Trigger Warnings and Discriminatory Buzzwords: Why Today’s College Kids Are Not Millennials

by K.M. Zahrt

To begin, it would be helpful to define who exactly are “Millennials.” That would be extremely helpful indeed. I’m convinced you could surf the Internet for an hour (exactly as I have just now done) and not come to a definitive conclusion on the issue, even with authoritative claims like “The Generations Defined” from the Pew Research Center or “Here Is When Each Generation Begins and Ends According to Facts” from Philip Bump for The Atlantic. (Oh, hold that thought, Mr. Bump, we’ll return to you in a moment.) Wait. Lack of clarity? Conflicting sources? What? In the “Information Age”? I’m not buying it.

Based on my admittedly brief research, the most credible sentence I came across on the topic appeared in the footnotes on the Pew Research Center webpage, which stated, “No chronological endpoint has been set for [The Millennial Generation].” See now, part of the problem is that there’s not an official governing body responsible for determining and subsequently defending the integrity of generational definitions. And, I’m glad for it. It would be pointless to have such an organization. But, wait. Our friend Mr. Bump writes, “We do want definitions. And if it’s the media that draws the boundaries, then allow us to do so definitively.” That’s so kind of him.

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“World football has been convulsed by the US investigation” -BBC News (ALLSPORT/GETTY IMAGES)

At any rate, even if we did have an official ruling body, which would be utterly indispensable to the progress and protection of life as we know it, it would inevitably become corrupt anyway (i.e. FIFA), because it would simply be crucial that your birth year would fall in a generation that commands respect, and certainly not — oh, God no! — NOT in a widely despised generation like the dreaded, good-for-nothing Millennials. Society’s richest of the rich would no doubt be slipping generous bribes to the crooked officials (all of whom, I’d like to point out, are unlikely to be Millennials, at least for a few more years). How would our international law enforcers have enough time, energy, and resources to confiscate all the flat-screen televisions and other possible evidence from soccer’s world headquarters AS WELL AS the Global Center for the Definition of Generational Labeling in Order to Not Be Confused with a Youth (a.k.a. the CDFLONBCY)? They wouldn’t. That’s the answer.

Despite this crisis, and at risk of being outed as an infinite societal drain, I am an undisputed, bonafide, Generation Y Millennial. I was born in 1984, and I turned 30 years-old this past September, and not a single article I found on the Internet would argue with me on that point. So, I am going to claim even more credibility on the topic than Mr. Bumpwho is clearly an undisputed non-Millennial.

Mr. Bump begins his article — which appears to be as thoroughly researched as mine, as in barely at all, as if a Millennial had done his research — by boldly stating, “We can all agree that Millennials are the worst.” Oh, yes, Mr. Bump, WE are all with you. WE all agree. Millennials are, in fact, “the worst.” WE all believe so deeply in your well-crafted premise that WE see no need for you to develop any sense of credibility on the issue. WE would be thoroughly pleased if you would simply continue with your article to better inform us as to whether or not WE are condemned to a godforsaken generation or not!!!! Do hurry, sir.

It sure is nice, at the least, for people at well-respected publications like Mr. Bump from The Atlantic to be able to get so much mileage out of such a topic.

Anyway, I seem to have meandered here. What was I trying to do again? It’s difficult to keep up with my social media feeds and fit writing this article in at the same time. #MillennialIssues

Back to my main point. I will argue that today’s traditional college-aged students (18-22 year-olds) are not of my generation, that being quintessentially Millennial. So, I’m asking you, Mr. Bump and your friends, to stop attributing all the stupid things today’s college-aged kids do to us, Millennials. We don’t want to be associated with these post-Millennials, and we are now old enough to share your distaste for them.

youthsI recently came across two signs that indicated to me exactly how much my experience — again, that of the quintessential Millennial — differs from today’s post-Millennial morons.

In the June 8, 2015, issue of Time, popular teen-lit author Judy Blume, who is now 77 (so a non-Millennial, but more importantly, a non-post-Millennial/non-youth), was asked about recent requests from “college students [who] want trigger warnings in front of classics like Ovid that would say ‘There’s going to be a reference to murder or rape here, so if you’re particularly sensitive to that, then don’t read this.'” Blume responded with “Please! Let’s grow up.” Also, “Why are we treating college students like babies? You’re supposed to be challenged in college.”

As the Millennial, but more importantly, as a fellow non-post-Millennial/non-youth, I wholeheartedly agree with Blume’s sentiments here. Yes, there’s always been censorship issues surrounding works of literature. As Blume notes, “The desire to censor or ban or challenge is contagious.” But, isn’t the true value of literature, whatever that might be, inevitably situated at the intersection of art and life? Expecting students to read literature without ever reading about significant conflicts or struggles that may seem too real-to-life almost defeats the purpose, at least significantly diminishes it.

Imagine how the experience of viewing The Sixth Sense upon original theatrical release as a teenager (Spoiler Alert! I would hate for a post-Millennial to read the rest of this sentence without having seen or at least heard of the film) would be different with a trigger warning at the beginning that read, “There’s going to be a boy in this film who sees dead people, so if you’re particularly sensitive to that, then don’t view this.” A Millennial misunderstanding that reference would be like getting through the adolescent years without having a crush on JTT (are you still with me post-Millennials?).

Also, this week, Jerry Seinfeld’s name rose to the top of social media’s coveted “trending” lists because he discussed on the ESPN Radio show “The Herd with Colin Cowherd” that he won’t “play colleges” because the youths “just want to use these words: ‘That’s racist’; ‘That’s sexist’; ‘That’s prejudice.’ They don’t know what they’re talking about.” If you’re a real Millennial, part of your coming-of-age story includes watching episodes of NBC’s hit sitcom Seinfeld as they originally aired and quoting lines to all your friends at school the next day (and at work for the rest of your life).

Although the show crossed some boundaries — mostly in terms of adult content allowed on a network television show during primetime — it didn’t push for social change and has often been criticized for it’s lack of diversity, which is something that true comedians like Seinfeld and his co-creator Larry David would turn into material, like this appearance on Saturday Night Live‘s recent “40th Anniversary Special” (particularly at 3:40-4:40 of this clip):

According to this Huffington Post article on Seinfeld’s remarks, “the 61-year-old star said this hurts comedy, and commended Louis C.K., who recently landed in hot water over his Saturday Night Live monologue about child molestation, for not worrying and just doing his thing.” The idea that Seinfeld, a notoriously clean comedian, could show up on a college campus today and be seen as too provocative is a mindset I certainly don’t understand.

Finally, I also want to take credit for coining the term “post-Millennial,” and I feel that I’m entitled to any and all benefits that may be remotely related to achieving such a thing, even if someone has already done so.

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