November 17, 2016
Over the past few years, many generalizations have been made about American millenni- als, specifically their work eth- ic, emotions and views on poli- tics. Millennials are generally defined as those born between the early 1980s and 2000, youth who watched a period of turmoil through smartphone screens. In the wake of the recent presiden- tial decision, many point to this highly criticized demographic as America’s best hope, but what factors created us flawed, shining stars? I believe that the major types of millennials are defined by the children’s net- works that raised us. Yes, I know this may sound silly, but there is no denying that childhood experiences have permanent ef- fects on a person’s psyche, and if you are anything like me, you spent endless Sunday mornings glued to the television screen.
The most popular sect of childhood viewers are those who tuned into the Disney Channel. In the early to mid 2000’s, shows such as Hannah Montana, That’s So Raven and Lizzie McGuire defined the net- work. All three of these shows, and many others on this chan- nel, were live-action comedies starring teens with relatable personalities. Viewers enjoyed these romanticized depictions of adolescence, epitomized by the Disney Channel original High School Musical. Children raised on this network enjoyed all the benefits of 2000s pop culture, downloading such art- ists as Usher and Gwen Stefani onto their iPod Nanos. These children grew to be less materi- alistic but remained progressive and sociable. In other words, they update their profile pic- tures to support movements or to commemorate world events. The next type of millennial belongs to the largest and vagu- est group—those who pledged loyalty to Nickelodeon. This population is large and var- ied due to the popularity and diversity of content on Nick- elodeon. The network gave us the Disney Channel-like Drake and Josh, the Cartoon Network-esque Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, as well as unique comedies such as Keenan & Kel or SpongeBob SquarePants. These shows range in format and target audiences and thus produced citizens of varied qualities. The hot-shot on your sixth grade soccer team and the teacher’s pet both had favor- ite Nickelodeon shows. If you consider yourself to be an aver- age millennial, you might have mostly watched Nickelodeon.
I myself belong to the final group of millennials— Cartoon Network kids. Shows like Ed, Edd n Eddy, Courage the Cowardly Dog, The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy and Samurai Jack were some of the strangest shows one could see until the advent of Cartoon Network’s program- ming block Adult Swim. These animated shows were surpris- ingly nightmarish due to their surreal plots, erratic characters, violent action and dark subject matters. Simply put, these were weird shows enjoyed by weird kids. We were indoors-kids with offbeat senses of humor because we were desensitized by endless hours of car toon chaos. We tend to be space cases.
I understand that these are only rough approximations at- tempting to summarize an en- tire generation. Not to mention that manyAmerican millennials grew up without any of these three networks, due to geogra- phy, access to television or pa- rental control. If you did miss out on this period of children’s television, it is not too late to find out what you are missing—Courage the Cowardly Dog was too scary for kids any- way, Hannah Montana remains culturally relevant, and Sponge- Bob SquarePants makes some shockingly adult jokes. Sponge Bob really is the common thread that ties millennials together—we con- stantly quote him, meme him and reference his individual episodes. If we truly hope to come together as a generation and create change, we must put aside petty differences. Sure, we may disagree when it comes to Heelys vs. Sketchers, Motor- ola Razr vs. LG Chocolate and the ever-divisive issue of Kids Cuisine vs. Lunchables. But what really matters is that, in the end, we can agree that mayonnaise is not an instrument.