Saturday, January 6, 2007
I WAS Downtown
I started thinkin’ about an animated TV show from several years ago called Downtown. I only saw a few episodes but it made a big impression. Downtown aired on MTV in 1999. Unfortunately only one season of 13 episodes was made. I really enjoyed the program’s animation style, the urban dialog, and the realistic characters. It was based on interviews with real urbanites after all, so that’s probably what makes Downtown ring true. It’s kinda’ Ralph Bakshi meets The Real World. The show has an interesting multiracial cast of characters that struggle to navigate the trials and tribulations of New York City. I could go on about what a great cartoon it is, but just take a look:
Another, more personal reason for my interest in the show is that Downtown made me finally grasp that my generation’s pop culture influence had passed. Or rather, that I was no longer the target of youth pop culture. I should have realized this looooooong before 1999, I admit, but I was overseas for a while and culture shock tends to retard knowledge of changes in one’s home culture and changes in one’s self for that matter. I specifically remember a moment on the show where Matt, Downtown’s resident graffiti artist, expresses awe at finding artist tags from the 1980s in the bowels of the subway system. At first I thought: “the ‘80s wasn’t that long ago, why is he’s treating this like an ancient discovery.” But in pop culture time, a decade IS ancient, practically antediluvian.
I’m sure shrinks and sociologists have names for this sudden realization, but I was trying to come up with a phrase or a word that encapsulates this experience. A PopGen Signpost? PCM (pop culture marker)? GenShift? Nothing seemed to fit, and then I thought about the name of the show, Downtown. Downtown is where the cool kids hangout, the culture is bumping, and the possibilities are endless. That’s IT! Downtown. Of course, I still participate in pop culture, I'm just not 'Downtown' anymore.
The first episode