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Category: Millennials

The Quiet Rage of Millennial Retsuko

The Quiet Rage of Millennial Retsuko

I recently finished watching Season 2 of the Netflix series Aggretsuko, which I recommend if:

  • You like anime.
  • You need a show with short episodes to watch during meals or whatever.
  • You want to see a show that captures the Millennial zeitgeist.

Yes, I really do think this show does the last thing on the list, which is a big reason why it fascinates me. Plus, all the anthropomorphised animal characters are just adorable.

Restuko at work.

Aggretsuko is an anime, full of the tropes of that genre. You have to watch it in Japanese, with subtitles. It’s main character, Retsuko, is a young single woman working an ordinary office job. She is self-conscious, anxiety ridden, stressed by the demands of everyday life, and feels pressure to fit in and appear normal from her peers and social media – in others words, a Millennial. She remains calm – if nervous – on the outside, while cultivating an inner rage that comes out in private moments.

It’s not only the peer pressure and the burnout that make Retsuko so Millennial. As her story develops and she grows as a person, she is able to adapt to the many aggravations coming from the personalities that surround her. She matures, and learns to own her rage, while remaining true to herself. And what she learns about herself is that she just wants a conventional life.

Aggretsuko is loaded with references to modern pop culture and social trends. It satirizes modern life, but there is no nihilism here. In the end, the ordinary aspects of life – a job, a family, friends – are celebrated and valued. And when Retsuko rages, she doesn’t rage destructively to take down society, but rather constructively to find her place in society. Now how Millennial is that?

Boomers Invented the Internet, but…

Boomers Invented the Internet, but…

As we all know, it was a Baby Boomer who invented the Internet. Al Gore, to be precise. Ha ha, I jest. But in all seriousness, it actually was a Boomer who invented the World Wide Web. Well, an Englishman the same age as the American Boomer generation. That was when the Internet skyrocketed into public awareness and use (it had been around for decades already in academia and government) and the Boomer generation was still relatively young, and was involved in the grunt work of technology research and development.

Now it’s younger generations who are on the leading edge of technology development and the Boomer pioneers are for the most part resting on their laurels. Steve Jobs has been deified and Bill Gates is busy spending his billions on humanitarian projects. Meanwhile, the Millennial generation has taken over Internet culture and formed a hivemind that is whimsical and heartwarming (doggy memes, anyone?), and also unforgiving in its enforcement of social norms (fear the hashtag). Generation X has been ghosted, and Boomers? – well, their cultural reputation on the Internet has not survived in very good shape.

For proof of this last assertion, all you have to do is get on Facebook and join “a group where we all pretend to be boomers.” It’s easy to do, trust me – I applied and got accepted right away. Here you will encounter the Millennial stereotype of what a Baby Boomer is – basically an old white Christian who supports President Trump, is hopelessly out of touch with modern values and, on top of that, embarrassingly clueless about how the Internet works. Boomers are always posting “MAGA” and “God bless America,” misinterpreting what they see younger people doing online, and going to church and to potlucks.

As for posting memes, well Boomers probably shouldn’t even try. Their memes are dated in style, atrocious in design, and express antiquated values. They should just stick to GIFs of the minions from Despicable Me, inexplicably a Boomer obsession. The idea of a Boomer meme is something you will also find on the subreddit TheRightCantMeme, where a lame meme by the political right is implicitly associated with the Boomer generation.

This stereotyping, of course, is unfair to the legions of Boomers who are on the political left. Not to mention those who are very savvy to the ways of the Internet. Perhaps these Boomers are not on Facebook so much; my guess is they are on Twitter instead. But this association, by a younger generation, between the Baby Boomers and the reactionary politics of Trump supporters (who are not all Baby Boomers, is my point) clearly marks the Boomer outlook as a fading thing of the past. The Internet – and thank you for it, Mr. Gore – belongs to a new generation.

Subreddit of the week: wholesomememes

Subreddit of the week: wholesomememes

In this social era one of the roles of young adult Millennials is to clean up the culture after a long period of decadence and degradation called the Unraveling (I’m talking “turnings” theory here). I submit that an excellent example of this phenomenon is the subreddit wholesomememes. Here you will find only happy and affirming thoughts, positivity and love. It’s the Internet’s biggest safe space.

