Why Millennials Don’t Want to ‘Keep it Real’

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As a recent college graduate, the only thing I’ve been hearing about lately is my grand entrance into “the real world.” While it’s exciting to start my life and career after college, I find myself constantly wishing I had a little bit more time to be a kid. I realized recently that I’ve been turning to cartoons in my spare time, which got me to thinking about the high percentage of media based in alternate realities. Why are more and more millennials turning to shows like Steven Universe and Doctor Who?

The first experience I had with alternate realities was when I read C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia. I instantly fell in love with it. What little kid doesn’t want an enchanted wardrobe that leads to a magical land where satyrs exist? As I grew older and learned more about the books, I realized how much escapism played a role in them. The Pevensie children (The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe) are victims of World War II, and what better form of escapism than to actually escape the reality you’re living in? Regardless of the time period in which this particular book is being read, I think there’s something to be said about children wishing to escape their current reality.

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When I was younger, I had an imaginary friend who could travel between the earth and the clouds at will. The idea that I could create a magical creature in the physical world was so important to me as a little kid. From the time we learn how to use our imaginations as children, we’re attempting to make our world a little bit more fantastic. Now, I can’t go ten minutes without hearing someone complain about how their children seem to be constantly glued to a screen or a book. Accusations like, “Why don’t they get out of the house?” and “When I was younger, I was romping around outside from dawn ‘til dusk!” get thrown around all the time. But I think if we took the time to immerse ourselves in the current world of children, we would find that it’s not a lack of desire to be outside, it’s a growing interest in current media.

We have the unique privilege to be nostalgic for a time when we spent entire days outside without a Nintendo DS or a smartphone, as well as the ability to appreciate and understand current technology and media.

Millennials, including myself, have grown up in a technological age that has advanced at a breakneck pace. Because of that, we have the unique privilege to be nostalgic for a time when we spent entire days outside without a Nintendo DS or a smartphone, as well as the ability to appreciate and understand current technology and media. Humans are not fond of change. But with technology changing so quickly and frequently, we don’t have much of a choice other than to roll with the punches. Or rather, scroll with them.

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Now that we’ve covered the change in millennial opinions and technology, it’s finally time to get into some of today’s current media. One of the most recent up and coming television programs is the Cartoon Network program Steven Universe. One of the things I love about this cartoon is the character for whom it’s named.  Steven is a little boy who loves good food, good music, and his family and friends. However, there is more to this character than a happy go lucky music loving kid. Steven is a character who deals with real world problems in addition to the adventures he has with a fantastical group of female warriors called the Crystal Gems. He struggles with his self-esteem and overcomes real, human challenges as the series progresses. He’s relatable, and that’s one of the greatest strengths of this show. Children and young adults alike are allowed to empathize with these fantastical and fictional characters while processing issues that they might be facing in their own lives; they give viewers an opportunity to examine the world with a new perspective.

We (Millennials) don’t have much of a choice other than to roll with the punches. Or rather, scroll with them. Click To Tweet

And what better way to provide a new perspective than to let viewers see the world, and hundreds of other worlds for that matter, through an alien’s eyes? Doctor Who has been around since my dad was a kid, and I think it’s one of the best examples of how media can connect people while spanning entire generations. The Doctor first graced television screens in 1963, taking viewers to distant planets and times, providing the most extraordinary kind of escapism media had to offer. The original series ended in 1989, but was rebooted in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston taking on the role of The Doctor. Eccleston brought out a side of The Doctor that truly appreciated the human race and marveled at their accomplishments. His performance was a large part of the reboot’s success, because while the TARDIS provides the escapism that people have been seeking since the inception of film, The Doctor reminds viewers that the world we live in is a little bit more fantastic than we think.

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It’s time to stop judging young people for being immersed in the realm of the fantastic. I don’t think media is distracting us from “the real world,” I think it’s giving us a new lens to look through. Millennials are becoming more informed than ever, and while it’s not all to do with television, these forms of media are introducing more relevant issues to viewers and allowing us to take on our world in a new way, with a new perspective. So go watch a cartoon, remember that it’s okay to spend time in new worlds, and keep believing that there’s a better one ahead.

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