Throughout Việt Nam, the youthfulness of the population is impossible to ignore, let alone the crowded pavements and in the tightly packed schoolyards, the energy and dynamism of Vietnamese young people is everywhere. Half of Việt Nam’s population is aged under twenty and has never experienced the horrors of war. The new generation is seeking its own identity and testing out its own limits in a world that was unknown to its parents, a world of computer games, sports fields and shopping malls.
Young people are responding to changing workplace conditions by loosening family ties and desire greater freedom to choose their own careers, which might go against their family’s wishes, and/or moving to urban areas to take advantage of the greater career opportunities whenever possible.
The rise of consumerist culture and the phenomenal expansion of the media following Đổi mới have introduced new values to Vietnamese womanhood. Research notes an unfolding process of individualization in Vietnamese society. Younger generations are becoming more individualistic, and the notion of femininity is beginning to incorporate new aspirations for “modernity, urbanity, beauty, and sexuality.” This has somehow caused a moral panic in a society to which the state and popular culture respond by reaffirming feminine virtues of endurance, simplicity, and hard work as morally superior through heavily censored cultural products.
However, to the sensation-seeking demands of young people, society responds by offering Hollywood-style global culture. Their parents, who lived through the interminable war years, were forced to lead more sheltered lives. But curiously, rebellion is now being seen as a normal thing. The Cải Lương open-air theatre is out of date; people want to see preview showings of the latest movies that they’ve read about on the Internet. Young people in Việt Nam are looking to the West and don’t want to be left behind. On television, hugely popular South Korean and Thai soap operas offer a taste of modernity, consumerism and luxury, something for everyone to aspire to. The young believe that they should have access to the same movies, TV shows and concerts as other Asian countries or the West: in this globalized world, it seems only fair, after all.