When I went home for break, my parents had a new favorite video to show me. The parody training video “Millennials in the Workplace” cautions employers (and everyone else) that millennials are entitled, bad at receiving feedback and don’t understand the concept of 9 a.m.
The video is well written, I admit, but far from funny. The jokes are all too easy — occasionally slapstick. I am the first to laugh at myself (or at others my age). But by the video’s end, I felt gypped.
I’ve noticed something of a disconnect in recent articles written about my generation. Sure, we take selfies and we have self-esteem to spare — but there’s something fishy about the disparaging representations of youth in the media. What about the students who sit next to me in my 9 a.m. lecture? What about my roommates, whom I cook dinner with on weekends? What about my ad hoc book club and the friend who ordered the Steve Jobs biography with Amazon Prime so we could all read it?
The arguments about our decreasing attention span, our troubling (lack of) work ethic and our systemic identity crisis may be grounded in facts — yet they seem to miss something big.
Take The New York Times’ latest exposé on millennial culture. Within the first paragraph, there is a reference to a twerking cat. Instinctively, I imagined the author’s glee when he came up with that quip: “A-ha! I’ve got them with this one!”
I am sure the author meant this as hyperbole. But, come on. Is that the emblematic image we’ll be remembered by? I feel like I’m watching responsible journalism reduce my generation to different combinations of buzzwords.
If writers want to cover my demographic, I hope that someone will do it well enough for us to take them seriously. The gaffes add up. Credibility is lost before the first punch is thrown.
I consider myself a highly critical consumer of media and pop culture, because I know the comprehensive reporting we’re capable of. Why are editors still approving pitches for articles like “20 Things All 20-Year-Olds Do”?
In a time when long-form journalism is supposedly flourishing, the stories told about millennials are distressingly one-dimensional.
There are lots of ways to avoid this trap — one of them is letting young people talk to and write about themselves.
Tavi Gevinson is the editor of the two-year-old Rookie Mag; she’s also a senior in high school. Recently, she published an interview with Ella Yelich-O’Connor — otherwise known as Lorde, the 17-year-old songstress whose hit single “Royals” catapulted her on-stage with indie giants like Vampire Weekend and Arcade Fire.
The interview reads like a breath of fresh air. The two girls actually sound relieved to be talking to each other, repeatedly punctuating the other’s thoughts with “YES, EXACTLY!” They understand each other’s experiences in the spotlight, under the gaze of adult reporters. And by talking to each other, they’re able to debunk some tired narratives about today’s youth.
“People always say I was born in the wrong era,” Lorde said. “And I’m like, just don’t. Stop.”
For many reporters, millennials — just like teenagers — are moving targets. We’re lazy; we’re driven; our future is depressing; we’re so optimistic that it’s annoying. Tavi’s monumental girl-talk with Lorde proves one thing: We all benefit from cutting out the middleman and letting young people speak for themselves.
I don’t live under the illusion that our parents don’t have faith in our generation. Just last month, Forbes released this year’s “30 Under 30,” highlighting some of the most accomplished young entrepreneurs and creative minds. If anything, the world is rooting for our success. After all, millennials compose almost 19 percent of today’s workforce. We are under pressure to perform, to disprove the stereotypes held by others.
We have expectations of our own. Reporters: give us your level gaze, nothing more, nothing less. I’m waiting for the parody piece so painfully real that I cringe as much as I LOL.
Frida Garza is a College senior from El Paso, Texas, studying English. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her ?@fffffrida.