The Disappearing of Generation X

Generation X — Americans born between 1961 and 1974 — have been “disappeared“ from the media like a fallen-out-of-favor Soviet apparatchik airbrushed out of a picture from atop Lenin’s tomb.

Gen X was an important facet of the start of my career. I used to write and draw a lot about Gen X. I authored a seminal Gen X manifesto, Revenge of the Latchkey Kids (1996). For a while there, it seemed like we were going to take our rightful place as the third-biggest generational cohort—not the biggest by any means but at least…extant.

Now the Internet is talking about a CBS News infographic in which zero Americans were apparently born between Boomers and the Millennials. CBS listed four generations:

“The Silent Generation: Born 1928-1945 (73-90 years old)”

“Baby Boomers: Born 1946-1964 (54-72 years old)”

“Millennials: Born 1981-1996 (23-37 years old)”

“Post-Millennials: Born 1997-present (0-21 years old)”

(The so-called “cusp kids” born between 1961 and 1964 are demographically Boomers because of high birth years but culturally Gen X because they share cultural touchstones with younger Americans.)

That’s right, Gen Xers: to CBS News, you’re less real and alive and important than someone who is zero years old. So much for Gen X culture—“Reality Bites,” “Slacker,” “Singles,” “Clerks,” anything by Quentin Tarantino or Richard Linklater, pretty much all indie rock ever, alternative cartooning, oh and the Douglas Coupland book called, um, “Generation X.” To CBS, that stuff matters less than the pee and poo and puke and drool emanating from a zero year old.

The disappearing of Gen X is a genuine widespread trend. A New York Times op-ed by David Leonhardt discusses “the fleecing of the Millennials” by Boomers and attributes not only declining living standards but also the “burnout“ slur as being brand new to Millennials while in fact both of these characterized Gen X first, decades earlier.

When you read it, it’s downright bizarre that the phrase “Generation X” never appears anywhere. Online commenters were baffled.

These days all the conversation in the media is about the supposed stylistic differences and economic clashes between the Baby Boom and Millennial generations. Generation X is ignored; we don’t even get caught in the crossfire. In a recent SNL skit called “Millennial Millions,“ Millennials are offered prizes like free healthcare if they manage to shut up for 30 seconds while a Boomer talks trash about them. The game show host says, “I’m Gen X. I just sit on the sidelines and watch the world burn.” I’m Gen X so I laughed.

Being deemed irrelevant is bad enough. What will it do to our already close-to-nonexistent self esteem to realize that everyone else in the country doesn’t even know we’re alive?

A Philadelphia Magazine article—that came out last year, for God’s sake—feels like the last nail in our once-notable demographic coffin. “Whatever Happened to Generation X?” asks the headline. What happened, apparently, is that we got relegated to “whatever-happened-to” pieces in friggin’ Philadelphia magazine. (It’s actually a good piece, and you should read it, but you won’t because Gen Xers don’t read about themselves and Millennials and Boomers only care about themselves.)

Forbes explains, I think credibly, that Gen X is far more influential than anyone thinks, though this particular line is unintentionally hilarious: “What they lack in numbers — just 66 million to boomers’ 75 million — they make up with a stellar engine that has quietly been revving over the years.”

“Stellar engine”? That’s the name of my new 1980s retro-synth band. We’re influenced by Soft Cell. Also, “just”? 66 million is “just”? Even compared to 75 million?
Anyway, Anna Sofia Martin writes, “a whopping 55% of startup founders are part of Gen X.” So much for slacking. Anyway, who can afford it? We Gen Xers, not Millennials, were the first generation to get crushed by student loan debt. Even so, we have “31% of U.S. income, but just 25% of the population.” So latchkey kids really are having a sort of revenge.

“Masters of self-deprecation,” Martin calls us. She’s right. So, when Millennials and Baby Boomers insist us on pretending that 66 million people simply don’t exist we’re, like…

what-ever.

(Ted Rall, the cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

6 thoughts on “The Disappearing of Generation X

  1. Isn’t that why the generation was dubbed ‘X’ in the first place? Nobody knew what to call them / what to do with them.

