The recent movie "From Justin to Kelly" features the first winners of TV's "American Idol" competition in such sincere, well-scrubbed sing-your-heart-out roles that Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney come to mind.
This is not necessarily a predictor of quality - the movie itself was not screened for critics and it bombed at the box office. This straight-ahead sincerity also doesn't mean that violence and sex in TV and movies are suddenly out of fashion. Graphic violence and leave-little-to-the imagination sex are still prevalent in pop culture.
Hip-hop stars 50 Cent and Jay-Z, for example, continue to top the charts. Their lyrics are laced with profanity, and loaded with sexual and violent images. Meanwhile, Jewel and Liz Phair are repackaging themselves as sexy mainstream pop artists, dressing in skimpy skirts and plunging necklines.
What is emerging, nonetheless, is an optimistic chipper culture with little interest in cynicism and the grunge look. Even recent college grads are optimistic about the future, according to recent reports, despite a weak job market.
Cultural observers and experts say this new generation is gravitating more toward meaningful images and a positive outlook, and Hollywood and the art world are responding.
Australian filmmaker Baz Luhrmann, who created "Moulin Rouge," a film about the bohemians in early 20th-century Paris that has become a cult hit among the 18 to 25 demographic, says this is the generation that has seen it all.
"They want something more meaningful, something from the heart," Mr. Luhrmann says. "They're tired of irony."
Even before 9/11, when the collective psyche rejected irony, the signs of a shift were apparent, says Robert Thompson, director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University.