And you didn’t even notice/When the sky turned blue/And you couldn’t tell the difference/Between me and you

Last night after the sun went down, multiple buildings at the University of Rochester, down the street from my house, were bathed in blue light. Buildings across the country, across the globe, followed suit. Strategically placed bulbs behind Niagara Falls illuminated the cascading water. Everything lit up, blue.

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April is widely acknowledged as Autism Awareness Month. The UN designated April 2nd as World Autism Awareness Day back in 2008, and Autism Speaks began their Light It Up Blue campaign in 2010, urging people to dress in blue and put blue bulbs in their front porch lights, in an effort to spread awareness of how widespread autism is. For most people in the autism community in the US, World Autism Awareness Day and Light It Up Blue are inextricably linked, and both are clearly associated with Autism Speaks.

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A year before the Light It Up Blue Campaign was inaugurated, Autism Speaks hired Alfonso Cuaron to direct a four minute long video called “I Am Autism”. Given that Cuaron was in the midst of an ugly divorce following his son’s diagnosis with autism, procuring his services to make a film about the effects autism can have on a family had somewhat predictable but no less distressing results.

Over ominous music and grainy home videos of children stimming or staring blankly into space, a chilling voice intones, “I am autism. I’m visible in your children, but if I can help it, I am invisible to you until it’s too late. I know where you live. And guess what? I live there too… I know no color barrier, no religion, no morality… I have no interest in right or wrong. I derive great pleasure out of your loneliness. I will fight to take away your hope. I will plot to rob you of your children and your dreams. I will make sure that every day you wake up you will cry…I am still winning, and you are scared. And you should be.”

And then the music modulates ever so slightly, to a major key, to a triumphant rebuttal. “And to autism I say: I am a father, a mother, a grandparent, a brother, a sister. We will spend every waking hour trying to weaken you…We search with technology and voodoo and prayer and herbs and genetic studies and a growing awareness you never anticipated…We speak the only language that matters: love for our children…You are alone. We are a community of warriors. We have a voice. You think because some of our children cannot speak, we cannot hear them?…When you came for my child, you forgot: you came for me.”

The message of the video could not be clearer: autism is an insidious force that steals your children, and Autism Speaks is an organization that represents the parents fighting back. It’s a game of telephone — parents presume to speak on behalf of their children, and Autism Speaks presumes to speak for the parents. But given how much inevitably gets lost in translation in any given game of telephone…

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…let’s be honest — Autism Speaks is really just speaking for parents. Their public relations campaigns promote the challenges faced by “warrior moms”. Light It Up Blue spreads awareness, yes. It spreads awareness of how much “autism parents” have to struggle. I have two autistic kids, so basically Autism Speaks is speaking for me. Um…thanks? I guess?

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Autism Speaks was founded in 2005 by Bob and Suzanne Wright. Bob Wright was the chairman and CEO of NBC Universal when his grandson, Christian, was diagnosed with autism. With an essentially infinite rolodex of connections and gobs and gobs of cash, Wright must have found it unfathomable that this might be an unfixable situation. And because of those connections and that cash, Autism Speaks swiftly became the 800 pound gorilla of autism charities. (I mean, people in Buffalo bought a lot of Flutie Flakes, but let’s be honest, Doug Flutie was never going to be able to make the sort of dent that the head of one of the world’s largest entertainment monoliths could. He sure did make a great pass that one time, though, as I understand it.)

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Autism Speaks was steering the ship, and the course was clear: wide-release, big name PR would bring in the donations, and the donations would fund research into the cause of and potential treatments for autism.

The Wrights’ daughter, Katie, was convinced of the then-still-vaguely-plausible theory that her son’s autism was caused by vaccinations, so a lot of money went in that direction at first. When no studies could find a connection, Autism Speaks officially repudiated any link to a possible danger from vaccines. In doing so, they caused a rift between Katie and her parents that has yet to heal. Katie now often writes for Age of Autism, the pre-eminent anti-vaccine blog, and is a vocal critic of the research Autism Speaks has chosen to fund.

