DAMN KIDS! // Documenting each generation's complaints about the next

Today I watched a Ted Talk by Eunice Hii, a fellow Millennial, where she discussed learning that our generation is referred to as "The Worst Generation."

While I agree with her that there is a need to balance passion with realism, I was saddened that she took to heart what I think of as the "kids these days" complaining that each generation ritually doses onto the next.

Given the flurry of articles bashing Generation Y, and Gen Y in return bashing the Boomers, I decided to collect "damn kids" complaints through the ages. Ok, through the last century. I wanted to take a look at what parents really think of their kids, and whether we really are "The Worst Generation" ever.

[To clarify: dates are a rough estimate of the birth dates for a given generation]

CURRENT STEREOTYPE: They were the badasses who defeated the Nazis, held down the home fort, and ended the Great Depression. As Tom Brokaw declares: their "sacrifices" and "sense of duty" literally "saved the world." Ballers.

CURRENT STEREOTYPE: They came of age between WWII and the cultural revolution, so seem to be overshadowed by their neighboring generations. If anyone ever mentions them, they are considered to be an industrious, adaptive bunch who basically never complain about anything.
  • "Taking no chances and having a gray-flannel mentality." (Fortune, 1949)
  • "Withdrawn, cautious, unimaginative, indifferent, unadventurous--and silent." (Historian William Manchester)
  • "Opportunities missed and chances not taken." (Historian Neil Howe)

CURRENT STEREOTYPE: Former anti-establishment hippies and civil rights advocates who are now the establishment. They are currently in power and taking a lot of criticism for "causing" the economic meltdown and political stalemate.
  • "The Now Generation has become the Me Generation... more interested in an afternoon nap...than a speech by a Democratic House candidate." (New York Times, 1976)
  • "Serious youth crime grew twice as fast as the number of youths." (Generations, William Strauss)
  • "Pot is entrenched in our society...We have passed the point of no return." (Time Magazine, 1969)

CURRENT STEREOTYPE: They're not getting a whole lot of press at the moment -- like the Silent Generation, they may be a bit overshadowed by the bigger-in-numbers Boomers and Millennials. As an interesting side note, check out this article on Gen X's lack of spokespeople.
  • "Preening narcissists who have to document every banal moment with their cutting-edge communications technology." (Newsweek, 1985)
  • "They crave entertainment, but their attention span is as short as one zap of a TV dial." (Time Magazine, 1990)
  • "[A] metaphor for America's loss of purpose, disappointment with institutions, despair over the culture and fear for the future." (Atlantic magazine, 1992)

CURRENT STEREOTYPE: Damn kids. The current generation of young adults, myself included, who are generally considered to be entitled little brats and the worst generation yet. (All the articles below unless otherwise noted can be found here, gathered up beautifully by Kate Dries for the New York Times.)

  • "Could kill the NFL." (Christian Science Monitor, 2012)
  • "Spending more than they earn." (Forbes, 2012)
  • "Lacking enough money to meet their basic needs." (The Boston Globe, 2012)
  • "Killing the housing market." (Forbes, 2012)
  • "You don't get a trophy for not getting your work done...for an entire generation of young adults, this is a very difficult reality to face." (Business Insider, 2012)
  • "I can't stop thinking that not only corporate loyalty but commitment to building a career may be a thing of the past." (Fortune, 2010)
  • "Subverting the rules of courtship...leaving an entire generation confused about how to land a boyfriend or girlfriend." (New York Times, 2013)
  • "Think the Boomers are self-absorbed? Wait until you meet their kids." (The Washington Post, 2006)
  • "Significantly more narcissistic than Gen Xers and Baby Boomers." (Harvard Business Review, 2010)
  • "Three in four Americans believe that today's youth are less virtuous and industrious than their elders." (Pew Research Center, 2009)
  • "Inflated sense of self...unrealistic expectations...chronic disappointment." (New York Post, 2010)

    CURRENT STEREOTYPE: The jury's still out on this generation, some of whom are...still being born. Good luck kiddos!

    A SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM? It seems pretty clear that each generation, just as it comes of age and begins to differentiate itself, is criticized by the previous one. Or that the whole "generations" idea is made up by magazines to sell really bad headlines. 

    Either way, I would love to see the constant recycling of disdain and despair for the future get sidelined for a more optimistic attitude: perhaps one in which the previous generation mentors the next one, while learning from them in turn.

    Too idealistic? Well then, maybe we can at least finally leave Gen Y alone and move onto bashing Gen Z together? :)

    What are your thoughts on the topic?

    xo Diana
    Topics: in the studio
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