By Eren Crebs
Millennials are the hero generation.
No, seriously. That’s what Neil Howe and William Strauss, demographers and authors of the book “Generations,” claim in the movie “The Revolution Generation,” which kicked off Ohio University’s Sustainability Series for the 2022-2023 school year.
Howe and Strauss explained the cyclical nature of generational experiences that fall into four main archetypes: the “hero,” the “artist,” the “prophet” and the “nomad.” Each archetype shifts to the next every 20 years, and the cycle repeats about every 80 years.
About 80 years ago, the last hero generation experienced a series of major crises in the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl and World War II. Today, our current hero generation has faced 9/11, the housing market crash in 2008 and the looming threat of climate change.
“The Revolution Generation” was a hopeful portrayal of how the experiences of current generations have created educated activists who are fighting climate change and for human rights. The film was narrated by actress and activist Michelle Rodriguez.
The film opened with a compilation of stereotypes attributed to Millennials — “lazy,” “narcissistic,” “self-obsessed.” But author Dan Schawbel was quoted to explain why Millennials seem to have a worse reputation than past generations.
“Every generation has always negatively stereotyped younger generations and positively stereotyped their elders, saying they’re wise and willing to mentor. The difference now is that social media and traditional media (has) amplified the negative stereotypes,” Schawbel said.
Rodriquez and another actress and activist Shailene Woodley highlighted causes Millennials have been particularly involved in: human rights and climate justice, including the protest in the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The Ohio University Center for Campus and Community engagement hosted a panel prior to the screening with civic leaders in the student and campus community. Mary Nall, the director of the center, was the moderator.
Nally opened the panel remarking that the film was not just talking about Millennials. Many of the stereotypes as well as statistics and trends about Millennials shown in the film also apply to the younger generations, Generation Z and Generation Alpha.
The panelists, most of whom are Generation Z, said they hoped that older generations give respect to and listen to what younger generations have to say.
“Sometimes in conversations with people that are older than me, I’m looked at like I’m stupid, or that I can’t articulate things right. I’m the one that’s not educated. I’m the one that’s not wise and hasn’t lived enough years. And maybe that’s true in some contexts, but some things I’m very passionate about. Some things I really do know things about,” said Taylor Schneider, the secretary of OU’s ACLU campus chapter. “I just expect people to listen.”
Despite being a politically informed generation, only about 50% of people ages 18 to 24 voted in the 2020 election, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The panelists encouraged anyone who is not able to register to vote to do so.
“You matter as an individual and the ideas that you have and hold as a person matter, even if it feels very tiny at the time,” said Haley Gifford, a master’s student and director of the ACLU-OU Campus Action Team.
To register to vote, you can find information at the Athens County Board of Elections and the Ohio University Civic Engagement Center.