And it made me go back to that theory about dull parents/cool children and think about how my own tastes were formed. I honestly can't think of any tastes I have that I developed specifically against my parents' tastes. Like as a teenager and a kid there were plenty of things I loved that they didn't, but that was often more a generation thing. I suppose a lot of the stuff we liked in common I started liking when I was little, so probably still at the stage when you feel grown-up liking adult things your parents do.

There are things that I like today that I was introduced to by them. I always listened to Broadway musicals as a kid, often on albums from shows they saw in person. I still go to the theater and ballet. WNEW--the "make believe ballroom" radio station was always on in the kitchen so I was with all the pre-rock pop music and cabaret singers. Sometimes I'd object to a certain thing really vehemently--I remember as a kid loudly protesting Frank Sinatra's "Hey, Little Girl" as appalling and sexist, and 2 books my mom said she loved as a kid I loudly hated for sort of related reasons--but whether or not I liked or disliked the whole genre wasn't linked to my parents taste. Of course, who can say whether they were cool or dull? If I liked something they did it meant I thought it was cool.

There's at least one taste I have that seemed to come from nowhere, and that's my taste for horror movies. I guess my brother or sister might have technically introduced me? Can’t remember. But I didn't see anyone being into them or into something else consistently. I just had an instinctive, passionate love for horror from pre-school age. One of the first uses I put my ability to read to was scanning TVGuide to look for horror movies--back then "Movie: Thriller" indicated a horror movie (as opposed to "Movie:Suspense" which sounded scary but always disappointed!). That taste wasn't created by anything other than me being exposed to this thing and liking it.

Once when I was in high school I overheard my mother talking on the phone about this. I don't know who she was talking to, but apparently this was a curveball parenting challenge for her. Like many non-fans of horror movies she considered them vaguely bad and an obsession with them the sign of being disturbed in some mild way. But t here she was with a kid (she probably didn't know this type of kid existed) that sought them out. She said her first instinct was to put a stop to it, but she couldn't justify doing that because they obviously didn't bother me. I wasn't a perpetually scared kid, I didn't have nightmares, I wasn’t disturbed. etc. So she ultimately had to let me like what I liked because I liked it (with the occasional outburst about how terrible those movies were). I think I always remembered that conversation I overheard because I still think it was really cool that she respected my taste and admitted she just didn’t understand it. So many people assume there’s only one way to experience a thing so if you don’t like something they do it’s because you hate whatever great thing they see in it.

So ultimately I'd say my taste is a mixture of things I was exposed to at home, things I was exposed to by the culture or friends and things that I personally loved enough to seek out myself—which is going to lead to more obscure knowledge and taste in that area. I share more media in common with my mom now than I did when I was a kid. Like there's a big road we both like and then we both have our place on either side where she loves things I have no interest in (romance genre) or I love things she has no interest in (horror genre). But she doesn’t dismiss me as violently disturbed for liking horror movies and I don’t dismiss her as stupid or shallow for liking romances, since I know she’s neither of those things.

I don’t know what my point is with all of that. I think I’m really interested in other peoples’ experiences. Do people remember where their liking for something came from, for instance? Do they find themselves with very different taste than their parents have, and if so, can they trace a reason for that? Have they noticed the dull/cool generational theory? I think I’m pretty lucky that there’s plenty of tastes I do have in common with my mother especially, and a lot of that might come from a shared taste in fiction in general. Out of a season of TV shows, movies and books there’s going to be some we have in common (sometimes surprising me).

Anyone else have relevant experiences in this area?
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