Katie Wright and her pals in the anti-vaccine movement are far from the only critics of Autism Speaks, however. Because the louder Autism Speaks’ voice became, the more blue puzzle piece bumper stickers dotted the interstates, the more dollars got tacked on to the tail end of Toys R Us purchases…the more glaring a particular aspect of the organization became to those who were paying attention. Namely, there were no actual autistic people involved in any sort of leadership position at Autism Speaks.

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Autism Speaks was eager to trumpet each new autism prevalence statistic that any study bore out, for the sake of their bottom line — one in 100, one in 66, possibly even 1 in 50 children in America would be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. (Side note: As cited in an utterly execrable Washington Post op-ed yesterday by noted anti-vax “warrior mom” Kim Stagliano, MIT scientist and noted moron Stephanie Seneff believes that soon half of all children will be autistic if current trends continue — but she is indeed a noted moron whose limited grasp of statistical analysis and odd predilection for talking about subjects far outside her own field of expertise [which is robotics, not autism, for the record] makes me strongly doubt the wisdom of the university tenure system — and I’m the wife of a college professor!) But what Autism Speaks chronically neglected to disclose when doom-and-glooming about rising rates was that a great deal of that increase was clearly due to a broadening of the diagnostic criteria and a subsequent boom in the number of autistic people with the capacity, in whatever form, to speak for themselves. And when they began to speak, their voice was almost unanimousAutism Speaks does not speak for them.

This was problematic for Autism Speaks. So much of their program is built around PR that a bunch of adult autistics undermining their message could be truly damaging to their business model. When President Obama named Ari Ne’eman, the head of the Autistic Self- Advocacy Network, to an advisory position in his administration, what had previously been a relatively quiet rumble mainly confined to particularly dusty and nerdy corners of the internet became a clear public dissent. And what resulted was truly unseemly. Autism Speaks was happy to use stats that included so-called “high functioning” autistics to fuel their fundraising efforts, but as soon as those people began to talk back, they were told they were too high-functioning to really count.

But that’s because Autism Speaks really has only ever spoken for parents to begin with. The only autism that is REAL autism, remember, is the kind that needs to be fought ceaselessly with “technology and voodoo and prayer and herbs and genetic studies and growing awareness.” I don’t know how voodoo and prayer fit into their accounting scheme, but I assume some of the technology in question might be the electroshock behavior modification practiced at the Judge Rotenberg Center, an organization that Autism Speaks featured at a resource fair during their national policy and action summit in 2013. By herbs they’re almost certainly talking about the types of biomedical treatments Katie Wright swears by — they may have disavowed any anti-vaccine stance, but they still fund plenty of studies of complementary and alternative medicine, much of which is harmless or even legitimately beneficial but when taken to extremes can basically bankrupt desperate parents pumping their children full of B12 injections and high-dose anti-parasite medications and synthetic castrating hormones and even bleach enemas. Because autism is winning, and parents should be scared. What horrifies many adult autistics most is the newer focus on genetic studies. Personally, as a person with multiple autistic kids I find genetic studies to be of interest on a “The More You Know!” level, but to people who view autism as an integral, inseparable aspect of their humanity, this all sounds like fancy code for eugenics. If there was a genetic test for autism, the way there is for Down syndrome, would most expectant parents abort?

That’s where the last part of Autism Speak’ battle cry becomes vitally important — growing awareness. That’s what this month is supposedly about, what Light It Up Blue is meant to accomplish: making the public aware of autism. But if Autism Speaks is the one defining what people need to be aware of, is that the sort of awareness we really want to spread? Are we spreading awareness of how hard “autism parents” have it, how much we have to cope with that other parents don’t, how terrible autism has made our lives? That seems to be the message of awareness they presented in “I Am Autism” and the message Suzanne Wright voiced in her “call to action” in the fall of 2013 where she once again described autistic children as “missing” and their families as “not living. They are existing. Breathing — yes. Eating — yes. Sleeping — maybe…Life lived moment-to-moment. In despair.”

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I don’t live in despair.

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No, really, I don’t.

