Monday, 5 July 2010

Youth | Introduction | Youth Sells

Week 7 | Youth | Contents

Tuesday | Poetry | 'A Kindred Spirit'
Thursday | Music | Postcards From Italy: the First, Second and Third
Saturday | Mixtape | Italy

“How beautiful is youth! how bright it gleams with its illusions, aspirations, dreams! Book of Beginnings, Story without End, Each maid a heroine, and each man a friend!”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“One man's "magic" is another man's engineering.”

Robert A. Heinlein

Sex proverbially sells, or so ‘they’ say – however, I’m not entirely sure ‘they’ know what ‘they’ are talking about. In fact, it is nothing to do with sex per se – it is youth that is being sold - in truth, youth sells.

Youth is not the gap between childhood and adulthood in this instance – it is beauty, vitality and a state of mind. It is the holy grail – eternal life – what we seek at all times of our lives and that is exactly why advertisers associate the products they are representing with it. It is youth as commodity – something you can obtain through purchase. Mostly importantly here, it is believable – it is a real magic. However old you are there are days when you feel ‘young’, when a certain vibrancy peels back the years, it a universal we all know – it exists and therefore can be bought.

Advertising has always been an art, but now it is more closely aligned than ever – with an industry so saturated with content it has to be. Art has always sold youth – Hugo Williams’ poem ‘Peach’ for example always sticks in my mind as capturing this idea of youth – as he takes us up the ‘lookout tree’ and kicks the ladder way – however the line that hits it on the head is ‘It was almost impossible to get down’, as he goes on to say ‘that was the whole point’. It touches upon youth as that perfect commodity – rare ‘almost impossible’ but something that can be believed – a real magic.

This week we will mostly be talking about youth.

James Harringman


  1. When I was one-and-twenty
    I heard a wise man say,
    ‘Give crowns and pounds and guineas
    But not your heart away;
    Give pearls away and rubies
    But keep your fancy free.’
    But I was one-and-twenty,
    No use to talk to me.

    When I was one-and-twenty
    I heard him say again,
    ‘The heart out of the bosom
    Was never given in vain;
    ’Tis paid with sighs a plenty
    And sold for endless rue.’
    And I am two-and-twenty,
    And oh, ’tis true, ’tis true.

  2. That youth sells I have no doubt. I read a very good letter in the Telegraph the other day from a woman arguing that we have gratuituous violence and sex on TV not because youths really like it, at heart, but because adult TV executives think youths like it, and because media types make it so taboo.

    It's a sobering thought; what if youth has never really rebelled, only acted out the rebellious tropes adults had already decided to allot them?


  3. I find it fascinating how society constructs 'natural' rites of passage... the Victorians inventing 'childhood' as we now know it and the idea of the 'teenager' spawning from several 20th century influences.

    I wonder now if James Dean in Rebel isn't to blame for the current spate of knife crime sweeping the nation.

    -Dennis Hopper

  4. But nobody watches Rebel Without A Cause these days, Dennis. Kids aren't interested in classic cinema like Casablanca, Citizen Kane or Aliens.

    If anything's to blame for the current epidemic of knife crime (a war, actually; why call it an epidemic when it's an organised war against civilisation?) then surely it's 'if...'.

    I don't mean the Bluetones song quite so much as I mean the Lindsay Anderson film, starring Malcolm McDowell (a man with an apparent vendetta against civilised life), responsible for encouraging an entire generation of public schoolboys into murdering innocent people with machine-guns, or 'UZIs' as Cool Britannia has dubbed them.


  5. I could not agree more... kids today are too consumed with the possibilities that we pretend exist out there.

    When I was a lad, me and my friends would stand and wait silently outside our classroom until a lesson began... even if that meant spending an entire weekend in a snowy playground.

    Today, you walk around the high streets and the low streets and the new cyber streets they have on their lap-phones and it's all full of knives and rape and pogs and so forth.

    We need to go the American route and elect action heroes as politicians... put a bit of fear up those whipper snapping little bastards.

    -Dennis Hopper

  6. Some interesting opinions have been sparked off here. Dennis Hopper (I'm assuming not the late Dennis Hopper?), did you know that 'whippersnapper' most likely comes from 'whip-snapper', after the habit amongst idle young 17th century men of hanging about on street corners flicking their whips to get attention?

    Do our correspondents believe that an exchange of whips for knives is the best way to keep violent crime down?

    Jon Ware
    Fiction Editor

  7. Mr. Ware, you pose an interesting idea but your fault is that you do not go far enough.

    I propose an exchange of whips for everything. Whips instead of pens. Whips instead of language. Whips instead of hope. Whips instead of think. Whips instead of is.

    The next truly great cinematic experience will not be flickered stagnantly from a projector but rather whipped. Every audience member not watching but whipping. Whipping at a screen made of whips. Whipping against reason. Whipping against dignity. Whipping against the tide.

    Your anecdote, I shan't check your sources, reminds me of the origin of the word 'roustabout'. Did you know that this word originally referred to wartime cockney schoolboys who fled home in fear of evacuation?

    They formed a homeless family unit unto themselves and would even carry out the traditions of the family home, including the weekly ceremony of having a Sunday Roast, which they would often eat in the middle of a roundabout in suburban areas. Hence the name 'roustabout'.

    -Dennis Hopper