Does Gen Z Care So Little Because Millennials Care Too Much?
The roasting of earnest Millennials reflects an ancient, intergenerational war of feelings
There’s a moment from college that I remember with mortifying clarity. It was 2002, and I was sitting in a classroom, midway through a course on memoir writing as a form of social justice. This entailed a lot of personal disclosures from my classmates, all of which I found brilliant. Racism, sexism, homophobia; the war, which had recently started and which we vowed to end; the worst president in American history, George W. Bush. These issues concerned us, we cared about them, and more importantly, we were right about them every single time we opened our mouths.
“It’s amazing,” I clearly remember thinking, “belonging to the first generation to see what’s wrong with the world. I guess we’ll be the ones to fix it.”
If I were given one chance to use a time machine, I would not use it to rectify any injustice. I would go right back to that classroom, where I’d promptly slap my younger self across the face. In 2021, millennials have not, in fact, fixed the world, which is more of a plague-infested garbage dump than ever. Now, our only distinction — being the youngest and coolest people in the trash heap — is about to be usurped as Gen Z comes of age, enters college, and begins roasting us mercilessly online.
“Y’all were supposed to be saving the climate, starting revolutions and shit,” goes one representative critique, quoted by The Walrus. “What did you contribute? Mumford and Sons? A craft brewery on every corner?”
Millennials, according to Gen Z, are overearnest, tender-hearted carelords. They like Hamilton and Hogwarts houses. They’re #GirlBosses who wear “Nasty Woman” T-shirts and stan establishment Democrats. They’re thirtysomethings who struggle with “adulting.” They’re thirtysomethings who say “adulting.” They drink coffee and wine, they eat pizza and avocado toast, they watch The Office and text each other cry-laugh emojis, and they do all these things earnestly, without any of the irony or nihilism or ennui required to make them cool. Millennials have feelings. Millennials like things. Millennials feel hope or get enthusiastic or try to fix problems. It’s terrible.