The View from Here

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In the wake of uncertain economic times, millennials have grown up to be warier of capitalism than prior generations. However, having been immersed in capitalism their entire lives, Millennials tend to take out their angst, not through overt, organized revolt, but through their media consumption habits.

While Millennials are gaining economic and political influence, they often remain staunch capitalists in these arenas. Anti-capitalist sentiments are tied much more closely to media consumption and buying habits. Companies and advertisers have caught on, and anti-capitalism is now a multi-billion dollar industry.

According to the Pew Research center, 46 percent of people 18 to 29 have negative views of capitalism versus 47 percent who view it positively. This is in contrast with people over the age of 30, more than 50 percent of whom still view capitalism favorably.

Counterculture music genres like punk and hip hop, which arose as a rebellion to the status quo and the capitalistic American dream, have been morphed into massive, profit-making entities. Hot Topic has risen in the wake of punk’s death, now reigning solidly throughout every mall in the country and making a huge amount of money from angst-ridden teenagers seeking to rebel. Hip hop is a mouthpiece for capitalism and the joys of money, making billions for media companies and retailers from an often disenfranchised audience drawn to its rags-to-riches narratives.

The film and TV industries have picked up on this phenomenon as well. “The Hunger Games” movies have grossed over $2 billion worldwide, capitalizing on mostly young people who see elements of reality in the series. In the pilot of the USA network’s “Mr. Robot”, the franchise is presented as an example of corporate America using media to pacify its masses. “Mr. Robot,” a raging, anti-capitalist narrative itself, garnered millions of viewers during its first season, including a large proportion in the coveted 18-49 year old age range.

The purpose of anti-capitalist media from the producers’ perspective isn’t to motivate young people to change the system–It’s to capitalize on their anti-capitalist sentiment, which is ultimately genius. One thing young people dissatisfied with the system can be guaranteed to pay for is rebellion. Keeping young people’s desire for rebellion confined to their media consumption habits has the added bonus of satisfying that desire without the messiness of an actual rebellion. It’s much easier to nerd out over “The Hunger Games” than it is to actually initiate any kind of change or fix the issues that inspired it.

Conversely, this thirst for rebellion stands in stark contrast to the educational goals of Millennials. According to a survey the National Center for Education Statistics, a huge proportion of bachelor’s degrees sampled in 2011 to 2012 were in business, making it by far the most popular undergraduate major. The year 2012 also saw the release of the first “Hunger Games” movie.

As Millennials become major players in society, they need to realize the influence they hold over the economy. Society has real issues that need to be dealt with, and escaping to a fantasy world is a not productive outlet for angst after the age of 18. People have been hurt and are clearly unhappy within the system that exists, yet eager and willing to be complicit in it. Hopefully the same sentiment that earned the “Hunger Games” franchise billions of dollars will translate into real life solutions to problems as millennials’ economic and political power comes to fruition.