I can’t speak for the parents of children who need more support than my kids, or who have other issues that seem woven inextricably into their autism lattice like seizures or gastrointestinal issues or violence or allergies. But for me, with two kids on the spectrum — my life is tough. But THEIR lives are tougher. This should be awareness of THEM, not of ME. I want to raise awareness about the ways they struggle — but also the ways they succeed and the ways they excel. I want to raise awareness of the fact that their lives have value, whether they have fluent spoken language or not. They shouldn’t have to speak to be heard, and until Autism Speaks does a better job of listening, they should stop hogging the megaphone.

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The hard thing is, Autism Speaks DOES do some work that truly directly benefits families affected by autism and autistic people themselves. Whenever an anti-Autism Speaks thread starts in any of the autism-related internet forums I frequent, inevitably people chime in with, “But my kid got an iPad because of Autism Speaks” or “our local organization got a grant from Autism Speaks that has allowed us to create such-and-such fantastic service for adults on the spectrum.” Awesome! I myself have found some of the text resources on their website to be useful, including one about medications that was developed by a nurse practitioner at our local university hospital. But SUCH a small percentage of their HUGE income goes to those sorts of efforts, and so much goes towards questionable research and unfortunate rhetoric that I simply cannot stand behind the organization and will not Light It Up Blue until they make some large systematic changes in their mission statement.

One of my very favorite bloggers, Jess Wilson of A Diary of a Mom, used to actively fundraise for Autism Speaks, participate publicly in their walks, function as one of the largest parental voices for them in the Boston area. But then something happened, an encounter with Suzanne Wright that made her head spin, and soon she could no longer stand behind the organization.

Someone walks over to our step to say hello. She bends at the waist, looming over Brooke.

Brooke doesn’t look up. She doesn’t stop stripping her stick.

Dig. Pull. Dig. Pull.

Our visitor reaches out a hand and cups it below Brooke’s chin.

I freeze. Oh God.

She uses the hand to pull Brooke’s head up by the jaw.

A thin line of panic starts somewhere deep. I know that Brooke is going to scream. 5,4,3,2 …

She does scream, but not in the way that I expect.

“I HATE BEING TOUCHED!!” she shouts.

I am flabbergasted.

Words. Self-awareness. Communication. Self-advocacy.

I know the sentence will need to be reformatted. But I am drenched in pride.

I turn to Brooke. “Great job telling us how you feel, Brooke. Really great job.” I hope that my words send a message to both of them. I stand with my girl.

Our visitor is undaunted.

“I just want to see that beautiful face,” she says. “Lift up for me.”

I am stymied by etiquette. By deference to our host. By generational difference. By convention.

Brooke is not.

She lifts her head as instructed. And growls.

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A woman with so little respect for the physical autonomy of an autistic child, let alone so little regard for the sensory sensitivities common to autistic people, simply SHOULD NOT be dictating the way we raise awareness about autism in this country. And she clearly doesn’t need to act as anyone’s voice. If we bothered to listen, we would find that autistic people truly can speak for themselves, even if it’s just lifting their head and growling. As a parent, I want to open doors for my children, and I will fight to get them the supports they need to succeed in whatever will make them happy. But I’m not a warrior. My kids are warriors, and they’re not fighting against autism, they’re fighting against a world that is unforgiving of any deviation form the norm. I don’t want the world to be aware my children exist. I want the world to accept my children as they are.

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Awareness can be the first step, certainly, although not the sort of awareness Autism Speaks spreads. But acceptance and understanding is what we need to shoot for. And sadly, that’s not what the world’s largest autism charity is all about.

There were no lights at my house last night. Autism has not robbed me of my children or my dreams. They were in bed beside me, dreaming dreams of their own.

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“the beads of time pass slow / tired eyes on the sunrise / waiting for the eastern glow”

(WARNING: Here Be Spoilers. I talk about plot lines from all five ASOIAF books and the four existing seasons of GoT, as well as some spoilers for the next season that have gotten out via interviews and set photos. If you have read all that stuff, you’re in the clear.  I really don’t talk about the novellas or the World book. If you haven’t read all that stuff or watched all that stuff but don’t care and want to read semi-comprehensible nerd ramblings, you are also in the clear.)

This year I finally managed to finish all the books in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. And by “all the books in the A Song of Ice and Fire series,” I mean “including all the prequel novellas, the new World of Ice and Fire pseudo-encyclopedia, tons of Tumblr meta and message boards and maybe just a few terrible Arya/Gendry alternate-universe fanfics,” because if you’re going to go fan, you might as well go hard.

