Obama and the Twilight Generation: Marketing Adulthood

There must have been some disconnect between President Obama and the crowd during his Inaugural speech.

His phrase “It’s time to set aside childish things” could have only been geared to that generation — mine — which rose into the ’70s admonished as a culture of narcissism by Christopher Lasch and again in 1992 by the legendary liberal economist John Kenneth Galbraith in The Culture of Contentment.

But one group is definitely on the same page: 13-year-olds.

“My mom always says I was born 35 years old and that I get more middle-aged every year,” 17-year-old Bella says to love interest Edward. “Well, someone has to be the adult.”

These are the gods and idols of the rising generation. They are what Bob Dylan and Joan Baez were to my generation; they are what Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio or Elvis were to the post-war group. Texas psychiatrist David Rosen has a perceptive book titled The Tao of Elvis on how archetypal figures like this wisp through a generation. They are Anima and Animus, as psychologists say; the organic yin and yang paradigm that will awaken, rise and mature within the generational group over the next 20 years.

Bella and Edward are teen idols. They are the characters of Twilight, and if your kids are older than 16 they probably won’t get it. But Malia and Sasha will and most likely so will Barack and Michelle.

But the vast chorus of entertainment professionals and their press outlets are still in denial. Most all of the awards this year went to passing themes, while the novel Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer, has sold over 25 million copies. My daughter and her friends have all read the book and seen the movie at least twice and are anxiously awaiting the release of the DVD.

Hollywood is instead bringing in second-rate knockoffs of “House” and still pitching pseudo-President Hillary and her hard-boiled and overwrought protector Jack Bauer, cultivating zeitgeist of a former millennium and completely missing the moment.

Obama spoke directly to the Twilight Generation and his Inaugural speech was a marketing coup, not unlike one Bob Dylan engineered early in his career.

There is a legendary marketing story about Dylan’s recording company refusing to release “Like a Rolling Stone,” which became a generational anthem. The big producers knew that it would change everything and diminish the value of their existing artists.

So the tape was surreptitiously played at Arthur’s, a popular New York club in the day. Disc jockeys heard it there for the first time and began playing it on the radio in the morning. It changed everything: the generation, the music, the world.

Obama did much the same thing at his Inauguration. When he finally got the stage to himself, when he didn’t need to watch the polls and market surveys, when he didn’t have to listen to the press, when no one could stop him, he brought forth a radically new idea: Adulthood.

This new attitude is going to be a tough sell marketwise, and will take some radical transitioning.

Change will start with Bella and Edward and their 25 million. And as it did with the release of Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” it will change everything.

Adulthood, that is, will be a tough sell. But it will change everything.



Visit Mr. Quigley's website at http://quigleyblog.blogspot.com.