3 New Tribes in the Youth Culture

I teach Introduction to Youth Ministry every two years at CU.  Yesterday during class was our highly anticipated Social Tribes Experiment.  My students randomly draw an adolescent social tribe from a hat.  Then during the class session they dress up in the stereotypical fashion that displays their selected tribe.  Each person stands up and then the rest of the class yells out what tribe they think the person is from and other stereotypes that accompany the tribe.

The Tribes include: jocks, cheerleader, nerds, techie, bandie, artsy/drama, urban/city, punk, emo, goth, stoner/pot head, preppy, gay/lesbian, red neck, and hippie. 

Grunge and Surfer-Dude are being removed as those tribes are going away.  Yesterday I learned of three new tribes that are rapidly growing.  These were new tribal identities are based more on current cultural changes and media influences.

The three new tribes are: 

1.  Guido – Guido is an Italian-acting, muscle head, clubber based heavily on The Jersey Shore’s “The Situation” and “Snookie.”  It is about big hair, big muscles, and downing large amounts of alcohol.  Lots of cologne and hair gel here.  Lots of clubbing and talking  a big game.  It is about getting into fights, being tough, and telling others off.  Much like the tough guy act of late 50’s and early 60’s, Guido is about having machismo and a reputation for being hard.

2.  Playmates (also known as “Plastics” and “Barbies“) – This tribe is for teenage girls only.  It is about making yourself look as if you have had plastic surgery with fuller lips, larger breasts, and a fuller posterior.  It is about expensive handbags, shoes, and jewelry.  Influenced heavily from the TV show “The Girls Next Door” which features the Playboy Mansion and Hugh Hiefner’s three girlfriends, this tribe wants to reinvent the image of the sexually active and promiscuous teenage girl as something more glamorous and high class.

3.  Playdoh (also known as “Half-Breeds”) – Playdohs are a mixture of two tribes into one person.  A Playdoh lives in two worlds seamlessly and identifies with both as their chosen culture.  For example, someone might be a Red Neck and a Jock.  Or a Nerd and Bandie.  The term “half-breed” is more derogatory and comes as an insult toward to the Playdoh.  (Consider the Harry Potter influence here where the phrase “filthy half-breed” is an insult for students who parents are mixed: magical and human.)

I imagine that certain tribes will remain consistent in the high school teenage experience.  But the rise of new categories always fascinates me.  What new tribes will emerge in 2 years when we do the Social Tribes Experiment again?

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