The social science of generational divide is contentious. The supposed characteristics or values of a generation don’t apply to every single individual within that generation. People don’t like to be pigeon-holed into traits they don’t identify with. But also, and more recently, there’s been a growing distaste for generational labels because too often, a generation’s characteristics are leveraged against them to devalue their opinions and goals.
Millennials are such snowflakes.
I’m a Millennial. (Could you tell?) My generation has been gaslit across every sector of society. I’ve personally seen it in mainstream media and in conversation with acquaintances, colleagues, relatives, etc.
We get so wrapped up in putting down generational traits or in fighting back against the generation that put us down that we forget there are actually generational strengths.
I want to take a little space to talk about one particular strength of Millennials.
I’m calling it: Reveling in the Ridiculous.
Millennials have been through events that have seen the America we thought we knew rewrite itself around us. 9/11 and “the War on Terror” are perhaps the most salient examples from our childhoods.
We’ve seen wild technological innovation. We made the transition from no internet, to internet; from corded handhelds bolted to the wall, to smart phones with bluetooth.
We’ve been through some extremely difficult economic situations. The housing crisis of the late ’00s (which seems to be ongoing) set us back, just as we were young adults, trying to establish ourselves in the working world. Many of us lost or weren’t able to find jobs, so we went on to upper-level education, and now, we are overeducated and still underemployed.
We’ve realized capitalism isn’t necessarily set up for health, happiness, or a satisfying life.
As experienced adults, we watched an unhinged political administration do a ton of damage, here and internationally.
We watched the world be devastated by a pandemic that (again) changed how the world worked.
We watched the birth of a new Civil Rights movement erupt in protests across the nation.
We watched the only attack on our Capitol since 1814.
There comes a point when a Millennial can’t take one more natural disaster, one more oil spill, one more piece of bad news.
Millennials invented the internet meme. We cut our teeth on I Can Haz Cheezburger and I Don’t Always…, But When I Do… But now, to deal with the layers of instability, disappointment, and trauma, our sense of humor has evolved into a coping skill.
We deal with the absurdity of this post-post modern, post-capitalistic, pandemic-devastated dystopia by Reveling in the Ridiculous.
Austin Archer’s content is what inspired this essay. Here is an obviously talented musician, composer, and artist, working in multiple media, who is using his skill and intelligence to create well-written, well-mixed, songs that revel in the ridiculousness of social and political situations.
Isn’t this song kind of…mean, though? Petty? What’s the point of calling out Tucker Carlson like this?
The answer lies in the sheer powerlessness Millennials have felt over extremely important situations (fear mongering, misinformation, overtly hostile pictures of their generation painted in the media, wars, etc.).
What is an underemployed, overeducated Millennial supposed to do when they’ve stored up a lifetime of disillusionment, and then they hear one…more…stupid…thing…
Where does that energy go? I mean, we can’t all be as lucky (or bold) as that guy in Montana.
For Austin Archer, and for many other Millennial internet users and content creators, they cope by Reveling in the Ridiculous. By making something to laugh at. Because laughing at something is still safer than attempting to burn it to the ground.
At least for now.
5 Easy Steps to Practice Reveling in the Ridiculous
- Notice that bubbling feeling of “it’s all too much-ness.” It’s usually characterized by anxiety, anger, helplessness, the desire to drop-kick your phone/tablet/laptop into the sun, and experienced after hearing bad news of some kind.
- Dissociate from your emotions. Don’t engage in destruction. Subvert it. Ninja-dodge it.
- Tap into a deeply ironic sense of humor. Don’t look on the Bright Side. Look on the Dark Side. Specifically, how could this be worse (ex., Godzilla reincarnated, asteroid strike, robot apocalypse)? The more specific the details, the better. What’s the most childish response you can think of? Lean into it. Push it even farther.
- Make something. Record your Ridiculous Revel by drawing, writing, photographing, composing, etc. Use an existing meme structure or create a new meme.
- Share it to your socials. Because you have a responsibility to your Fellow Millennial to help them Get Through This. After all (cues High School Musical soundtrack), “WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER.”