Materialism in Youth Culture

In the essay about Fast Forward on your website, you said that the world has changed since you started working on the project in the ’80s. A lot of the things that you saw in these communities of privileged kids has now become the norm across the board. How do you reconcile something as changeable as youth culture or the economic climate with your desire to document particular phenomena?

I’m not really thinking about those things when I’m working. When I did Fast Forward, one of the things I was looking at was the homogenization of youth culture, and how kids from very different socioeconomic backgrounds were affected similarly by the same media. It was a time when MTV was blowing up and rich kids were being exposed to the materialism in gangsta rap, but there was this over-the-top materialism in the ghettos of L.A. that was also influenced by hip-hop culture. When I look at Fast Forward now, the clothes are dated, but the phenomenon is not. With the internet, cable, globalization, and international branding, it has just gotten that much stronger, that much more pervasive. I go to China, I go to Moscow, I go to Dubai, I see that those forces affect people in a lot of different parts of the world at all different ages.

And now that I have a son who’s going through the bar mitzvah phase, I can’t believe I’m living it. Yesterday he told me about an attraction they had at a party at somebody’s home where they had a fan and a box, and the kid goes in the box and the fan was blowing REAL MONEY. And the kids would catch as much as they could and take home what they caught.

Rookie has a really great interview with Lauren Greenfield, a photographer and filmmaker who made The Queen of Versailles.

Also, OMG, that box that blows money for children to grab and take home. I distinctly remember having one of those once at my middle school. We were selling boxes of candy for a school fundraiser and the kid who sold the most candy got to go into the money box. What a scam that was.

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