A scant two weeks ago, my debut column brought me a surprising number of editorial responses, particularly from EPGY campers who were angry at the insulting tone of my stance toward them. Admittedly, I was taken aback at their complaints of my calling them “lazy,” “spoiled” and “shiftless” (or whatever they said) and other sundry pejoratives I never actually used. But it makes sense, their outrage. It turns out, I’m not just some English major writing a column to ward off summer boredom; I’m officially a member of the news media now, and even though I swore I’d always stick up for them, I had continued the shameful news media tradition of treating teenagers as though they were an alien species—a lazy, spoiled, stupid, self-obsessed, possibly drug-addled, back-talking, irrational alien species with a poor work ethic, worse impulse control and no accountability. Those campers should be thankful I didn’t trot out neuroscience professors to talk about how it’s all because the smart part of the brain hasn’t fully developed yet, always with quotes that sound ten times more intelligent than the ones they elicit from those damn kids.
Thank God I’m a grown-up responsible college student who reads the sources of all cultural knowledge, the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, which just ran articles saying that LeBron James’s evisceration of the city of Cleveland’s heart “simply puts him in step with others of his generation” and that the “American Dream is elusive for [the] new generation” because some dude in suburban Boston turned down a $40,000-a-year job and lives at home. Oh.
Readers: I have about 500 words left to provide some much-needed perspective to the news media, which has just worked itself into another foam about the direction of the “so-called Millennials,” with their reluctance to embrace corporate culture and their unmitigated gall to have this attitude in the midst of a recession.
Requisite disclaimer: I know the old people news media is not a monolith, and that there are plenty o’ journalists out there writing trend pieces about young people that are understanding instead of presumptive, but if your top papers are going to keep assuming that all 18-30 year olds act and think the same, especially when you just focus on my white, middle-class cohorts, then I’m going to feel somewhat justified in returning the favor.
First, let’s get something straight, geezers. We are not Generation Y, Generation Next or the Baby Boom Echo. Every other generation in the history of cultural trend pieces has had its own name, but you just can’t be bothered to think of something unique for us? Please, we’re the Millennials. Remember the name.
Second, I understand the whole need for us to have financial independence, but why do you feel it so imperative to, as the New American put it, “remind” us “adult children of the realities of life”? After all, wasn’t it you guys that created “Dilbert” and “Office Space” to expose the soul-crushing drudgery of corporate office life? And it was you guys that turned “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” into one of the most popular graduation gifts of all time. You guys raged against the rat race mentality of the 1950s and turned “follow your dreams” into a “Brave New World”-esque mantra. Now you’re going to hold it against us that we’ve still internalized those messages? I’m trying to learn from my elders as well as minimize my mid-life crisis (a phenomenon that you created, btdubs) so that it doesn’t destroy my marriage and auto insurance premiums. Isn’t it possible that delaying my career until I’m sure it’s one I actually want might help with that?
But all borderline-emo ranting aside, news media, I really don’t understand why it always has to be a generation thing with you guys, man. I came across a book called “Managing the Millennial Generation,” and most of the tips in there seemed useful for managing all people, not just the “unmanageable” whippersnappers. While I no longer have to deal with the media ascribing a total lack of agency to all of my actions, their tendency to interpret random individuals’ actions as reflective of my entire generation’s actions can still approach maddening. If you keep running trend pieces with this type of angle, then the dreaded neuroimaging-laced news segments—this time about how the brain chemistry of a recent college graduate has changed over the years and how the 21-year old brain is still developing the parts where it learns some goddamn responsibility—are poised to pull a Brett Favre, who belongs to your generation, by the way.
E-mail your still-pressing complaints about those confounded kids riding their skateboards all over to [email protected]