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Shampoo Planet

Shampoo Planet is Douglas Coupland's second novel, published by Pocket Books in 1992. It is a thematic followup to Coupland’s first novel, Generation X. The novel deals with Tyler, a Global Teen, who shares many characteristics of the character Tyler from Generation X. The novel tells the story of Tyler’s life as he arrives home from Europe, and the fallout of this trip and beyond.

Synopsis

Part One

Part one begins shortly after Tyler’s return from a European vacation. He is in a relationship with a girl named Anna-Louise, and dreams of working for American Defense Contractor, Bechtel. He is obsessed with his haircare products, having a collection of different brand name products, most featuring names invented by Coupland.

The first part of the novel details Tyler’s life in Lancaster, Washington. The town is a near ghost town, after the town’s largest employer, the Plants, was shut down. The effects of the Plants’ shutdown has caused many problems in the town, including the boarding up of many stores in the local mall.

Tyler’s family life is composed of himself, his mother, and his two siblings. He calls his mother by her first name, Jasmine. Jasmine is an ex-hippie whom is married to an alcoholic man named Dan. At the very introduction of the novel, Dan divorces Jasmine. Tyler, his sister, Daisy, and his brother, Mark, band together to help Jasmine through her troubling time.

Tyler’s Grandparents are also introduced. They are quite wealthy, but they will not share their wealth with their family members. They have decided to start selling a product satirically labeled KittyWhip, which is a gourmet cat food product line.

Part Two

At the beginning of this part, two of Tyler’s compatriots from his European vacation decide to visit Tyler in Lancaster. They are Monique and Stephanie. Stephanie is Tyler’s secret shame Europe, as he had a summer relationship with her. Tyler tells us about his European vacation, and the events that lead to him meeting Stephanie, and what it means to have Stephanie visit them in Lancaster.

Tyler’s world starts to turn upside down, as his Grandparents lose their fortune, his mother becomes a KittyWhip salesperson, and his relationship with Anna-Louise enters a rough patch. Tyler feels himself become more drawn to Stephanie then Anna-Louise.

Part Three

Tyler, deciding that his life in Lancaster is not interesting enough, leaves with Stephanie to live in Los Angeles. His time in Los Angeles is wrought with strife. Tyler’s worst fear becomes true as he finds himself working at a chicken fry shop manning the fryer. His worst fear in life was to become a fry cook, a position he had always dreaded. It is in Los Angeles that Tyler begins to comprehend advice that his mother gave him about loneliness.

Inspiration

The novel is about the generation after the X generation. The primary character, Tyler, is a “Global Teen”, what was popularily labeled in the media as Generation Y. They are the children of the hippy generation, who “react by loving corporations, and they don't mind wearing ties. To them, Ronald Reagan is emperor". They exist in a globally connected world marked out by advertising and corporate power. They are optimistic when compared with their siblings in the X Generation. However, they do not have experience with leader whom show care for other people. "I still remember Jimmy Carter. I still remember Pierre Trudeau. I still remember a time when society cared about other people. But there's nothing in these kids' databases to show that there are other options, that it wasn't always dog eat dog. Older people have to somehow convince young people that better things are possible.

History of the novel

Being released in the shadow of Generation X, Shampoo Planet is considered another Zeitgeist catching novel. It’s depiction of the Global Teen generation has been remarked by many critics as close to Generation X. Yet, the novel suffers from comparison to Generation X. Coupland has claimed that the novel is too contrived. However, the novel has retained its individual sense, becoming a historical artifact of the times that brought about its creation.

It has been referenced by such things as Ergo Proxy, whose 21st episode was named after the book, and by the band Panic At the Disco's popular single, I Write Sins Not Tragedies.

References

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