It’s 2002 and 2008 and 2012 and 2023 and the Millennials collectively, the entire generation, have rented a cement mixer the size of a global recession from Jean Twenge’s cousin who works in the building trade making a buttload of dough renovating subprime mold-farm homes and turning them into hot commodities with some fresh sheetrock and gentrification gray paint and a sheet or two of brightly-colored metal siding for “curb appeal.”
On one side of the mixer is emblazoned the word “Time” in Vantablack spray paint.
On the other, smeared in feces and blood, is the word “Culture.”
The Millennials excitedly crowd around this two-named mixer like it’s churning out unviable yet charming third-party candidates. And this is no ordinary mixer. It’s state-of-the-art and the art consists of taking in hopes, fads, fears, archetypes, myths, and generation-defining themes and mixing them all up into something sturdy for future generations to crawl then walk then sprint then wobble then collapse on, for future tropes to traipse until they too are ground up and mixed and poured and smoothed over and polished until it catches and reflects the rays of future cultures and suns. The Millennials mob the mixer, hurling in their artifacts both precious and embarrassing:
Trucker hats advertising retro beers. Whole cases of PBR. The Mexican state of Michoacán and all its avocados. Vats of beard balm. Milk crates full of Magic Wands vibrating giddily. Black skinny jeans. Pallets stacked high with the collected works of Sally Rooney and misery memoirs by rich former child actors licking their wounds of addiction and fame. Taylor Swift and the entire Kelce family. Growlers full of hazy, skunky IPAs. A half dozen of the country’s most lauded mixologists. The borough of Brooklyn. The city of Portland. Facebook, Instagram—hell, Meta and all its coders and creeps. Shipping containers stuffed with air fryers and rice cookers and locally roasted coffee beans. A couple hundred thousand bottles of Sriracha. Their eyes are watering from the hot sauce and the hops and from confronting their meager contributions to world history.
From folding chairs on the opposite side of nostalgia street, arthritic boomers observe these goings-on, chain smoking and stuffing their gullets with frozen tv dinners and McRibs and appreciating property values. Across from them, with their backs toward the spectacle, stand a cultivated group of Zoomer influencers using selfie sticks while trembling with anxiety to record it all—for clicks, for posterity, for analysis, to turn into memes, to upload to TikTok for Chinese spies to try to make sense of it all. One Gen Xer sits on the curb listening to Pavement on his Walkman trying to decide if he finds this scene amusing or depressing or irrelevant, until he observes the mixer is on the fritz. It’s spinning faster and faster, the words Time and Culture blending into one excrement graffiti blur, creating a vortex that is sucking in everything and everyone near it. None of the millennials know how to turn it off. The instructions are in a strange amalgam of Mandarin and Spanish and Hindi and C++ that wasn’t on the Duolingo app and the diagrams were drawn with crayon by an IKEA designer high on hygge. More millennials are hoovered up as the Boomers laugh and cut Metamucil farts and joke about the snowflakes. The Zoomers try to do something, organize a march or start an OnlyFans. But they too are sucked in and pulverized. Then the Boomers, followed by the Gen Xer, still listening to Pavement, still unsure how to feel.
The mixer spins on like this for eternity as each generation is devoured, processed, and regurgitated, previous and forthcoming, the dead and the living and the unborn, so much fodder for the mixer. Come, watch it spin. Just don’t stand too close.
Written by Jon Doughboy