The Hunt for the Authentic

I still can’t believe Mike Seaver's dad died.  I had such a crush on Mike when I was growing up and loved the show Growing Pains.  As a Gen Xer, I grew up in the in the world of broken homes and absentee fathers.  So I looked forward to romantic comedies and weekly sitcoms that told stories of perky families and wrapped up with a happy ending in 30 minutes or less. 

Inspired by the sitcoms and ABC after school specials, Gen Xers like me have hovered over our snowflakes, and yearned to give them the childhood we didn’t have.  While we tried to create the perfect sitcom family life, the line between reality and fiction became blurred.   Authenticity was lost, and the Millennials are on the hunt to find it again.

Back when MTV actually showed music videos, they introduced us to one of the first reality television shows, The Real World.  It was wildly popular and reality television quickly replaced scripted sitcoms.  News and weather necessarily morphed into entertainment as it tried to fill a 24-hour cycle.  These changes to the news stations have had Baby Boomers tuning in, and Millennials turning it off.

The 2016 presidential election was a culmination of this generational struggle.  It was a last ditch effort by baby boomers to elect one of their own to fix the mess they made.  They turned out in droves to enthusiastically vote for Donald Trump.  Meanwhile Gen Xers cynically chuckled in the corner chanting either “burn it down” or mumbling, “think I'll skip this one and go get a beer.”

But the Millennial's have been on the hunt in 2016. They've been on the hunt for something authentic and real. After placing their hope in the change promised by President Obama, they were determined not to fall for the same platitudes again.  They have learned that unicorns are not real and politicians will lie. And while everyone may get a ribbon, not everyone gets a job.

They're not cynical.  They're just searching.  Searching for something that's real, authentic, and even a little gritty. That's why they were drawn to Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz, who were polar opposites in their political views, but share  authenticity that was attractive to Millennials.

For Millennials, that search for honest emotional grit is turning movies like Manchester by the Sea and La La Land into hits.  Both of these movies have an authenticity that has been missing from our Kardashian culture.  My 20-year old son dragged me to Manchester by the Sea after he saw it and loved it.  He was sure I would love it too.  It was a good movie, with fantastic acting and raw emotion.  La La Land was a good movie too.  Who wouldn’t enjoy Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling tap dancing?  But seeing both of these movies in the span of 24-hours left me melancholy and yearning for a happy ending. 

Millennials embrace the uncomfortable reality of loose ends.  They will settle for a step in the right direction instead of having to reach the destination.  They don’t need things to be tied up neatly. And instead of fake reality television shows, Millennials will choose an authentically acted show or movie any day.

Upstream from politics, culture always directs the flow of conversation.  And as the culture shifts towards toward authenticity, we must be ready to effectively offer liberty as the authentic answer to the problems our country faces.  It will be up to the Gen Xers to maintain a healthy skepticism about politicians and partner with Millennials to make sure America is kept free.