Let’s Talk About Millennial Humor

Looks like those dang millennials are at it again!

So recently I stumbled across this opinion article from the Washington Post entitled “Why is millennial humor so weird?”  Let’s just start with the opening paragraph.

The article begins with a strange analysis of this particular meme:

 

 

The author writes that “the wiener is not a socialist icon; in fact, he is a breakdancing sausage from a Snapchat filter. His inclusion in a lineup of the U.S.S.R.’s patron saints doesn’t mean anything. Maybe nothing does.”

Then in the next paragraph she writes “in this weird world of the surreal and bizarre, horror mingles with humor, and young people have space to play with emotions that seem more and more to proceed from ordinary life — the creeping suspicion that the world just doesn’t make sense.”

So apparently us millennials are like the stereotypical goth kids, constantly rambling about how everything is dark and nothing has meaning.

To be fair, the author does acknowledge the reasons behind this perceived fascination with meaninglessness.  She briefly talks about how millennials, as they’re growing up, are constantly told that they should go to college, that they need to go to college.  And then when they do go to college and finish, they discover that they’ve basically been lied to.  They spent all this time getting a fancy degree, and often all that leaves them with is a mountain of debt and a part-time job at a company that couldn’t give less of a crap about them.

But at the same time, her tone occasionally feels a little too judgmental.  She references how “traditional sources of meaning, such as religion and family formation”, aren’t as relevant to millennials as they were to prior generations.  “The moral structure they produced has been vastly loosened,” she writes, “and replaced with a soft, untheorized tendency toward niceness — smarminess, really, as journalist Tom Scocca put it in 2013.”  Because if you aren’t worshipping God and making babies, then you clearly aren’t doing it right.

The article goes on to talk about how millennials put off things like buying houses and lists a whole bunch of surveys that are supposed to show how disenfranchised we are as a generation.  Now, putting aside the fact that the stuff about millennials not buying houses is simply not true, there’s one survey that popped out to me: one where fifty-seven percent of those that responded admitted to being lonely.

And where did this survey come from?  Match.com.

Oh, so you discovered that lonely people might decide to use a dating website?  GEE…NEVER WOULD HAVE FIGURED THAT ONE OUT!

 

 

What’s strangest to me about this whole rambling, presumptuous article is that it was written by a millennial.  Yep, you read that right…she states that fact multiple times in the article.  And yet, despite this display of supposed intellectualism (she even uses the phrase “de rigueur” at one point…because you can’t truly be pretentious unless you’re doing it in a different language), she appears to have only scratched the surface of how bizarre the internet can be.  A hotdog wearing green headphones?  Winnie the Pooh as a 9/11 truther in a fan-created comic?  Is that the best you’ve got?

The internet is a rabbit hole whose depths you have not even begun to fathom.

I think the biggest irony behind this whole examination of millennial humor and memes is that the article itself became a meme.  People were taking a snapshot of the article’s web page and replacing that first image with other surreal and bizarre memes.

It’s true what they say…there is no escape.

All joking and sarcasm aside, the article isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever read, but it does strike me as pointless.  It attempts to pry meaning out of a generation’s brand of humor before concluding that the meaning might be that there IS no meaning and that it’s playing with the general feelings of distress that plague the millennial generation.  But it also backs off on that point, saying that “the weird — even the exceedingly weird — doesn’t have to be purely distressing” before providing examples of more light-hearted memes.  If anything, the fact that it was written by a millennial only makes its existence more confusing.  If this was written by a forty or fifty-year old, I could at least file it under the long establish “old people don’t understand young people” genre.  But as it stands, this article just feels too full of itself to serve any real purpose.

Maybe the hotdog standing with the icons of Communism and Socialism is funny simply because of how ridiculous it is.  It doesn’t have to be some meta-commentary on the feelings of hopelessness that are common with millennials.  It doesn’t have to be part of some grander scheme or greater context.  Maybe it’s there because someone thought it would be funny.

Pro tip: if you have to spend so much time dissecting a certain brand of humor, the chances are you lost the point before you even started.

 

Thanks for reading!  Check back on the third Wednesday of next month for another post, and as always, have a wonderful month.

You can like the Rumination on the Lake Facebook page here or follow me on Twitter here.

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