I also submit that the subreddit acts as a forging ground of an emerging values consensus for the new order of the ages. If it fits into this subreddit, its acceptable values. That means that inclusivity is in, and religious moralism is out. All the weird culture that our society has generated over the past decades is in – as long as it serves to boost the esteem of others and bring us all together.

They have it on Twitter, too, if you like that.

Millennials Rock

Millennials Rock

One thing I love about Vampire Weekend is that the two leads who formed the band are Jewish (Ezra Koenig), and of Iranian descent (Rostam Batmanglij). It’s like they represent the great hope of America – that people of all origins, even countries which are geopolitical enemies, are recognized for their common humanity and given equal opportunity to pursue their happiness. And what more American way to pursue happiness than to form an indie rock band?

If you haven’t heard them, you should check them out. They’re one of the best of the rock bands that the Millennial generation has produced. And considering how many generations of rock and roll there have been, they have a lot to live up to – I mean, all the great classic rockers are from a few generations before. Now, Rostam has recently left Vampire Weekend – on friendly terms – which means he wasn’t there when we got to see them last week.

Yes. that’s right, I was really just posting this to humblebrag about attending a hip indie rock concert with my BFF and her son. It was at the Mann Center in Philadelphia, and the crowd was huge, and energetic, and twenty to thirty years younger than us. We paid $10 for cans of beer and stood up and danced and were up way past our bedtime.

The opening act was the very talented blues guitarist Kingfish. He played old school rock with virtuosity, like a reincarnation of Jimi Hendrix. I actually felt like I had been transported back in time to Woodstock. This guy is only 20 years old, so he is a prodigy.

When the main attraction came out, the crowd leaped to its feet. The band kept the energy going through a long set, which included old and new material, as well as a couple of covers.

I must have looked foolish – a fiftysomething man bouncing around like he thought it was 1989 and he was at a Grateful Dead concert – but I didn’t care. For the encore, the band took requests, and the crew threw a couple of big inflated balls into the audience for us to toss around. It was so much fun.

As for the music, well, the way we see it, the songs of Vampire Weekend are all Millennial anthems. They perfectly capture the zeitgeist of their generation – anxious, questioning, dissatisfied with adult life after being raised with high expectations.

The chorus from their latest hit says it all, I think. When I hear it, I hear the Millennial generation’s disappointment in the corruption of the institutions run by their elders. They long to make the world a better place. But for now, all they can do is sing.

And the stone walls of Harmony Hall bear witness
Anybody with a worried mind could never forgive the sight
Of wicked snakes inside a place you thought was dignified
I don’t wanna live like this, but I don’t wanna die

Vampire Weekend, Harmony Hall
Basically Millennial

Basically Millennial

In an earlier post I mentioned Millennial angst about being “basic” – a slang term for ordinary or conventional. Here’s a couple of satirical videos that make fun of this idea, from the College Humor channel.

So there’s a contrast between being a “basic bitch” versus being a “bad-ass bitch” – that is, a regular girl versus an interesting or stand-out girl. Now, for the last generation which was similar to the Millennials – the GI or Greatest Generation – being a regular guy or gal was something to be proud of. And I think that for Millennials, satire like this video is cover for a heartfelt desire to just be basic – to enjoy acceptance without having to take the risks associated with trying to stand out apart from your peers.

The male version of the above video.

You can see in these videos what Millennials have done with customs which for previous generations were marks of rebellion, of a break from the bland culture of postwar America. Customs like yoga, astrology, and tattoos, which once defined the counterculture, have now been appropriated into mainstream culture. And these videos make fun of them for being the new definition of bland and unimaginative. Even down to the backward baseball cap.

Those young adults who do push the limits of style and behavior may be admired to a degree, but for most Millennials it’s OK to stick to basic conventions in personal expression. How much more is there really left to explore in that sphere? As the zeitgeist moves away from the inner world to focus on the outer, Millennials will save their collective energy for bigger things.

Joining the Millennial Fold

Joining the Millennial Fold

One characteristic of the Millennial generation as a peer group is their desire to fit in, to be conventional. For all the angst about being too boring – or “basic” – about leading uninteresting, fuddy-duddy lives, there is this undercurrent of wanting to just be normal.

Social media is the great definer and enforcer of what is normal, and no site does that better, IMO, than reddit. Its system of upvotes and downvotes ensures that the consensus opinion is always prominent. The hivemind cannot be resisted.