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The reason there was so much internet ephemera available for me to consume is that the fandom is starving. Author George R.R. Martin has them (I mean US, I guess…ugh) in the palm of his hand, and that hand should really be typing faster. The fifth novel in the series came out in 2011 and landed with a similar critical thud to the fourth novel — the two were originally meant to be a single book but GRRM’s editor seems powerless to reign in his worst indulgences so they had to be split or they would have been unreadable. As it is they are so dense that various fans on the net have suggested different orders in which the chapters of the two books can be read to make them less of a slog. Myself, I just decided to to read all the chapters of each character in a row to get through the fifth book faster. Many of the plots don’t even come close to intersecting, and I adjusted for the few that do — reading the Theon and Asha chapters together, for instance, or the various things that happen in Essos save for Arya.

I suppose the question is, why do people keep reading, then, if both the books published in the last decade have been terrible from an editorial perspective and intermittently engaging from a plot perspective? Because we are taking him at his word that he’s going somewhere with all of this, that the world building is essential, that things may have gotten a bit labyrinthine along the way but he’s got an endgame in mind and he HAS A PLAN.

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Hm. You know who else supposedly had a plan? The Cylons. How did that work out for Galactica fans? Yes, those of us with an unyielding and unhealthy love for serialized scifi/fantasy have been burned before. How much time did I waste ruminating on the mysteries of Lost? Too much. How many times during the last season of Buffy did I mentally reassure myself that Joss wasn’t just spinning his wheels with the potentials plotline? Too many. It’s a sickness, it really is.

The TV show Game of Thrones, as a result, is about to turn an interesting corner. It is transitioning from a filmed adaptation to a televised fanfic. I’m not sure this has ever happened before, that someone has started making a movie or a show out of unfinished source material, presumably with authorial assurances that of COURSE he’d have finished the books by the time they’d caught up, or at least one of them, no way would it take him another five years…and the author then went “ehhhhh, you know what, it’s more fun writing all the backstory that the actual story; I think I’ll just do that now,” and left the producers high and dry.

Like any adaptation, Game of Thrones has already made its fair share of changes along the way. First of all, they aged up all the kids so it wouldn’t be so creepy to see, for instance, Daenerys getting married to Khal Drogo (although they undermined that by somehow managing to make their wedding night way rapier that in the book) or Littlefinger lusting after Sansa (whoops, still creepy).

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They made Tyrion a lot more cuddly and handsome than in the book because, y’know, Dinklage.

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They made various plot tweaks that overall served the narrative well and managed to trim GRRM’s sprawl down to a level that at least avoids the necessity of having a character flow chart mailed to every HBO subscriber. (“The coat of arms for House Waxley is three candles on a field of…” WHY DO WE NEED TO KNOW THIS GEORGE.) As an adaptation, it has been generally quite successful.

Things started to go off the rails a little last year in season 4, though. The reaction to making a particular Jaime/Cersei sex scene extra rapey was far more heated than the reaction to the aforementioned Dany/Drogo extra rapey scene, mainly because you’re supposed to put rape at the BEGINNING of a redemption arc, not smack in the middle. Didn’t these guys watch Luke and Laura in the late ‘70s?

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They ran through Bran’s entire plot to the end of the fifth book even though everyone else is still back in the third book — and it appears to have been inadvertent, given that producers Benioff and Weiss basically went “uhhhh, I guess Bran’s not going to be in the fifth season, oh well!” This leads to a further complication in that the character of Bran is supposed to be around 10 and is lugged around in a glorified Ergo carrier on a large man’s back, whereas the actor who plays Bran is now approximately 37 years old and weighs 180 pounds. (Also puberty made his nose grow faster than all this other body parts, which isn’t a problem from a narrative standpoint but is just kinda unfortunate. Maybe they’re giving him a year off in hopes his face will catch up to his nose?)

(OK, this next paragraph is about to get even more inside-baseball. You have been warned.)

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The biggest shock of the season came when the much anticipated final scene of the final episode turned out to be just Arya sailing away into a computer generated Narrow Sea rather than the epilogue scene from the third book where a previously brutally murdered character is revealed to have been resurrected by the one damn god in this whole theologically overpopulated series that seems to have any capacity for miracles at all. (I still hold out some hope for the Old Gods; the Seven are clearly bullshit.) Fans went absolutely apeshit when said previously brutally murdered character didn’t show up. They did backflips on the forums trying to think up how the show could sneak the character in during season 5. But Benioff and Weiss pretty much said, “Nah, we’re just going to cut that. Oh, and by the way, next season we’re going to cut all that Iron Islands shizz. And those new and seemingly important characters Tyrion hangs out with for a while. Forget that, too. We’ll have him meet up with Dany instead, because why not. That Prince of Dorne who goes looking for Dany? Let’s scrap him too. The immolation scene would use up too much of our CGI budget. In fact, let’s scrap two thirds of the Dornish royals. Let’s just send Jaime down to Dorne instead.”

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Lord knows what the crap Brienne will be doing in the Riverlands with Jaime now down in Dorne and Stoneheart eliminated entirely. It would be difficult to make that plotline more meandering and pointless than it is in the book, but maybe Benioff and Weiss are up to the challenge. How they’re gonna string out “Sam and Gilly bone on a boat” and “Davos hangs out with webbed-fingered Northerners we’ve never heard of before” plotlines over 10 episodes, I do not know. “Sansa walks down a mountain with random ladies and dying epileptic kid” is obviously going to get some heavy revisions as well. Really, the only characters who have enough plot to make it through 10 episodes are Jon, Theon, Tyrion (although they’ve apparently excised a big chunk), Cersei, and maaaaaybe Dany (even though everyone hates the Meereen shit), Arya (I fully accept that I’m the only one who hates the Arya-in-Braavos shit), and Asha once she runs into Stannis, because all the Kingsmoot stuff is gone.

So looking at all of that, it’s impossible to think of the final three seasons as anything that super high profile fanfic. By the end of season 5, if Winds of Winter isn’t out, they will be flying almost entirely blind other than the intel GRRM provided them on the “R+L=J” situation that everyone who’s read the books and isn’t in some boredom-induced headcanon idiocy spiral (“Hey, what if Jon Snow is actually Cersei’s first baby with Robert, and Dany is Ashara Dayne’s illegitimate child with Benjen!”) accepted ages ago. Oh, and some people are going to fly on dragons and presumably fry up some White Walkers. And Littlefinger will die horribly. (It is known.) But whatever ends up on screen, it’s going to bear about as much resemblance to the actual denoument of the books as any random fic written by a nineteen year old on a LiveJournal with a URL that includes a portmanteau of some unlikely coupling like SanSan or DanOrah.

Oh well. As long as GendRya live happily ever after, I’ll take whatever else we get.

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And Davos gets to retire with his wife on the Summer Islands. Then I will be well and truly sated.

“I like getting older, I feel like I’m aging into my personality.”

Last week I made a series of mix CDs, which is a periodic necessity since I own what is apparently the last car ever manufactured without any sort of iPod input functionality. The theme of these particular CDs is basically ’90s/early ’00s R&B and rap, and I’ve put them together in an effort to avoid having to listen to the DJ I despise who does the Throwback Lunch on the local hip hop radio station. Seriously, if I had to hear this guy mispronounce Tony Toni Toné one more time I was going to drive off the highway in a blind rage. THEY SAY THE NAME OF THE BAND IN THE LYRICS OF THE SONG YOU JUST PLAYED, TONY TONI TONE HAS DONE IT AGAIN, LITERALLY LIKE 45 SECONDS AGO, THIS IS NOT AS HARD AS YOU’RE MAKING IT.

In the process of making these mixes, I’ve noticed a few things. Firstly, it turns out that much of the joy inherent in listening to the Throwback Lunch is unexpectedly hearing a song you had almost forgotten. It’s way more fun to hear “Da Dip” randomly on the radio than to hear it for the fifth time this week, always nestled between “Rump Shaker” and “Tootsie Roll’, because you just haven’t bothered to switch the disc out. Also a lot of these songs are legitimately terrible, which I knew at the time. I went on record in high school as saying “My Love Is The Shhhh” was the worst song of the nineties, and I stand by that assessment. But something about nostalgia will momentarily trick you into ignoring their flaws until you find yourself driving around, a grown woman in a sensible midsized sedan, crooning “LEMME WORK THAT BODY, BABY!” at the top of your lungs.

The last thing I’ve noticed is that, whereas 10 years ago I would have happily driven down the main drag of a college campus blaring embarrassing pop cheese with the windows down, more and more I keep the windows up. Why? Because it has started to sink in that the kids who are currently in college have almost none of the same cultural reference points as I do. The first moment this became clear to me was when a former co-worker, who was 21 at the time (and this was a couple years back now) heard Sisqo’s “Thong Song” playing in the store and yelled, “Aw yeah, this was my JAM…in second grade!” *record scratch* (Oh god, kids today must have no idea what a record scratch sounds like…this only just dawned on me…) Anyway, I actually really love this girl, but I was absolutely struck dumb by that. Second grade! And of course, she’s now graduated. The freshmen this fall will have been born in the same year that I… I don’t even know how to finish that sentence. They were born in 1995. The first year I did, like, EVERYTHING. Probably the single most formative year of my life. So as much as I enjoy blasting “Here Comes the Hotstepper” from my stereo, the kids looking at me sideways in front of the dorms were FETUSES when that song came out. So the windows stay closed.

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I’ve always been almost comically interested in the idea of “generations”, possibly because I started paying attention to cultural commentary at a time when the gestalt was overinvested in “generation” dialogue. In the wake of last week’s ludicrously unoriginal “Me Me Me Generation” cover of Time, it’s important to remember that we have been through this bullshit before.

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When I was an adolescent, Generation X was the focal point of pop culture. Reality Bites and Singles and Slacker and Clerks. Kurt Cobain. Marc Jacobs doing a grunge collection during New York Fashion Week. Those first few actually good seasons of The Real World. Friends sitting around coffee shops drinking from mugs that, in the words of one of Phoebe’s boyfriends, “I’m sorry, might as well have NIPPLES on them.” And the book itself, Generation X, by Douglas Coupland, which illustrated young adults of the ’90s as nothing more than essentially anonymous retro Fisher Price Little People wandering through the desert of modern society. (Honestly, having read almost the entire Coupland oeuvre, I think Generation X is one of his weakest books. Microserfs gets the same point across, with a fun Web 1.0 flavor, and is just more fun to read.) Douglas Coupland himself skirts the top edge of what’s generally considered the Gen-X timespan; he was born in 1961. Richard Linklater, director of Slacker, was born in 1960. David Foster Wallace was born in 1962. Cameron Crowe, who wrote Singles, was born in 1957 and was married to the chick from Heart, if you can think of anything less grunge than that. All the longitudinal studies I’ve seen about Gen-X tend to define it as being people born between 1961 and 1981, but anyone born at the top and bottom edge of that range would tell you that is absurdly broad. The idea that Barack Obama and I are of the same generation is ridiculous. But at the same time, Obama is clearly not a Boomer, and anyone my age would flinch at being referred to as a Millenial.

Doree Shafrir, who has written for Jezebel and Slate, coined the phrase “Generation Catalano” for the folks I’ve always seen as my cohort, people born between 1976 and 1981…basically people who were teenagers while My So-Called Life was on the air. We are the generation that aped grunge but could never truly be grunge; the generation that was raised on MTV but could still vaguely remember a time when it didn’t exist. Those of us who dragged enormous desktop PCs with us to college fall between the true Gen-Xers who used electric typewriters or went to a computer lab, and the Millenials who take the fact of having a laptop with them in seminars as a given. (I was always amused by the number of kids I saw at the Apple Store who would drop their computers off at the Genius Bar for repair like we were asking them to saw off their own arm, telling us, aghast, “But I have class tomorrow; what am I supposed to do without my computer?” I always wanted to just hand them a #2 pencil and a composition notebook and see if they would just stare, uncomprehending, like a neanderthal seeing fire for the first time.)

