She's Vice President Al Gore's connection to Generation X, officially -- as head of the campaign's get-out-the-vote youth effort -- and symbolically, as well. "Between my dad's campaign and new motherhood, sometimes I feel like I'm spending all of my time with 55-year-olds or infants," says Karenna Gore Schiff, 27, to a room full of eager, college-age Democrats. "So I can't tell you what a relief it is to be in a room with other people who actually lived through grunge."
That last line is a zinger Schiff uses frequently on young audiences. But how good are Schiff's Gen X bona fides? Her circumstances are a bit more fortunate than the average slacker -- she's surely never filled in a college loan form -- but if she's trying to reach out to her generation, she should at least be willing to take a test on basic Gen X trivia, right? She accepted the challenge:
What actor or actress from TV's "What's Happening?" died in the last year?
I literally have no idea. In fact, I have only a vague memory of what the cast of "What's Happening?" looks like. Were there a lot of big Afros on that?
There were many large Afros.
OK, well I thought the hairstyles were excellent. I remember Shirley the waitress. She would give everybody lip. [snaps]
The answer is: Shirley the waitress, played by Shirley Hemphill.
So I get half a point!
On the stump, you like to say that you've "lived through grunge." Keeping that in mind, do you know the name of the band Hole's breakout album?
Oh, God. I totally do. But wasn't it just ... "Hole"?
I don't know the first one. I only had the one that was, you know, "I wanted to be the girl with the most cake" was on, and all that. That's not the breakout album?
It is. But the name of the album is "Live Through This." Get it? You said we "lived through" grunge. See?
Yeah, yeah. It is fair.
Can you sing 30 seconds of any "Schoolhouse Rock"?
Oh, yeah. "I'm just a bill, up on Capitol Hill ..." Wait. Hold it. So there's that, which I can't do the rest of. But the one I always remember, which actually is a stretch [since it's also the words to the Preamble to the Constitution], but, "We the people, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare a-and, ensure the blessings of liberty, for ourselves and our posterity." That's how I remember that.
I'm going to name four actors. Which one was not in the John Hughes movie "The Breakfast Club"? Anthony Michael Hall, Molly Ringwald, Andrew McCarthy or Emilio Estevez?
Andrew McCarthy. One of my favorite movies that I had on tape, that I watched over and over, was "Sixteen Candles."
Did you identify with it?
Oh, no! I think it's because those were the early days when you couldn't rent movies. Somehow I didn't have access to that many movies. The movies I watched over and over: "Raiders of the Lost Ark." "Sixteen Candles." "National Lampoon's Vacation." And "Airplane!" Over and over. I liked "Sixteen Candles" because I thought Anthony Michael Hall was really, really funny in it. I don't think I related to it. Although everybody relates to being a tortured teenager.
"Tortured"? As a teenager, I can't see you ...
No, no, I've been incredibly privileged in every ...
No, no, I didn't mean it that way. But how were you "tortured"?
Oh, just, you know, the normal stuff. I mean, I had a curfew, I had to go to church on Sunday ...
Next question. Have you ever liked a guy and he didn't like you? Ever?
Yeah. Oh my gosh, yes. Yes. Yes. Yes yes yes. Yeah.
That's the correct answer.
Yeah. Yeah yeah yeah. I liked all kinds of, like, supercool guys in junior high school and high school. I've had the unrequited feeling certainly. She gets the guy in "Sixteen Candles."
Back to the quiz: In the 1970s, this gum was rumored to contain spider eggs.
I'm sorry. The answer is Bubble Yum.
I've got to say that's disturbing news!
Well, I don't think it's true. You have a choice for the next question. You can either name the six actors, or the six characters on "Friends."
Um. OK. I've never been like a huge "Friends" watcher. But, OK. Courtney Cox-Arquette. Jennifer Aniston. Lisa Kudrow. Oh, the guys ... They're. Mmm. Uh. Um. You're going to have to give me a minute. Obviously the women have had more of an impact on me than the men.
You even know Courtney Cox's hyphen.
Ross. And Chandler. Chandler Bing. Ross is the brother of the Courtney Cox character, Monica. And who's the other one? I'll remember.
Should I move on? We'll give you half, for knowing the women.
Yeah, let's move on. I came very late to "Friends," I must say.
Name the city in which the following movies took place. "Slacker."
I never saw that. Is that good?
Sure. It's by Richard Linklater, who did "Dazed and Confused"; did you ever see "Dazed and Confused"?
Yeah. That's a good one. But I don't know, so I'm just going to have to take a total guess. New York.
Austin. How about "Singles"?
I did see that. Was that L.A.?
Correct. Two more: "Reality Bites"?
Was that Seattle?
Again, "Nevermind" is the first one I tuned into. But that probably wasn't the first album. I don't know the first.
"Bleach." Ah. Well, when things are trendy, I jump on board. [laughs]
Score and analysis: Karenna Gore Schiff's score was poor; she scored six out of a possible 12 points, a D-minus. Michael Kinsley's famous observation about Al Gore, circa 1987, was that he was "an old person's idea of a young person." Could the same be said of his daughter? Most telling: She blanked on the two Gen X film locales that took place in Texas, the home state of her dad's opponent, Gov. George W. Bush. A Gen X member, sure -- but a Gen X leader? First, Schiff may want to devote more time on the totally unconstructive and useless pursuits of her generational peers.