I recently completed my third round of revisions on my third screenplay - my life's obsession since the summer of 2007 - and for the first time it feels like the end is in sight. At the same time, I'm at the very beginning of a brand new story. I've got the concept down, but the characters are just shadows at this stage. The more I work on it, the more I'll come to know.
Right now, one thing that's for certain is that the characters I'm writing will be my age, and given that, the question that I'm pondering tonight is, what are the lasting after-effects of growing up grunge?
I started junior high in 1991, the year that Nirvana's Nevermind and Pearl Jam's Ten exploded into the mainstream, causing a paradigm shift in rock'n'roll and pop culture as a whole. By the time I started high school in 1993, grunge was the mainstream. It defined my teenage generation, even though by about 1995, grunge was already starting to fade into the past, painfully superseded by the rise of Oasis, Dave Matthews and, eventually, Britney and the Backstreet Boys. It was around this time that I began to shun new music altogether and sought solace by fantasizing about what it would have been like to go to high school ten years earlier -- from grade 11 on, my music collection was almost exclusively devoted to New Order, the Smiths, the Cure, early U2 and the Psychedelic Furs. I don't know that I would be the 80s music fanatic that I am today if music hadn't been as goddamn awful as it was in my last two years of high school (notable exceptions: Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails and the Foo Fighters. Youngsters these days might accuse me of being downright delusional for claiming that the era that produced these brilliant bands was a dark time for the rock'n'roll business. But they didn't have to live through the horror that was Hootie).
So far I've been writing more about the end of grunge than the era of grunge itself. With respect to the latter, I could free associate about Doc Martens, thrift store shopping, mosh pits, greasy hair, flannel, Reality Bites, My So-Called Life, black eye-liner, heroin chic, rock star suicides and overdoses, Lollapalooza, Woodstock II, Queen Street west (to Bathurst -- one needed to go no further in those days), Kurt and Courtney, SPIN magazine, Pulp Fiction and the cult of Tarantino...the list of icons goes on and on. What I want to nail down is how having one's teen years roughly coincide with the duration of the 1990s affected us, how growing up over any other span of time would have felt very, very different, even if it overlapped the era that I'm writing about here. We started grade 7 in 1991 and turned 20 in 1999 -- my gut feeling is that our experience was somehow unique. Perhaps not coincidentally, there were next to no contemporaneous teen icons in the media during those years, save for our generation's patron saint, Angela Chase in My So-Called Life -- perhaps the first and last time that a major network cancelled an overwhelmingly popular teen show, for seemingly no other reason than that it was just too damn good for television. As far as teen movies go, there were really only two -- Dazed and Confused (1994), which was, ironically, about being a teen in the mid-1970s, and Clueless (1995), a cheeky, uber-unrealistic adapation of Jane Austen's Emma, directed by Fast Time at Ridgmont High's Amy Heckerling. Both were great films, but neither reflected the reality of high school in the 1990s. Beverly Hills, 90210 came before us, Dawson's Creek came after. We were the teens in between, and there is virtually no pop culture record of our existence. Maybe that's why I'm so determined to try to define it, to articulate it, to convince those who didn't live through it -- and maybe even some of those who did -- that it actually happened. To one degree or another, we grew up grunge. What that means is yet to be determined. But I'm pretty determined to figure it out.