Throughout history, scholars have maintained that each era has a unique spirit, a general set of ideas, beliefs and feelings that set it apart from other times. They’ve named this the ‘zeitgeist’ – literally meaning ‘time’ and ‘spirit’. For example, the 60s are often characterised by hippie culture, the fight for personal liberation and rebelling against authority. Certain cultural events like Woodstock are seen as markers of this, evidential ‘proof’ of how people felt at the time. With the ever-increasing speed of technology though, it seems like these zeitgeists are moving quicker and quicker, no longer shifting with each decade but with each year.
Don’t get me wrong, as a word zeitgeist is definitely not the easiest to drop into conversation. It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue and it will probably elicit an eye-roll here and there. But I like the idea of capturing and defining various moments in time. It seems to feed into the same reason why we love reading horoscopes or become attracted to subcultures. It’s a way of making sense of what’s going on around us, of connecting the dots and providing some sort of identity that we can latch ourselves on to.
So, if 2020’s zeitgeist was all about resilience, and 2021’s about recovery, how do we summarise 2022? In Rolling Stone’s year in review, which was released last week, it stated that ‘the deranged mood of the country is potent’. Dramatic maybe but not entirely untrue. The year has seen us continue to deal with the aftermath of the pandemic, we’ve had three Tory prime ministers in the space of just two months and we’re now in the midst of various strikes, a housing crisis and the unchecked soaring of energy prices. Ultimately, the last few years have reminded us that our personal and collective normality can be shattered at any time.
But deranged doesn’t necessarily have to be negative either. Despite all the doom and gloom, there’s been a whole lot of WTF moments that have actually brought immense joy. In typical British fashion, we’ve reacted to many of the above events the only way we know how – with plenty of memes, drinking and the cheering on of a wilting lettuce dressed up in googly eyes and a blonde wig.
Other highlights include #spitgate - when Harry Styles allegedly spat on Chris Pine – as well as everyone becoming obsessed with negroni sbagliatos thanks to that Emma D’Arcy interview. Plus, our collective yearning for nostalgia has resulted in totally weird yet wonderful mash ups. I’m thinking specifically of the still catchy ‘my money don’t jiggle jiggle, it folds’ rap which was resurrected from an old Weird Weekends episode and gave Louis Theroux his first taste of TikTok fame. When you look at it, the zeitgeist right now is giving… all over the place.
So what’s the zeitgeist looking like for 2023? Well if we’re to go off Pantone’s prediction, 2023 is set to be ‘brave, fearless and pulsating’. Naming Viva Magenta as its Colour of the Year, the design company has detected ‘a prevailing desire for optimism, resilience, outside-the-box thinking and technological innovation to create a better world’. Think we can all agree that’s something we need right now.