The Golden Age of Mediocrity
by Mad Dog
history of mankind is broken down into eras based on the technological advances which move
it forward. Thus the familiar sequence of the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, the Machine Age,
and the current Seinfeld Age, which is evidenced by our sudden propensity towards
excessive whining, abundant and overt display of neuroses, lack of personal direction and
motivation, and the ability to love completely unlovable people, probably because you're
grateful they're not related to you.
But of all the
possible ages, it's the Golden Age we really look forward toyears of peace,
prosperity, and happiness. Sooner or later every society has one. It's much like a
debutante's coming out, except unfortunately the phrase "coming out" has an
entirely different meaning these days. Cultures rise and cultures fall. The Mayans had
their day. The ancient Egyptians theirs. Even those diabolical people that brought us
Beanie Babies had theirs and we can only hope and pray that it's over.
The Golden Age also
refers to things other than civilizations. The Golden Age of Hollywood was in the 40's.
The Golden Age of rock 'n roll was in the 60's. And the Golden Age of television was in
the late 50's because it was live, vibrant, and, even though Urkel hadn't been invented
yet, it was still better than staring at a radio and clicking a remote wondering why there
was never any picture.
Some say all the
Golden Ages are behind us, but that's probably because everything looks better in the rear
view mirror. Everything except that semi which is six inches from your ass and gaining
quickly. Recently, an article in Time magazine declared the New York Times to be in their
Golden Age. They came to this conclusion because the Times finally discovered that
printing ink comes in colors other than black, that there is occasionally a story more
worthy of the front page headline than the Andorran Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and, if you
want to know the real truth, USA Today turned down the honor.
One thing's for
certain, the current historical period will never be called a Golden Age. The Aluminum Can
Age, perhaps. Maybe even the Disposable Age. But most likely it will go down in history as
the Age of Mediocrity.
For some reason we,
as bland tasteless Americans, have decided that okay is good enough. Things don't need to
be good as long as they're consistent. It's more important for hamburgers to be served
quickly than for them to taste like meat. Books don't need to be written by writers as
long as the author is a well-known TV star whose name recognition is higher than that
Pynchon guy, what's-his-name? Movies make the most money when they have more bombs than
brains. And Starbucks is more popular than the little coffee shop on the corner because,
well, it may not be great, but you know what you're getting.
Bagels are a prime
example. They used to be a joy. Having been raised outside New York City I teethed on
stale bagels. Or so I'm told. Since the bagel's popularity has soared, they've gone from
chewy delights to bready doughnuts. Even the best bagel shop in the world in Teaneck,
NJBoy, will that declaration start a fight!was sold and now the bagels are no
better than those peddled in chain stores where they're more concerned with whether people
will buy Chocolate Chip Jalapeno bagels than whether they're edible.
That's right, the
chain stores. Another indication that we're not only in the Age of Mediocrity, we're in
the sub-era known as the Homogenous Years. If you don't believe me, hit the main street of
any town, no matter how small. The line-up is the same: Wal-Mart, McDonald's, 7-11, etc,
would rather not have surprises, as Holiday Inn pointed out with their ad campaign a few
years back. But when everything's homogenized we lose the highs along with the lows.
Please, it's worth risking buying a so-so pastry from an unknown bakery rather than shovel
another Twinkie down your throat because you know what you're getting. Okay, maybe that's
a bad example. Who knows what's really in a Twinkie?
perspective is important, and we don't have that yet. Maybe while it's occurring, every
time period is considered to be the Age of Mediocrity. While we consider the 5th century
B.C. to be the Golden Age of Greece, the Athens Daily Enquirer & News-Review probably
wrote countless editorials bemoaning Sophocles' Oedipus Trilogy.
griefious, Sophocles," the editors wrote. "Can't you come up with something new
and fresh rather than mining that same old Oedipus-The Sequel stuff again?"
As they say,
everything old is new again. But the mediocre new stuff sure does get old fast.
©1997 Mad Dog Productions, Inc. All
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country.
If they don't appear in yours, call and ask them why.