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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Culture: Generation Unmotivated

Ok. Now this is probably going to make me sound like an old man, but I really do worry about the future of this country when I think about the youth today. I was watching an episode of My Super Sweet 16 on MTV the other night (insomnia causes strange behaviors, its true) and it got me thinking.

The show is a perverse display of wealth, with 15 and 16 year old boys and girls enjoying parties on their birthdays that rival royal ceremonies in other lands.

I started thinking about how the show is a sign that America may be becoming an entirely different country than the one envisioned by the fore fathers. The "American Dream" revolves around the idea of being a do-it-yourself, hard working, striving individual, who fights to achieve success and prosperity for themselves.

Now, such wealthy parents in this country are providing their kids with the world on a platter before they even hit age 18. So what is the incentive for these kids to be motivated- to study hard and get good grades, a good job, and make money when they already have it all? I struggle with the fact that the parents, who obviously busted their respective asses to get where they are, would not want to instill that same drive in their offspring by making them work hard for at least some of the finer things in life. It seems that these wealthy people are breeding a generation that will add no value or contribution to society because they never had to work for anything, so how will they magically start one day?

Now, I will say that I by no means struggled in life and was given a lot by my parents. But I was still raised with the belief that to "make it" in this world, it took hard work. If I had been given a $100,000 birthday party, a $90,000 Benz and a list of other goods on my 15th birthday, honestly what's my motivation to work hard- be it school, career?

I admit I'm going on a rant due in part to one particularly obnoxious show, and this is not representative of an entire generation. But this is what's on TV, and it influences the opinions of a broader audience. If this is what appeals to today's youth, does it signal that they do not wish to work hard and achieve success for themselves the way their parents did, and that the hard working entrepreneurial spirit that drives this country may be fading in future generations?

Bringing this back around to thoughts on branding, what might this imply for marketers? Today many brands seek to achieve status and prestige, and be a symbol of strivers and go-getters- take Nike for example. How might this affect their standing? A generation that wants everything handed to them certainly doesn't see the value in putting blood, sweat, and tears into becoming a better athlete.

Closing thought and then I'm done with my rant: MTV pisses me off, and yet like a car-wreck I just help but watch. Ugh...


AKI SYSTEMS 2600 said...

Yep, it's official, you're gettin' old, dude.

I like the episodes where they make people dance or compete for the invitations to their party. Classic.

We should have a My Super Sweet 16 Tivo Marathon party.

daniel said...

i thought the normative reason to study, was not to get a wellpaid job you didnt want, but rather to develop as a human being.. and then choose what to work with.

the goal of studying is only removed if the goal equals the wellpaid job, if the goal instead would be communicated as self-growth, the 'benefit' of studying would be quite different..

perhaps a too serious comment on a serious subject.

gugoda said...

It is often the case that one sees what one is trying to find. It's all a matter of perspective.

Your summation of the American Dream.... " (it) revolves around the idea of being a do-it-yourself, hard working, striving individual, who fights to achieve success and prosperity for themselves" is an apt one.

However I would put it to you that there is plenty of programming out there that upholds these qualities directly. Take I LOVE NEW YORK on VH1. A collection of men compete for the affection of a sultry woman (and one presumes more than that..) by engaging in just the qualilties you associate with the American Dream. Surviver is another. Project Runway, The Apprentice. In fact, much of the reality TV genre could be seen to support the American Dream as you describe it.

Don't get be wrong, I LOVE NEW YORK is in my view terrible, terrible entertainment, despite upholding the virtues of this country that made it great. But for once it's nice to see men chase after women in a desperate way, rather than the other way around.

G to the G to the D

herb said...

I call it entitlement generation. They all think they should just "get stuff". Like people who work from 9-5 and then expect a raise/promotion/new job. Instead working extra hours, learning a new skill, taking extra training; they think they should get it. See it all the time in the younger generations.

nic said...

I think another issue that wasn't mentioned was the "fame junkie" culture with Generation We (Y, Millenials, etc.).

They don't know how to work hard, expect rewards/accolades for mediocrity, suffer ADD, live a more isolated (yet 'connected' world) and are bombarded with our celebrity culture...

Check out this segment on 20/20:

Bogdana said...

you should see what this is doing in countries barely up from behind the iron curtain :-). MTV is an icon so youngsters here assume it is the locus of trendy and cool so they simply ingest everything it provides and internalize it as THE thing to be doing.
Now we have Valentine's Day, pimp my ride rituals. soon it will pobably be "i want a famous face" and i am sure that sweet 16 is already on the map. And we didn't even use to celebrate 16 because culturally it makes no sense here: you are of age, driving, drinking and all that at 18 and you get your official ID at 14. but what's annoying is that "traditions" are assimilated based less on a reason (rationale) and more on PR. Pretty much like electing a president because his band was loudest :-)

lisa said...

"I call it entitlement generation."

all the Gen Y research i've been doing suggests this generation is motivated by two things: becoming "successful" and humanitarian work. i'm not making this up. 18-24 see the boomers sustain themselves as the generation with the most money and power of any the world has ever seen. of course they think they're entitled. they've had no other examples than the boomers who, as a hovering and controlling generation, tell them what to do and who to become. maybe this iGen is not totally to blame. maybe they watch their mothers in their "fuck you forties" (MORE magazine term) and think that's how to live.

there are so many examples right now of kids in this group starting movements: Invisible Children, Obangatek, Elias Fund to name a few. the kids are rallying for Dispatch, who sold out three nights at Madison Square Garden in thirty minutes despite having been broken up for four years. all proceeds are going to Zimababwean nonprofits.

the biggest mistake you can make is to call Gen Y lazy and ADD afflicted. they have every potential to be great, every desire to be great, and they suffer from ten times the amount of ads you did as a kid. you'd stop paying attention to mass media too.