Millennials who are stuck on the fringe of society are using reddit to fold themselves back into the conventional world. For example, children of anti-vaxxers can look for help.

Another great example is the subreddit for Millennials who have escaped the outlier belief system of the Mormon church – https://www.reddit.com/r/exmormon.

Through social media, Millennials as a generation are establishing a definition of what is conventional and acceptable, despite the efforts of some Boomer and Gen-X parents to raise them in an environment fragmented from the rest of society.

On Millennial Burnout

On Millennial Burnout

My last post was inspired by a meme that was about Gen-X in that Gen-X was absent from a graphical depiction of generations. The graphic was actually titled ‘Are Millennials the “Burnout Generation?”‘ and referred to a recent BuzzFeed article by Anne Helen Petersen – in other words, it’s really a meme about Millennials. The article in question is very well written and well worth the long read. Here are some thoughts on it.

The Millennial generation is known for the sheltered way in which it was raised, with heavily scheduled lives, hovering always-involved parents, and pressure to achieve. From this childhood mode of life they graduated into an adult world that was already occupied by Boomers and Gen-Xers, and arranged to suit the more individualistic lifestyle of those older generations. The transition has been jarring for Millennials, which shows in the struggle they have with becoming self-determined, or as they put it, “adulting.”

Boomers and Gen-Xers might wonder what the problem is. After all, we’ve been living like this for decades. Yes, life is complicated and often inefficient. So just deal with it like everybody else does. But expecting Millennials to play along might be unreasonable on the part of older generations.

Perhaps, without the structure and guidance they were used to growing up, young adult Millennials feel unmoored. They are now supposed to find their own purpose in life, but instead many are wondering what is the point. It seems like a whole lot of effort for little reward. Millennial “burnout” may simply refer to a rejection of the frenetic hyperindividualism of the past and a yearning for a simpler way of life.

In that sense, burnout may just be the first step in a transition to a new social era. An era that is no longer focused on self-fulfillment, but grounded in a higher collective purpose. There will be less to do, but what there is to do will have more meaning, more value. Change is in the air.

Millennials Are Killing Movie Endings

Millennials Are Killing Movie Endings

I’ve posted recently about Millennials and how they’ve taken over YouTube and invented new genres of video content. One common pattern is to analyze and pick apart other creative content, like popular music and film. Everything gets rehashed so quickly one must be wary of it being spoiled before one even gets around to consuming it in its original form.

Sometimes these channels are silly parodies – I’m sure you have been subjected to videos such as this one at some point. Others are serious and intelligent; I’ve already mentioned in a previous post the excellent set of video essays at Every Frame a Painting

One particular way that film gets worked over on YouTube channels is through proposing alternate plots and endings. It’s almost as though the movie ending is another one of the aspects of modern life that Millennials are ruining.

An example of the sillier sort is How It Should Have Ended. But even though this is a parody channel, it often exposes movie plot problems in insightful ways.  A serious example is Nando v Movies, which focuses on blockbuster hits like the recent massive wave of superhero films. The creator’s mind holds the treasure trove of pop culture knowledge characteristic of the modern film geek.

Here are a couple of Nando v Movies videos where he rewrites the recent Wonder Woman movie. I enjoyed that movie, but have to agree that it was not excellent. It’s hard not to think that the imagined version described below would have been much better. Sorry if this ruins the movie for you.

The Spotlight on Millennials

The Spotlight on Millennials

I’m going to return to looking at the list of patterns to expect for the living generations in the current social era, the Crisis Era in Strauss & Howe terms, picking up where I left off a few months back.

Let’s look at the remaining items on the list of predictions about the Millennial generation – that Millennials will heroically rise to political challenge, that they will develop a sense of generational community, and that they will benefit from a new focus on the young-adult world. For evidence, I will simply consider the kinds of news stories that have been prevalent on social media and the web in the past decade. So let’s start with the last item on the list.

In the Millennial generation’s childhood era, which began way back in the 1980s, children benefited from a new focus on child-rearing. A wave of social change in the direction of increased child protection came in the form of mandatory safety rules, zero tolerance policies, and laws named after child victims (for example, Megan’s Law). I wrote about this on my old blog nearly twenty years ago.