Clearly Generation Catalano is a stupid term, one that also reflects how much of this talk about generations is a white upper middle class thing…seriously, every article I’ve ever seen bitching about Millenials has been written by deeply myopic east coast media types about deeply myopic east coast media types, ignoring large swaths of the country that don’t have the luxury of complaining about how hard it is to find internships or arguing about how entitled Hannah Horvath is. But there is definitely a group of American thirtysomethings, of which I am a part, who were deeply influenced by the Gen-X media flurry of the early ’90s but can’t truly lay claim to the label.

I think one of the reasons I responded so strongly to the show New Girl upon discovering it this past season is that it’s the first show I can remember that’s about my peers, starring my peers, specifically addressing what it’s like being one of my peers. Like, Dawson’s Creek was people my age and older playing people three years my junior. How I Met Your Mother and Big Bang Theory are both about people generally my age, but half the casts are pushing 40. (Will Ted meet the mother before Josh Radnor qualifies for social security? Stay tuned to the inexplicable season 9 to find out!) New Girl is often described as being another sitcom about twentysomethings sitting around an unrealistically large apartment, essentially Friends redux. But Friends was a bunch of thirtysomethings (and later fortysomethings; seriously, how ridiculous was that episode about how they all turned 30 when Lisa Kudrow was clearly almost menopausal?) playing twentysomethings, whereas New Girl is a bunch of thirtysomethings playing thirtysomethings. And that’s kind of the whole point of the show — they’re living like they’re still twentysomethings, coming to terms with the fact that their twenties are rapidly receding into distant memory. I can relate to that. They’ve basically established that the characters were born in 1981-82, but the actors were all born in ’78 and ’80, and I get the sense the writers are too. The music cues are for the most part spot on. The fact that Nick’s favorite songs are “Groove Is In The Heart” and “Call Me Al” really couldn’t be possible if he was a Millenial. I don’t think Deee-Lite translates for people who weren’t alive in ’91. Although I am still boggled by an anachronistic use of Titanic in a late season 2 episode. That episode as a whole had some weird pop cultural choices (“Stay” by Lisa Loeb at the senior prom in 2000? Probably not a thing that would happen), but that was the exception rather than the rule, and I am clearly way pickier about this stuff than the vastvastvast majority of the American viewing public. I’m worse than Comic Book Guy sometimes, seriously.

The other thing I sincerely enjoy about New Girl (or at least I did until the later part of the season got bogged down in a romcom plot that I enjoyed from a SQUEEEEEE!! perspective but not so much a humor perspective) is that the sensibility is just off-kilter enough that it doesn’t seem to be written from the standard sitcom playbook. Extended slo-mo chicken dances to Phil Collins, physical comedy set in a Chinese water massage parlor, Rusted Root-soundtracked threesomes with the warlock drug dealer from Buffy, Zooey Deschanel fending off a coyote in the desert by impersonating the Road Runner…it’s just operating from a quirkier, more improv-influenced base than Modern Family or Two and a Half Men. It’s not the surreal insanity of the first three seasons of Community, but it’s the closest thing we’ve got at this point.

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New Girl is a favorite over on the media review section of The Onion‘s website, the AV Club. AV Club comment sections have become my favorite place on the internet. It’s the sort of website where basically every thread descends into an extended “Dental Plan….Lisa Needs Braces” reference at some point. In other words, it’s populated with comedy nerds who are exactly my age with exactly my taste in humor. This is in contrast to a website that I keep wanting to like, Splitsider, which is the comedy-specific arm of the Awl/Hairpin blog empire. The Awl was created by Choire Sicha and Alex Balk, who are both around 40 years old; no one would contest them as solidly Gen-X, and Balk at the very least would probably laugh witheringly at the fact that someone born in 1980 bothered to expound at this length about something so pointless as “microgenerations”. And then he would drink more whisky and be glad that he’s one day closer to death, and that’s why I love Alex Balk. Anyway…Balk and Choire unfortunately hired a bunch of singularly unfunny Millenials to write Splitsider, which leads to me hate-reading a lot of that site the way I hate-listen to that clueless DJ on the Throwback Lunch. Any writer for a website that would describe Elf and Wedding Crashers as “classic movies” or, as triggered a tirade on my Facebook wall recently, willingly admit to being introduced to Michael Ian Black, David Wain, and Michael Showalter through Stella web shorts rather than from The State, is simply not someone I can take seriously as a comedy aficionado. There are people who watched Stella web shorts in their freshman dorm room, and there are people who watched The State Skits & Stickers VHS tape in their freshman dorm room, and never the twain shall meet.