    => Millennials are offered prizes like free healthcare if they manage to shut up for 30 seconds while a Boomer talks trash about them.

    Funny thing, I’ve heard more X’ers / Millennials taking trash about boomers than the reverse on this forum. (Posters, that is. I don’t think Ted’s ever actually trash-talked an entire generation.)

    => The game show host says, “I’m Gen X. I just sit on the sidelines and watch the world burn.” I’m Gen X so I laughed.

    ‘k. Here’s the thing – X’ers are in charge now: there are more X’ers in the workforce than boomers; Bezos is an X, and Zuckerberg is a Millennial, (two of the richest guys on the planet). So how come you guys haven’t fixed all the problems? You seem to think we (boomers) should have …

    • “(Posters, that is. I don’t think Ted’s ever actually trash-talked an entire generation.)”
      CrazyH, I love ya. What a set-up! I will happily trash talk an entire generation. Douglas Coupland (Ted mentioned) has a paragraph in “Generation X” that I’m going to quote here. If I believed in tattooing, I would have the last 39 words running across my forearms.
      “Do you really think we enjoy hearing about your brand-new million-dollar home when we can barely afford to eat Kraft Dinner sandwiches in our own grimy little shoe boxes and we’re pushing thirty? A home you won in a genetic lottery, I might add, sheerly by dint of your having been born in the right time in history. And I have to endure pinheads like you rusting above me for the rest of my life, always grabbing the best piece of cake first and then putting a barbed-wire fence around the rest. You really make me sick.”
      Euclid alone has looked on beauty bare. Euclid and Coupland. Coupland’s assessment of the baby boomer, the smug and unearned sense of entitlement, the complete callousness toward other people, the naked and unrepentant greed and misuse of others that defines the baby boomer sickens me too.
      I’m sitting here, going through my possessions to sell off the few nice things I still own because I am, as the French describe the condition, flat fucking broke. And I didn’t get here because of a cocaine habit or a talent for picking slow horses. I got here, on the high side of 50, thanks to the omnivorous, vulpine degeneracy of the baby boomers who kept leaning on my windpipe with both knees for my entire professional life.
      My only joy now? They’re starting to die off. I will, at the end, have a few years when these greedy grasping assholes will, finally and forever, be gone from the earth. I may be eating cat food, but finally, I will be free of them.

      • “The grass is always greener …”

        I’m selling on eBay, myself. I’ve been unemployed for two years, passed over for younger workers (“X’ers and Millennials”) with their self-serving belief that their shiny new diplomas trump years of experience. Us old farts need to move aside to make way for those more deserving of the jobs we, ourselves, created. Sounds like entitlement to me, but whaddino?

        So what is it that the evil, wicked, mean & nasty boomers did? Well, let’s see, we were born, ate, breathed, pooped, etc … pretty much the same things the new kids do. But, ya’ know – we were selfish for being born while the new crop came into the world altruistically (or so I’m told.)

        I’m sure you’ll leave the world in better shape than you found it, right? I mean, you can hardly do less given the amount of noise you’ve made about it. You’ve got all the answers, isn’t it time to implement them?

        The world’s in your hands, kiddo. Show us what you can do. (glancing at watch and tapping foot … )

        (more in humor than in rancor)
        🙂 😀 🙂

      • I note that the attempt to divert attention from the continual class warfare being carried out by the super rich against the rest of us by inciting the latter to wage an internal generational war has been completely successful. Edward Bernays would be proud….

        Henri

      • You got it right, Henri.

        Popular culture and the news media (do I repeat myself?) denies the existence of class in this “classless democracy”.

        Anyone who applies the concept of class in the USA is accused of fomenting “class war” and “Marxism”.

        It’s been that way throughout my lifetime, now with a rebirth of alien subversion conspiracy theories through Neo-McCarthyism because the ruling class thinks (and maybe truly knows) that Americans are unable to figure out the lay of the land without nefarious outside help.