Does each generation work through a collective definition of what it means to sell-out?
I’m using sellout here to mean the trading of values for money, sometimes in the name of survival (“we sold out it’s good!”) and other times in the name of betrayal (“they used to be good until they sold out”).
Gen-X, probably because of the Boomers before them, and the GI’s before them, had a fascinating struggle with “selling out.” This quote from Chris Wilcha in a POV interview about his documentary Flipside caught my attention:
POV: I was born in ’72, so I’m solidly in that generation where we were so self-conscious about being self-conscious, and a built-in refusal to take anything so seriously without irony.
CW: That was the Gen X-ness of it all. It is shocking how the notion of selling out has an almost nostalgic quaintness, and that was a generational obsession. I remember it amongst my own friends. The funny part was that the stakes were of course much lower. We were worrying about what bands were signed to what labels or what brand was or wasn’t authentically targeting your demographic. I have friends who are musicians and writers—the distinction is almost meaningless now. You want to sell, you want your song in that [market], you want to sing for that commercial. I totally understand that. The hustle is so much harder now, and the music business is even more brutal. The Gen X armour of irony had to come down, and I had to be a little bit reflective about my own life.
My hunch is every generation has a different perspective on defining their values and what it means to sell them. This turns over in time, with sub-variations too (I think RZA would have a very different take for example).
h/t Liberty RFP
ps. Generation theory is an idea I’m sort of obsessed with. See my Epsilon Theory essay on it if you’re curious about more, “The Time I Got A High School Paper Extension In A Bar: The 4th Turning (But Not In The Way You Think).”