Millennials Magazine: Are the Kids All Right?

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This morning marks the launch of an online publication with a simply irresistible name: Millennials Magazine. Described by its four-person editorial staff as “a weekly blog and online publication with official issues released quarterly [whose goal is] to help us define ourselves,” the publication is an attempt to represent a generation that feels it has been massively misunderstood by the press. “To this end,” the editors continue, “we’ve invited our generation to show what we think of us, rather than how the New York Times constricts us. We’ve gathered digital landmarks, records of how we feel and what has happened to us.”

As 20-somethings who have also been angered and disappointed at the mainstream media’s mystifying “coverage” of our generation, we have eagerly anticipated the magazine’s debut. So, now that the first issue is out there, is Millennials everything we dreamed it would be?

It may not be perfect, but it’s definitely encouraging. Our greatest worry about Millennials was that it would be yet another entirely tongue-in-cheek effort, written half in lolcats and quick to dismiss any hint of seriousness. But that is not what this magazine is about. Instead, it’s full of earnest personal essays and intriguing columns. Even the content that does cover topics the Internet is fond of deriding, such as nostalgia, avoids easy, ironic celebrations in favor of intelligent analysis.

If there is an excess here, it’s in the occasional misunderstanding of what is interesting to outside readers and what belongs in the writer’s own diary. Lauren Friedman’s “Being the ‘Other Girl'” mistakes the author’s enthusiasm for a newfound no-strings-attached sexual relationship as something unique to women in their 20s when the Sex and the City gals (not to mention the ’60s free-love crowd) already covered it pretty comprehensively. The Wikipedia column, whose first installment covers the site’s varying definitions of love, doesn’t show much promise of becoming compelling. It’s hard to see the point of a “Chat” column that reproduces a casual conversation between a Millennial who’s moving out and her mom as though it happened on IM. And while it’s admirable that Millennials has found room for creative writing, the debut poem, written entirely in lower-case letters and titled “On Life,” resembles nothing more than the late-night Facebook status update of that one friend who thinks working late at a thankless job makes her a martyr — or unusual in any way. (For the record, Millennials’s first piece of fiction shows a great deal of promise.)

But, for the most part, the writing is good, and the bylines feature both up-and-coming media types with impressive publication histories and total unknowns, some of whom are still finishing undergrad degrees. Those of us in the second half of our 20s or beyond may find it a bit difficult to relate to the massive importance co-editor Rosie Gray places on The O.C. , which debuted while she was still in junior high, but her observations about how much has changed between then (“when it was okay to have a lot of money and to throw it around, and it was okay to depict people having a lot of money and throwing it around”) and now are smart. Lucía Elena Flores’s refreshingly un-hysterical essay on identifying with the Harry Potter series’s possibly mixed-race heroine, Hermione Granger, as a “bookish brown girl,” is equally insightful. Millennials co-editor (and occasional topic of Gawker discussion) Jessica Roy’s piece on young writers making their mark on media was a good read not because no one’s covered it before but because it’s rare to see the story reported by an actual 20-something.

Perhaps the strongest piece in the debut issue is another by Roy. Look past the apparently melodramatic title, “We Are Lost,” because Roy’s reflection on the “collective malaise” Millennials feel is nuanced and self-aware. She realizes that much of the dislocation she feels isn’t merely a characteristic of our generation, but the common experience of decades of young adults. So, she puts a finer point on what she and her peers are feeling: “While I’m not convinced twenty-somethings today have it tougher, I do think that our confusion may be more acute.” This certainly feels like an authentic, anti-alarmist analysis. And Roy laments the ubiquity of irony, which “undercuts all attempts at the genuine.” She continues, “We might momentarily allow ourselves a modicum of sincerity, but only if we attach an addendum (or punctuation mark!) that highlights our discomfort with that earnestness.”

Millennials Magazine may not be batting a thousand, but neither do the publications it’s defining itself against. We respect its founders and writers for taking the project seriously, especially considering these smart, young media types must have gone into it knowing the kind of snark they’d catch from outlets like The Awl. And we can confidently say that this first issue does exactly what it needed to do: hold our attention and make us think. We could do without some of the navel-gazing, but that won’t stop us from looking forward to issue #2.