March 9, 2004
                               Rearranged:   June 18, 2006

I keep coming back to the
example of the '59 Beatnik.

Imagine a teenage girl in 1959
choosing to put on a ritual set           The timeline, for reference:
of black leotards and go strutting
around Greenwich Village in New           1952 - "This is the beat generation"
York City.                                       in the New York Times Magazine

It's not at all unusual to look           1957 - "On the Road" published
down on this girl as a latecomer,
a clueless kid trying to hop on           1958 - Herb Caen christens them
the post "On the Road" bandwagon                 "beatniks"
without any exercise of
creativity on her part...                 1959 - The Dobie Gillis show begins,
                                                 with Bob Denver as Maynard
But try to imagine yourself                      G. Krebs
in her place... think about
how tightly constrained her                             KREBS
options are, the kind of
messages she was fed all her
life about what she's
supposed to be, the gauntlet          I selected 1959 for a reason: it's
of social pressure she needs          late enough that every teenager had
to run.  That standardized            some notion of what it meant to be
beatnik outfit stops seeming          a "beatnik", but early enough that
quite so trivial, and more            the icon still had some power.
revolutionary -- if not
outright foolhardy.                   This is probably true on through
                                      the early-60s, but if I said 1962
   By anyone's numbering              I'd confuse someone who didn't
   system, the '59 beatnik            realize that in 1962 no one
   is at best the second              really knew the fifties were over.
   model on the market.
                                            (I could be wrong about
   But for that particular                  details though: were
   teenager, it's all the                   black leotards the thing
   first time around.                       in '59?  Or was that later?
                                            Or never?)
   She plays the cards that
   were dealt her, but she                      Edie Sedgwick sported them
   plays them according to                      in the Silver Factory in '65,
   her own spirit.                              and Life magazine labeled
                                                her "The Girl with the Black
                                                Tights" in November 1965.
        The '59 beatnik has to be
        regarded as a real                            "Funny Face" from 1957
        individual, a seeker after                    had a promotional poster
        the grail of hipness no less                  with Audrey Hepburn in
        valid than those who blunder                  black tights, doing some
        through the wilderness                        beatnik-dance pose.
        without a media engraved
        chess-board to move across.                       So, the trope was
                                                          established early...
                                                          possibly by this
     Everyone who lives       No one is ever              very movie poster.
     is in the first          in the first
     generation.              generation.

                  Something like that.