Millennials are insufferable: They are self-absorbed, entitled, basement-dwelling slackers. We know this because the stereotype tells us so. Perhaps this is one of the many reasons My Millennial Life (2017 winner of the Canadian Screen Awards’ Best Documentary), a cross-platform documentary (interactive and film), produced and directed by Maureen Judge, proved so thought provoking.
Having experienced the interactive film, the Council for Disability Awareness reached out to Judge to discover her motivation for making the documentary and her impressions of millennials after having produced the documentary.
The Genesis of My Millennial Life
Four years ago, Judge was reading quite a bit about the financial situations in Greece and Spain. At the time, these countries had an unemployment rate that hovered around 50 percent for those aged 25 years and younger. It left an impression on Judge.
“The situation seemed like such a tragedy. Such a loss of wonderful human power. What dreams did these young people have? What does this do to them personally?”
Judge decided to assess the United States and Canada from the same perspective. She realized they had strikingly similar problems. Nearly 50 percent of young people in the US and Canada were either unemployed, under-employed, or working as unpaid interns (300,000 unpaid interns in Canada and 1.5 million in the US).
My Millennial Life was born.
Are Stereotypes Based in Truth
CDA was curious if Judge held any preconceived notions or stereotypes about millennials before beginning the documentary.
It seems she was subject to the power of stereotype—like anyone else—for she expected to find a deeply-ingrained, millennial sense of entitlement. Many of her readings in preparation for the documentary seemed to emphasize this phenomenon.
Judge admits that millennial entitlement does exist to an extent. But it is her explanation of its cause, that proves notable.
“They are entitled because they have been given a set of expectations by me…by my generation [baby boomers]. I told them, society told them, that if they received an education, that they would attain their dreams, it would just happen somewhat automatically. WE [baby boomers] thought this. In a way, this is what WE experienced. We could get a job with a future.”
It was the wide berth between expectation and reality which Judge wanted to explore.
In a poignant moment, one of the protagonists in My Millennial Life puts her finger on this “wide berth” with a quote that seemed to speak more to millennial expectation than millennial entitlement.
“In my mind growing up after public school you go to high school after high school you go to university you get your degree and then you’re somebody. And I thought that entitled me to get some type of career. That’s really not simply the case.”
Rebranding the Millennial Generation
Market researchers and demographers are generally responsible for shaping the public’s perception about the beliefs, values, and characteristics of the millennial generation.
The actual moniker “millennial generation” tells us very little beyond birth dates.
CDA asked Judge to rename the millennial generation with a term more descriptive of the generation she spend three years filming (and many more raising, she has two millennials of her own).
Her reply? “Maybe the ‘upstart generation’ or the ‘start-up generation.’”
Judge explained how the word upstart has a range of meanings, both positive and negative. She believes that everyone needs to be a little upstart to get ahead in challenging times.
As for start-up, circumstances make millennials greater self-starters than baby boomers. And a start-up generation requires optimism. Optimism is required for people to maintain forward motion.
Judge adds, “This optimism and entrepreneurism is beginning to be a true benefit to society.”
Millennial Life Advice from a Boomer
What advice would Judge give millennials?
“All hard work bears some fruit at some point in some way.”
It is often hard work that opens the gate to experience joy and pride.
As for what to avoid, Judge believes cynicism diminishes personal strength and undercuts self-esteem.
Glimmer of Hope
Judge ends our interview with an experienced and knowledgeable assessment of the millennial generation.
“They are a group that is very hopeful, no matter how much they bang their head against a wall. There is always a glimmer of hope that shines through them.”