How Has Millennial Culture Changed?
In a time before TikTok and even Instagram, peeps would get crunk and holla at biotches who didn't occupy wall street because economic inequality was fo sizzle not as hot as shopping for bling. #MeToo was years away, so dawgs would be all like booyah when white girl-wasted clubbers approached them, and comedians still used their patriarchal superpowers to clear their snorkel in front of people without shame.
On the other side of the world, China showed that communism is not a force to be reckoned with as long as it's capitalist. And even though some authoritarian governments prospered, many homeskillets joined protests for democracy that turned sketchy AF during the Arab Spring. Social media aided revolutions but also started to put us in echo chambers that would soon make us think we're more polarised than we really are. And' Rents who worried about the end of privacy thanks to tech giants collecting and aggregating our data were told to take a chill pill or peace out and live in a hut. It was a time when noobs thought SARS was an oriental thing and had no idea what was yet to come.
If you didn't understand half of what I wrote, don't worry, you still might have a C2-level proficiency in English. Or maybe you're a native English speaker who didn't understand a thing because you didn't spend much of your formative years from 2000 until Facebook bought Instagram (2012). Most of these words are already obsolete, but if you happen to hang out with millennials who are never Sorry for Party Rocking with Bootylicious Bad Girls and like to Get the Party Started with Someone Like You, you might better understand their slang if you click on every link in this article.
On the one hand, these were the days when high-quality streaming and internet outlets influenced the golden age of television. But, on the other hand, it was when many people wouldn't shut up about Jersey Shore, a reality TV where eight Guido/Guidette housemates drank, flexed, and slept around.
Jersey Shore was one of the motivators for creating Lean Meat, a web series where I played a naive, misogynistic guido giving life lessons. Whether it was Lean Meat telling you how to talk to gay people, why you should live your life by YOLO (you only live once), befriending conservative Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper, dancing with the Naked Cowboy in New York, or dealing with internet-dating website scams, Lean Meat was an exaggerated portrayal of how many young men spoke about women, politics, and life goals. He was the prime example of toxic masculinity before 'toxic' and 'masculinity' became inseparable collocations.
Even though I wasn't thinking about my Without Borders project at the time, my multiple identities (or unstable identify) due to being a third-culture child played a role in why I wanted to be an actor. I could find aspects of myself in anyone, and when I brought those parts of myself on stage or in front of a camera, I felt complete, fulfilled, and in a state of flow.
In some ways, Lean Meat was the opposite of me; in others, he was my superego. Lean Meat's life revolved around getting it in, partying, and hitting the gym. But he was also lonely and desperately wanted to fit in. An actor shouldn't judge their characters, or they'll end up being one-dimensional and unrealistic, and even though Lean Meat was a caricature, throughout the series, you learn about his daddy issues, addictions, and the platonic love for his roommate Bam — played by Bam Bourdeau D'Hui, my actual roommate at the time. Bam was a kind, intelligent, sympathetic character — and person in real life — who got dragged into all sorts of trouble because of Lean Meat, but he eventually grew to befriend and help him when he was at his all-time low.
The show had mediocre success, with over one hundred thousand, and even caught the attention of a manager in New York, which was why I ended up half-naked in Time Square. You can learn more about that in my book Living in the In-Laws.
Most viewers were North American LGs (Little girls, well, girls in their teens) who enjoyed Lean Meat's body or millennials happy to laugh with the current culture. Most of the haters and trolls (of which there were a lot) were people who didn't understand the sarcasm, but instead of pointing to misogynist and politically incorrect things Lean Meat said, they'd point to what a loser he was, as though he was a real person.
As I mentioned before, this was a time before #Metoo and other hashtag-led social justice movements. The web series fell through due to personal reasons, and since I started looking for 'real' jobs, I asked Bam to permanently delete all the episodes in fear that employers would find me deep-throating bananas, popping out of garbage bins, and pouncing on women in the elevator — one employer did.
Luckily, I didn't get fired. Maybe because this was an era when most liberals still believed free speech was a pillar of democracy, not rhetoric of the extreme right. What would happen if I uploaded Lean Meat videos now? Would it get the same woke backlash as movies millennials used to love, like American Pie and Harold and Kumar (movies that influenced the scripts I wrote when I was in my early twenties)? The same generation that understood movies and skits filled with stereotypes and drunken sex could be used to satirize elements of a culture is the same generation too sensitive to allow politically-incorrect humour to trigger and offend. Or are certain people from the millennial generation finally getting a chance to speak up against what they disliked all along?
I don't have the answers, but I want to find out. So, over the next week, I'm going to rerelease my top three Lean Meat Episodes on TikTok to see the reactions they receive. And Bam made the CuzTVisHard channel public again.
A world without borders isn't only about pressuring government bodies to make the bureaucratic immigration process less racist and more equal; it's also about breaking down the cultural barriers between generations, people, and within yourself.
If you've been following WithoutBorders for a while, you might also be interested in checking out the scripts I attached below. How did the culture of my 20s influence my writing compared to my 30s? And if you enjoyed this article, please consider becoming a paid member. The Without Borders podcast, youtube channel, and website can't exist without your support.