I think there is a social context to how you encounter certain things that are considered comedy milestones that help define generational dividing lines. Someone who watched the first episode of Saturday Night Live as it happened, saw Belushi and O’Donoghue having a bizarre, contextless conversation about feeding someone’s fingertips to the wolverines, must have said, “Holy shit, we’re allowing 20-something nihilists to write and perform TV shows now??” They will always have a different understanding of that show within both the context of the time and the context of their own personal history than someone like me who randomly stumbled across it on Nick at Nite nearly 15 years later and got maybe a third of the jokes. For me, watching things like The State and Kids in the Hall and Mr. Show in their first run as an adolescent was incredibly formative to my appreciation of comedy and my sense of what is funny. Whereas someone who knows David Cross from watching Arrested Development on Netflix and goes to seek out Mr. Show years after the fact is going to be like, “Oh hey, this is funny!” But there won’t be the same sense of wonder as when your friend slips you a VHS they programmed to tape HBO Sundays at midnight, and your resulting astonishment that something so simultaneously ambitious and lo-fi and altogether bizarre is actually being shown on TV.

I will never be able to appreciate the Lenny Bruce obscenity trial as anything but a historical anecdote, but to my parents and other people their age, the fact that someone was talking about “cocksuckers” and “jacking off” in a comedy routine was shocking. Now it doesn’t make us blink. Carlin — not shocking to me. Bill Hicks — not shocking to me. Andrew Dice Clay — not shocking to me. Because I saw them all at such a young age that I just considered them the standard, didn’t understand the fuss. People who don’t remember a time before a 24-hour comedy channel are as foreign to me as people who secretly listened to Carlin LPs in the attic so their parents wouldn’t hear the words shit piss fuck cunt cocksucker motherfucker and tits.

Me, I listened to a Divinyls cassette single on a purple plastic boom box in the attic, because even though I didn’t really know what “I Touch Myself” was about, I knew enough to know I didn’t want my parents to think I did. And my jam in second grade wasn’t “Thong Song”, it was “Push It”, which I learned all the lyrics to phonetically, clearly not knowing what a “baby pop” was. And I have plenty of friends who would cringe to hear that I was in second grade when Salt N Pepa first came out, because my god, they were in HIGH SCHOOL in 1987! And so it goes. What’s more disorienting than anything is that, after spending so much time being the youngest member of various web forums, I’ve suddenly reached the age where the “Things That Will Make You Feel Old” lists on Buzzfeed are being written by and for people at least five years my junior. Don’t even get me started on Thought Catalog; that shit is incomprehensible to me, across the board. The people I thought were the epitome of cool when I was an adolescent are now impossibly old. Jon Stewart used to host a show on MTV where he would wear a leather jacket as the Afghan Whigs performed. Now he’s 50, the epitome of the comedy establishment, and everyone in the Afghan Whigs really needs to start watching their cholesterol intake. Thurston and Kim broke up because Thurston wouldn’t stop running around with a 34-year-old he worked with while writing a book about “mix-tape culture”. Adam Yauch died of salivary gland cancer last year. Hell, Jasmine Guy plays the GRANDMOTHER of a TEENAGER on Vampire Diaries. I mean, clearly Whitley Gilbert was secretly closer to Byron’s age than Dwayne’s, but that was still a swift kick to my diaphragm when I saw it. Gen-X is turning 50, Millenials are having their quarter life crisis, and I…I still know all the words to “Shoop” and follow Thomas Lennon’s twitter full of Smiths-related hashtag wordplay and Instagrammed pictures of Prince-symbol-shaped pancakes he makes for his toddler. I’m cool in my own mind. And now, when I watch My So Called Life, I sympathize with the parents and want Angela to get over herself. Generation Catalano is getting old, man. And our namesake is a mess. Have you seen that guy lately? Talk about not aging gracefully.