So my roommate and I were watching a series of videos the other night from The Fine Bros. It’s a series called “Do They Know It” off the React Channel, the home of the popular Kids React, Teens React and Elders React series on YouTube. In effect, the series of videos tests a demographic of people on their knowledge of popular culture from an era they aren’t normally associated with. Do parents know modern music? Do teens know vintage video games? Do adults know YouTube stars? That sort of thing.
The ones that my roommate and I were particularly enamored with were teens reacting to 90s music. His knowledge was intriguing to me. I – having seen the video before and knowing an embarrassing amount about the history of pop music – wasn’t a particularly good gauge of my demographic playing this game. But the range of his reactions was exactly what I expected.
The video played songs from the 90s in chronological order, starting with anthems from the earlier half of the decade and ending with the later half. As we expected, my roommate was pretty good at the early 90s but wasn’t anywhere close to perfect. By the time we got to the late 90s though, not only was my roommate earning perfect marks, but he was actively angry at the few teens who didn’t recognize the songs.
So I think you know where I’m going with this but I’m going to keep going anyway.
This perfectly fits into the hypocrisy that I find in the painful resonance of the term “90s Kid.” I was born in 1994, my roommate in 1993. We are both, quite obviously, millennials. And I am proud to say that, unlike some people who think the term is the modern equivalent of being called a Dirty Hippie. But we are not 90s Kids.
The line is easy to draw for me. Take the video as an example: I do not remember a time when Ace of Base was grooving on every radio station, but I can’t remember a time before The Backstreet Boys took over the airwaves. Obviously I remember the 90s. I don’t have the latest functioning memory of any human being on record. I started kindergarten in the 90s, I moved houses for the first time in the 90s, I made my first friends in the 90s. But I am a child of the aughts. (You can call it the 00s of the ooze or the Oh Ohs if you want. I call it the aughts. Just a personal preference.)
Here’s how I know I’m a child of the aughts. (And also here’s a bonus reference for you.) Last night while I couldn’t sleep, I got nostalgic about the most 2000s thing possible. Do you remember “Far Far Away Idol?” It was a DVD extra you could play with on the Shrek 2 DVD where all the main characters of the film auditioned for Shrek, Fiona and an animated Simon Cowell and you got to vote with your remote to see who would win. If you picked Shrek and Fiona, Donkey or Puss in Boots they got to sing a victory performance. If you picked anyone else, Simon would reject your choice and sing Frank Sinatra’s My Way. My sister and I watched this video endlessly as children. And what is more of a sign of being a child of the 2000s than rewatching the DVD extras of Shrek 2 playing off the popularity of American Idol? DVDs, Shrek and American Idol were definitely 2000s territory. And I’m sure 90s Kids can get behind that nostalgia, but not at a young enough age to truly call themselves “kids.”
So here’s my proposal: It’ll be a framework to establish what decade you were a “kid” in. Obviously I expect some blowback but hear me out.
I define a “kid” as a human person between the ages of 5 and 12. Anything younger is either an infant or a toddler. Anything older is a teenager. I consider pre-teens to be kids, but I can definitely see the rationale for cutting off “kid age” at 10. But just for arguments sake, I’ll set up the framework both ways. If you were born in a year that ends with any number between 5 and 9, you should label yourself a child of the following decade, regardless of your definition of kid. For example, people born in 1976 would be 80s kids and people born in 1988 are 90s kids. If you were born in a year that ends in 3 or 4, you are a child of the following decade regardless of your definition of kid, but you have an argument to be made to call yourself a “late decades kid.” Like I can fairly call myself a “late 90s kid” being born in 1994, but more accurately I’m a 00s kid, having only been a kid in the 90s for a year. If you are born in a year that ends in 2 and you have a broad definition of kid as I do, you are in the same boat. If you have a more narrow definition of kid, people born in years ending in 2 can choose their decade of kid-dom. With a broad definition of kid-dom, this is also true of people born in years ending in 0 or 1. However, narrow definitions dictate that people born in years ending in 0 or 1 are children of the decade in which they were born, being that the majority or entirety of childhood was spent in that decade.
Cool cool? Glad we’ve got this settled? No? Need an example? Ok, here one comes:
So this probably isn’t going to be a good example, but it’s on my mind.
I’ve been rewatching Malcolm in the Middle recently, and I had forgotten how good of a show it is. This might be a different post for a different day, but there are only two other shows that I’ve ever watched that do as good of a job of depicting the “TV generation” as Malcolm does, those shows also both being FOX properties. (Oddly enough, one ran too long, one ran too short and one ran for the perfect amount of time.)
The reason I bring this show up is that it happens to set up a perfect framework for my theory. Though ages are never explicitly verified in the show, based on where the five children in the family are at specific points in the show, it can more or less be determined that Francis was born in 1984, Reese in 1987, Malcolm in 1989, Dewey in 1993 and Jamie in 2004. Using their approximate ages, you can determine that Reese and Malcolm are certainly 90s Kids, Dewey is probably a 2000s Kid, Francis is likely a 90s Kid but could be an 80s Kid and Jamie is in all likelihood a child of the 2010s.
If you further extrapolate those ages to correspond with the generations of recent American history, you can make a legitimate argument Francis, based on his birthdate, is on the fringe of being labeled a Generation Xer. He’s just outside of the age range actually, probably about two years too young, but for argument’s sake, let’s make an exception. Francis being the family’s token Gen X child would complete explain his rebellious tendencies and why he is so gung-ho in disobeying his parents’ orders, especially in the early seasons. That firmly affixes Malcolm, Reese and Dewey as Millennials, a perfect fit for the trio of obviously-talented and self-dependent but often lazy and unmotivated children. And frankly I don’t know much about Jamie – or the post-Millennial generation which may or may not have a name – so I don’t want to make snap judgments about his/their personalities.
Wow. I’m actually intriguing myself now. I might write a full analysis of this concept once I’m done watching the series again. Brainblast!
That was a story, a rant and a reference.