I had a long discussion-maybe let’s call it a debate-with my offspring recently about how the distance between their generation and my generation is so close, compared to the distance between my generation and my parents, that they probably can’t really shock me.
Don’t get me wrong: there’s some stuff going on with Millenials that I find not so much shocking as just kind of “Why?”…things like that donut head thing, (and yes, on Wikipedia it is referred to as “Bagel Head” but given it’s Canadian roots, I will always think of it as “Donut Head”) or even spacers which kind of gross me out. But culturally, we are so very similar.
I watched Scooby Doo, they watched Scooby Doo. We all love the Ramones. You are as likely to see a 50 year old with pink hair and sleeve tatoos as you are a 20 year old in our neighbourhood. And let me be clear: hennaing my hair shocked my parents.
I blame the internet in many respects; I think a large part of internet culture, meme culture is about replaying and reliving the era that came just before the Millenials were born. Sarah Bunting talks about it in her article, and we see it all over Youtube. Cult culture isn’t new but the breadth of cultural artifacts from the 80’s now available online is, and as Bunting points out, the reuse of those “artifacts” (read: actors) is a clever way to capture a new generation of television viewers.
So can gen exer’s ever be shocked by their Millenial offspring? I’m sure we can, and in fact I hope so. Thinking up things to distance yourself from your parents generation is what growing up is all about. And maybe my parents generation was, at the heart of it, shocked by difference. Maybe the Millenials will shock us by simply not being shocked by difference.
How do Millenials rebel? Their music is talentless, overproduced and smacks of marketing focus groups. Their television and movie idols are interchangeably symmetrical, aryan and photoshop-fit. Is the breadth of their rebellion just to be entitled, unable to utilise the English language (we’ve all seen the comments sections) and vacuously unable to maintain themselves as adults (or maintain the middle class for that matter)? If this diatribe sounds jaded and pedantic, keep in mind I am a Gen X’er. Unfortunalely, I am the closest in age to them that I can possibly be without missing out on being a part of Generation X altogether, so I am closer to them in many ways. I feel like Dian Fossey observing the strange behaviors of lower primates (especially when I observe scene kids).
Lucas, it is the prerogative of every generation to think that their predecessors were/are benighted, their successors soft and frivolous. Our generation (I am assuming from your comment that we are roughly contemporaries, in spirit if not quite in calendar age) is no different. But let’s be realistic, to say nothing of charitable, here: there is a lot of good stuff out there now, culturally and intellectually speaking, and there was a whole lot of garbage in our era; it’s only in retrospect that we can skim off the garbage and remember fondly those things that deserve to endure – an exercise that is never entirely possible in judging contemporary times. The key is to seek out the good stuff, of both the present and the past, and present it to “our” kids, preferably in some continuity-minded context (since everything, even such masters as Bach and the Beatles, comes out of something), so they won’t become the mindless, mass media-fed automatons and “lower primates” you rail against – or at least so they know there’s a choice. This might take some digging, it might take some wading – but the good news is that, thanks in large part to the Internet (about which I am admittedly often ambivalent also), it’s easier now than it’s ever been. The alternative, it seems to me, is giving up on humanity entirely, admitting our best days as a civilization are past, and turning into one of those wilfully fogeyish parents of all generations who inveigh against flappers, jazz, radio, TV, “that rock ‘n’ roll rubbish,” profanity and sex in novels, rap and grunge, the World Wide Web, etc., etc., etc….
Lucas, try contributing relevant cultural examples for kids to follow today if you don’t like how they’re doing it because they will gravitate toward whatever they can find that they like best. Keep in mind also that the music industry as we knew it collapsed circa 1999-2001 as a way of curating and distributing quality music as well as making a living as an artist (not that it was easy before then, but now it’s virtually impossible). A lot of what’s driving all this is the economics getting more concentrated at the top.
I have to agree with James on this: not only because I have 3 millennial kids and I think they’re great, but also because my experience teaching Millennials has been that they are open minded and tolerant in ways our generation was not brought up to be. I believe that gender identity and sexual preference is the new race, and this generation is going to be the one that, I think, that pushes a rights agenda forward for LGBTQ folks. But I do think there is a danger that we have created this world where all experiences are mediated by a screen, and even though I spend most of my time mediating my experiences through a screen of some sort, I hope Millennials are tech-savvy enough to know when to set the tech aside.
I couldn’t agree more. The key with any technology is that it should serve the person using it, not the other way around. If it enhances our experiences and opens our eyes to new ones, that’s all to the good; if it takes the place of actual lived experience, becoming an end in itself, then we are losing a part of ourselves.
Of course new poll out says 40% wanna do away with free speech. So tolerant and open minded…ummmm
Christine, I very much agree that left-leaning politics are a hallmark of the rising 20-30 somethings right now. The problem about the technology is, there’s not as much choice in using it as one would like to believe. In the 2000s and earlier, one could get away with a much more tech-optional life. I liked it. I miss pay phones. I don’t need the Internet in my pocket, personally. But in the “gig economy” (certainly no one’s preference but capital, a product of a fragmenting economy that’s bad for workers), staying connected 24/7 is for many an economic imperative for survival.
[Note: I am about the same as as you are, however, my kids are younger – one on 3rd grade and two in Kindergarten. The idea of memetics is interesting to me as a parent for a variety of reasons.]
– Why just the Internet? You mentioned memes (memetics). Are you saying this is a “modern” notion only uniquely shaped by the Internet? What about those Baby Boomers who shared a joint with their Gen X/Gen Y kids at a Grateful Dead concert? Hasn’t what you described also been happening with Books/Comics/Music/Film and other experiential material?
– While you and your kids share Ramones and Scooby Do, are you sharing the same experiences? My own kids do not get all of the references of the “retconn’d” “Mystery Incorporate” from the original 1969 version. To them the new version is more canonical (they’ve watched it more) than the new. one. My own experiences with “The Beatles” doing a Carl Perkins cover is different than my parents. Same with “Happy Days” being different than the original 1950’s. (Or that 70’s show being different than the 1970’s.)
– I remember someone who did an excellent comparison of the 1920’s with the period of the 1950’s and early 1960’s. Their point is that what is old is new again.
I personally am shocked by Millenials and the lack of originality in style,purpose ,and moxie. It seems to be a repeat of our generation but not well done. I remember going to the movie with friends and meeting new people and going to arcades . But now it all streamed or down loaded to a console in my living room. Try going to a theater with same day releases on Netflix is a big debate in our house. So in short I am shocked by my children not wanting to leave the house at all.
James, a lot of “your generation” was guided by the culture creators that preceded you by 10-20 years, who produced content and shaped the tone of your world. You went to arcades because you had to for high quality entertainment. You went to video stores because you had to. How different would your life have been if you’d grown up with 10K+ movies on demand for free in your living room? There are structural socio-economic factors which greatly shape the way we live and how cultures evolve from decade to decade. Don’t give yourself too much credit, nor millennials too much hate. They’re trying to adapt to their cultural realities just as you adapted to yours.