Last night the University of Utah hosted the Grand Kerfuffle with Mos Def. The show went off good enough but I couldn’t ignore the crowd. They trickled in excited and full of energy as Mos Def’s stage time neared. At one point they held up their cell phones, like lighters, honoring the dead at Virginia Tech.
Then the rapper on stage beat boxed the theme song to Sanford & Son. He asked the crowd, “You know that one?” They cheered as if they did. Later similar references to TV shows and music were thrown out at the crowd, and every time they cheered as if they knew what the reference meant. While it has become a normal experience to trade mutual TV experiences with one another, this seemed odd. These kids might have heard of these shows, but the average age of the crowd was somewhere between 5 and 15.
So, never in their lives could they have actually watched these shows when they were on television. The only explanation is that they have seen reruns or worse. Maybe these kids had heard Sanford & Son referenced before by another rapper or a comedian, yet never seen the show. It’s like when some stand up act mentions some weird and somewhat obscure person and you laugh even if you don’t know who they are talking about. HA! HA!
But the crowds' cheers of understanding in references to television shows belonging to another generation seemed empty. It was as if these television shows had become clichés for the young to reference as a way of being authentically televised. Look, I know all about this kooky old show that was canceled, like, 20 years ago, how weird. It made me wonder whether anyone in the crowd was actually listening, let alone understanding what the people on stage were saying. Was there some massive disconnect, some chasm that separating the crowd from the performers--Mos Def strutting around saying all kinds of things and the crowd just bobbing their heads and waving their hands to the beat. (Jonah Owen Lamb)