Burgeoning filmmaker Stephen Parkhurst has a new short film out, which prodded me to finally post another installment of my recent interview with him. You might recall that Parkhurst is the creator of another great short film “Millennials, We Suck and We’re Sorry” that created quite a media stir in 2013. Given my interest in generational politics, I had to talk to him to get the story behind the story. You can see that interview here.
In his new film, Parkhurst takes on the dating site Tinder. This struck a chord with me because a while back I asked my wife how she would meet men if she were single in this day and age. She mentioned Tinder. Then I saw this movie, “Every Guy You Meet on Tinder.” I’m still laughing. So check it out. And while you’re at it, check out my interview to learn a bit more about him and my book project, “Beyond the Boomers: Voice from America’s Generational Culture War.”
Ehisen: People get themselves really wound around the axles in this generational debate. I had a chance to talk to Tom Brokaw when I first started this project, and he talked a lot about not falling prey to generalities when we talk about this generational stuff. But in truth, it’s really kind of his fault. He started all this by calling the WWII folks “the greatest generation.” I know he didn’t mean to imply anything negative, but if you call anything the greatest then something else has to be the worst, right?
Parkhurst: Oh yea, for sure.
Ehisen: It started almost right after his book came out, with the Boomers getting pounded as “the worst generation.” Generation X didn’t seem to get it too bad, maybe because they kept their heads down more than we Boomers did.
Parkhurst: Though Gen-X had its own sort of backlash from people who said, “they’re not as ambitious or disruptive as the Boomers. They’re too selfish.” I do remember that being a thing. I have cousins who are X-ers and I can remember them saying, “Hey, what about us? We don’t even get a mention?” I think they felt left out.
Ehisen: It’s why I always call them America’s perpetual middle child.
Parkhurst: (Laughs) Oh yeah.
Ehisen: The irony is that there are a lot of folks who study this stuff who think the parameters we use for this are all wrong anyway, that the folks born at the beginning of the Boom are so different from those of us born near the end that they really are two distinctly different generations. Researcher Jonathon Pontell calls folks in my group “Generation Jones,” theoretically because we’re Jonesing for some kind of respect we’re not getting from demographers or society. There is some validity to that. Being born in 1963, I never had to worry about things like being sent to Vietnam. And the only thing I knew about Woodstock, at least around that time frame, was that it was my sister’s soundtrack album and I wasn’t supposed to touch it. In that way it is hard to see us as the same generation.
Parkhurst: We are in the same situation. As I understand it, Millennials go from about 1982 to around 2000, though I’ve heard some people say it goes all the way through 2004. I was a sophomore in college in 2004. The idea that someone born that year is going to have the same life experience as me is kind of silly. My sister was born in 1980. Thinking that she would have the same perspectives as someone born in, say 1999, who would have been maybe two years old when 9-11 happened, that’s a real stretch.
Ehisen: So much of all this feels driven by media, because it makes for big headlines and easy stories, and by the marketing folks, who are always trying to figure out how to sell something to either the Boomers or the Millennials. Or to figure out how to manage Millennials in the workplace.
Parkhurst: Yeah, I’m thinking about writing a parody book about how to manage Millennials. A short e-book. But I may never get around to it. Which is kind of a Millennial thing, I guess. (Laughs)
Ehisen: There are lots of other stereotypes about Millennials – you don’t care about same-sex marriage or immigration or so many of the other hot button social issues out there. I always take that to mean you don’t get as caught up in the politics behind those issues. I know you can only speak for your own circle, but do you find those stereotypes to be generally accurate or inaccurate?
Parkhurst: Oh I think there is a lot of political motivation. My peers and I tend to lean a little bit left – Godless New York Liberals and all. It’s not that we don’t care about politics or the issues, it’s that we‘ve all been pretty disenfranchised at this point from the political system. That said, I think there is more activism on the local level. Instead of huge political activism, people go where they feel they can be more effective. I think there was a lot of hope and optimism in 2008, but the reality has set in. The transformational nature of Obama was not necessarily going to come to fruition. It was a learning experience. Since 2008, it has all been one big learning experience (laughs).
Ehisen: For all of us.
Parkhurst: It has been mostly good. But the most offensive thing for me has been people telling Millennials, “just get a job. Move out of your parents’ basement and get a job.” Well hey, I’m sure everyone would love to do that, though for the record I have never lived in my parents’ basement! But the reality is there were no jobs. At one point I was getting paid minimum wage to deliver car parts, which is fine but I had graduated from college the year before. A lot of people were in that situation. It just means it has been a longer, slower maturation to adulthood than a lot of us expected.
To be continued….