17 September 2017

Review: Millennials and the Moments that Made Us


A new book, which is to be released in February 2018 and written by Shaun Scott, explains why millennials are the way they are and which events impacted on their lives. Firstly, for those who have heard the word but don’t really know what it means, Shaun Scott describes Millennials as Americans born between 1981 and 1997. Naturally, as the rest of the world usually does, the word has been adopted by every other western nation. This, in turn, means the word is generally anyone born between these years and not simply Americans. As Scott states, he uses ‘popular culture as a lens to explain a generational condition that began in the 1980s’. The book is divided into twelve chapters and four chronological parts. Each part includes the major events and the most prevalent pieces of popular culture that occurred during that period.
Part One begins with the childhood of millennials between 1982 and 1990. Although I label myself as a millennial as I was born in 1993, I wasn’t even born during the period Scott writes about in Part One. Naturally, the dates are the childhood of the writer, which is understandable. The first part discusses what it was like to grow up in 1980s America. Scott explains that this was a period of deindustrialisation, decreased government revenue, underemployment and declining social services. That’s not to mention the introduction of standardised tests and extra homework. The 80s sound great, don’t they?! In contrast, growing up in the 80s was in conjunction with the birth of hip-hop and the music of Prince, Bowie and George Michael. The childhood of millennials in America doesn’t seem to be so different to the childhoods of millennials in the UK. Perhaps then, this is why the word has been transposed by the UK to mean the same thing. 

In Part Two, Scott speaks of the ‘uncontested greatness’ that the USA celebrated after the fall of the Soviet Union. The likes of Michael Jordan epitomised this era of American success with him becoming one of, if not the, greatest sportsman on the planet. This unrivalled success had a dramatic impact on young millennials during the 1990s. But, at the same time, the greats of American sport were countered by glorified losers such as Kurt Cobain and Tupac. Moreover, bad role models such as Bart Simpson gave Americans a mixed bag of idols. Scott explains that non-millennials label us as entitled and spoilt. But Scott counters this argument by explaining that millennials earn the least, many have to work for free as interns and there is an influx of temporary jobs. Moreover, in the UK, millennials have a similar time with zero-hours contracts in warehouses, retail stores and offices. To label millennials as spoilt is very patronising who you consider this.

Scott begins Part Three by discussing the infamous website ‘Napster’. He explains that millennials used the music website to ‘push back against a highly commercialised industry’, and he’s completely right. As he states, millennials were and still are disaffected with capitalism. This trend has continued with online streaming sites for film and television, as well as illegally downloading music. In the mid-2000s, most millennials used the likes of Pirate Bay and LimeWire to illegally download music, which continued the trend that Napster started. This has continued today with millennials choosing illegal convenience over the strings of capitalism by using streaming services such as Kodi.

Millennials are often called the MTV generation as they grew up with the beloved music channel. MTV displayed radical music and programs, which influenced young millennials in the 1990s. With the birth and exhibition of hip-hop came hip-hop fashion. This could be seen most notably with MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice, as Scott explains. Scott also explains that with the birth of rap and the internet came a war of censorship against millennial’s past times and interests. 

In the early 2000s came war and major disasters in the US. 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina are two of the most notable events of this period and both have stuck with and influenced the lives on millennials. Scott explains that George Bush’s response to Hurricane Katrina was extremely poor. With both disasters happening during Bush’s administration, as well as the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, it’s obvious why millennials opt to vote for the Democrats over the Republicans. However, the neo-liberal politics of Obama and the candidacy of Hillary Clinton have disenfranchised millennials. That was, of course, until Bernie Sanders showed his hand. Sanders arrived in the adulthood of millennials. He showed that politics can be done differently. A socialist way. Who would’ve thought an American socialist would win 23 states in the Democratic primaries? The reason was quite simple – millennials. Perhaps, as Scott pointed out, this is because of the number of internships, temp jobs and work experience that millennials have had to take due to the complete lack of full-time and fulfilling jobs.

Although I originally thought Scott had just compiled a book of random events from the 80s, 90s and 00s, I soon realised that these events impacted greatly on the minds of millennials and moulded us into the group that we are now. At times, Scott seemed to jump back to the 80s when discussing a different era. Although I’m sure basketball is massive in the lives of Americans, for a Brit reading this, basketball didn’t impact our lives as much if not at all. Luckily for me, as someone who enjoyed basketball in my childhood, I made a connection with this. However, basketball really wasn’t that big for most Brits. That being said, Scott is an American and has written it for Americans as the subheading is ‘A Cultural History of the U.S. from 1982-Present’. I’m not so sure this book is suitable for Brits due to the focus on American popular culture unless, of course, Brits would like to read about America. All in all, Scott has written a well-rounded, well written and nicely separated book. Although the price tag is slightly hefty and some of the points could do with a tiny bit more analysis, it’s an important book. Moreover, Scott comes across as a competent and intelligent writer. ‘Millennials and the Moments that Made Us’ is out in February 2018 by Zero Books.

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