Now that we are in the Millennial young adulthood era, the impetus for social change has shifted to the adult sphere of life. Political change may be stymied by partisanship, but a wave of social movements has risen in response to long-standing problems. These problems were tolerated when they affected previous generations – but no more.

A prominent example which can be thought of as zero tolerance policies reaching the workplace is the Me Too movement and its effects. This took off last year as a viral social media hashtag when a prominent Hollywood producer was accused by multiple women of sexual harassment. Since then, a flood of accusations has led to the downfall of many men in high places. Sexual harassment in the workplace has long been covered up by HR departments and endured by female employees, but in the Millennial era this may not be possible, or desirable, any more.

A less politically charged example is the new concern over reducing concussions to football players in the National Football League. The research into the problem began in the Gen-X era, but it was only ten years ago that the U.S. Congress compelled the NFL to act.  An enormous settlement was agreed upon, which has benefited retired Gen-X players, but only after they sustained the injuries in the first place. For Millennials, a protocol is coming into place to reduce the prevalence of injuries in the first place.

Not that there isn’t a politically charged example connected to the NFL, by which I mean the Black Lives Matter movement. Football players kneeling during the national anthem are in solidarity with this movement, protesting police shootings of unarmed young black men. Though rates of violence have been declining for a generation, police killings still disproportionately affect minorities. In the past this may have been a topic for moralistic commentary in academia and the arts, but today it is the focus of a stubbornly persistent and controversial activist movement.

Another famous movement that seems to have come and gone is Occupy Wall Street, which protested income inequality and the corruption in government and finance that was brought into stark relief by the financial crisis and bailouts in 2008. The protests on the street may have ended, but they continue in the online world. On today’s Internet feeds there are endless posts about the difficulties faced today by Millennials trying to get by in the current economy – the burden of student debt, the impossibility of surviving on minimum wage, the need to delay life events like home buying or marriage until financial stability is achieved.

All of these difficulties were faced by previous generations, but now that Millennials face them there is a greater sense of urgency. Will these problems be addressed by drastic measure while Millennials are still young adults? Will student debt be discharged, and higher education be payed for by taxpayers, like primary and secondary education? Will the minimum wage be raised significantly?

This ties into the first item on the list of what to expect from Millennials – that they will heroically rise to political challenge. There is less evidence of this. Youth voting rates have increased slightly since their nadir in the Gen-X era, but have not come anywhere close to that of the great era of civic participation of the mid-twentieth century. Older generations still have a lock on government, which partisanship has rendered contentious and barely functioning. But time favors the young generation, and they will eventually make their voices heard.

All that is discussed above connects to the remaining item on the list – that Millennials will develop a sense of generational community. Just that fact the their generation’s name – originally coined by Strauss & Howe as part of an academic theory – has become a household word, and that news about them has become so prominent, shows how they are in the forefront of social awareness. Everyone is familiar, for example, with stories about how they are reshaping the economy. With the spotlight shining on them, it is hard to imagine this generation doesn’t have a strong self-awareness. If they can combine that awareness with an enforceable political consensus, they could reshape our society, and truly bring about a Millennial era.

The Millennial Counter Argument

The Millennial Counter Argument

Since the streaming video era began, a new kind of content from the Millennial generation has become prevalent. It consists of episodes of commentary that dissects cultural phenomena, common sense knowledge or received history to get at hidden or unrepresented truth.

A famous example is Adam Ruins Everything, which began as a series on the CollegeHumor web site and then became a television show on truTV. An example you may have seen on Facebook is Racist History. Other examples abound on YouTube, in the form of named channels such as Counter Arguments, CaptainDisillusion, Knowing Better, Loose Canon by Lindsay Ellis (though I think she might have dropped that name), and Hilarious Helmet History from the web site Cracked (which itself fits this description).

With Spock-like logic and more than a little snark, the Millennial creatives who produce this content challenge assumptions and rewrite the narrative of conventional wisdom. Unsentimental and hyperrational, they seek to shine a cold, hard light on reality and reveal stark facts, repudiating the hysterics and oversaturation with meaning that characterize the Boomer outlook.

It’s like they seek to jettison all of the histrionic cultural baggage of the Boomer era, and rebuild a world based on reason and accuracy, in keeping with that Millennial mantra, “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

Here is a great example of what I mean: