Zoomers Know They’ve Been Robbed of Something

Zoomers Know They’ve Been Robbed of Something

When I was a kid there were still a few dime stores around.  Nothing in them cost a dime by then but they still existed.  What didn’t exist was dime-store culture.

That lost bit of Americana where a bunch of bare foot boys wearing coonskin caps and carrying their bb-guns would wander into one to buy pop, candy and comic books with their paper route money.

And honestly, it never even occured to me to miss it.

So, why bring it up?  Because of something I discovered recently about Gen Z.  They are desperate for 1980s mall culture.  The trend is that they like to play stuff like this on their smartphones and wander around them.

Don’t listen to this. If you were born before 1981 you know every note of it anyway.

That music is called vaporwave and yes, it’s the mall muzak I used to hear it back when I would wander around malls when I was an aimless kid with a little time to kill.

When Michael Tills from Kentucky wants to escape, he goes to the mall. He visits the old ice cream parlor and orders his favorite: mint chocolate chip with a scoop of bubblegum. Tills heads over to the skateboard store where he used to buy chunky DC sneakers and griptape for his board. He stops by the water fountain at the center of the mall, the place where he took his first date and had his first kiss. The mall is a happy place, reminiscent of a time when he was younger and carefree — where his life played out to a soundtrack of Weezer, No Doubt and the Counting Crows.

Except, Tills never experienced such a mallrat adolescence. In fact, the closest mall to his home, the Fayette Mall in Lexington, is so small that you could probably visit every store in under an hour. And being born in 1999, his friends are more likely to be listening to Drake, A$AP Rocky, XXXtentacion, or more commonly, the artists that appear on Spotify’s curated playlists.

Indeed, Tills’ life at the mall is imaginary. He’s nostalgic for the 1990s, which he thinks was a better time to live. At the core of this mental construction is “mallwave,” a lo-fi subgenre of vaporwave that listeners refer to as “music optimized for abandoned malls.” Like Vaporwave creators, Mallwave musicians use soft drum tracks, ambient sounds and low-quality synthesizers to create soft, calming electronic music. But they also mix in pop music associated with the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, with the purpose of creating a holistic “nostalgic” experience, one that recreates the experience you would have had when visiting the mall. Or, in Tills’ case, what that experience might have been like, for people who lived it.

Gen Z knows they’ve been dealt a bad hand.

Of course, they are going to look back to a world where you could head to the mall to hook up with your friends, see what new albums had been released at Sam Goody. Then cruise through Waldenbooks. By then you’d picked up a few of your friends so you would head to Babbages to look over the latest computer games, which would all be too expensive, so you go to the arcade for a bit. Then it was time to visit the food court.  Not that you were that interested in finding food.  What you were looking for were slim girls in sprayed on Jordache who were covertly checking you out. At that point, it was time to go say, “hi.”

Even if they can’t be a part of that culture, they can at least shake hands with it.

The Millennials were raised to be so invested in the Lie that most of them could never even think about finding the truth. No surprise. They had Boomer parents who were even more invested in the Lie than they were and pushed the illusion constantly. Just get a college degree and everything will fine. It’s worth the debt.

Zoomers were raised by Generation-X. We couldn’t do that to our children.

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Comments (5)

  • Ivan Poland Reply

    My Z kids live our little mall in town, which is one of those 1 hour mall mentioned, but it’s theirs, complete with an arcade. When I take them largest outdoor mall in the US, the Ala Moana they are blown away at 4 floors of shoppes, two food courts and even a bookstore. Last time we were there most of the stores were full, that in early March. Since our retarded Governor shut down inter island travel due to the Coof we haven’t been back, but I hear most of the stores won’t be coming back. It’s a shame. The mall was free window shopping at it’s best.

    November 25, 2020 at 12:45 am
    • Owen Reply

      That sucks. Ala Moana really is (or was) a fantastic mall. I used to like going there (and to the Marukame noodle shop in downtown Honolulu) when we’d visit Hawaii. Probably the millennials were the last generation to “go to the mall.” My millennial kids would go but by then the arcades were a thing of the past. It wasn’t a real destination like it was in the 70s and 80s.

      December 14, 2020 at 2:34 am
  • Bonesaw Reply

    He wants to hang around the shops and his name is till(s).

    November 25, 2020 at 3:28 am
  • Brick Hardslab Reply

    Small towns and a few areas of the cities were still barefoot and bb gun places. We didn’t take the BB guns into stores usually. And never into a city. I was reminiscing with Jerry Pournelle’s daughter about Seattle when you could quite safely walk around as a kid barefoot or play in a city park until mom and dad got off the bus from work.

    Life in America really was great. When they complained about all the things they couldn’t do it really boiled down to ‘we can’t be perverts and blasphemers’. Now with the third world voter fraud and dis-civic behavior it’s the nightmare I’ve feared for forty years. Eighties seemed horrible to me especially malls.

    November 25, 2020 at 4:17 pm
  • Michael Maier Reply

    There’s something that turns my stomach at people thinking malls gave “culture”. This is surely a sign of the end times.

    August 3, 2021 at 9:40 pm

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