Rebellion 2.0: Smart and Funny


Millennials are often compared to their boomer parents in terms of their penchant for social activism and positive change. Cynically minded social commentators have also characterized the millennials' flavor of activism as "slacktivism" or, more recently, as a "diffuse, click-and-go" activism. (See Malcolm Gladwell's New Yorker article).

On Oct. 30, however, we saw a very different side of this generation.

Millennials gathered in the tens of thousands to attend the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear in Washington, D.C., to speak out against fear-mongering in politics.

With an economy that's no laughing matter, one might have expected to see a generational temper tantrum, but instead we bore witness to the dynamic that we at MTV have lovingly dubbed "smart 'n' funny as the new rock 'n' roll."

That is, the boundary-pushing, anti-establishment role that rock 'n' roll played for boomer (and even X-er) parents has been replaced, to some extent, by iconoclastic, absurd, high-wire, non-PC, super-smart humor.

Consider this distinctly unfunny stat: Nearly 40 percent of millennials 18-29 are out of work, per the Pew Research Center. And, according to our new study, the M-Edge, fielded in October with 2,000 millennials 12-24, 63 percent believe that "people my age have been most negatively affected by the economy."

Sixty-seven percent also agree that, "I may have to settle for a job that just pays the bills." And 79 percent agree that, "people my age are growing up in a scarier world than my parent's generation."

But, hey, why punch a cop if a punch line gets you there faster and without all that messy jail time? Rallying millennials voted with wit as their weapon of choice. "It's a sad day when our politicians are comical and I have to take our comedians seriously!" read one of the placards. Another read: "There's nothing to fear but fear...and spiders."

Many of the punch lines on the signs ended up not on the nightly news but on the "best of" roundup.

For a generation battling to get the most "likes" from a stinging status update, sharing 140-characters-or-less bites of wit has become the lingua franca. It's simply the logical next step that they'll leverage funny to take back the White House.

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