GR8ERDAYS Millennial Challenge! Do Young People Know Icons of the Past?

I was inspired to do a video project when, speaking with a millennial friend a year ago, it became clear he had never heard of ... Will & Grace!

She's comin' out — but are kids still noticing?

Having long been curious as to whether stars like Bette Davis and Judy Garland were still known to younger people, it blew me away that a 19-year-old hadn't even heard of a massively popular TV series that ran from 1998-2005! (This was before the reboot was announced.)

For fun, I asked a couple of guys in their twenties what they knew about a list of iconic people, movies, TV series and movie quotes, and I found the results to be scary ... but also charming.

Rebel, rebel

For example, one guy had no idea who '80s star Molly Ringwald actually is, but knew her name from Family Guy. Everyone seemed to know MGM legend Debbie Reynolds from Halloweentown. I liked finding out not just if they knew about someone or something, but how they knew of them.

Sometimes, they knew someone was considered brilliant and amazing, but had no idea why. Amusingly, some of the things they "knew" about the icons were incorrect, sort of like a bad game of telephone.

I set about formally quizzing a dozen guys and girls ages 18-29 on 150+ subjects. All they had to go on was the name or title or quote itself — I would prompt them only with, "Marilyn Monroe ...," for example, and they would talk.

No "reactions," no clues.

I see the videos less as a condemnation of the people who have never heard of the famous people and things older people take for granted as being iconic than as mini horror movies for those of us 40 and older — we are officially on notice that while some icons seem to have legs (Elvis Presley), others (even some very recent ones) are not sticking (George Michael).

Have fun! Shares are so, so appreciated.

Frankly, my dear ... I have no idea!

If you wanna try these names out on your own millennial friends — or yourself, if you're a millennial! — here are the lists:

Video #1: Gone with the Wind, James Dean, Diana Ross, Elvis Presley, Elizabeth Taylor, Saturday Night Fever, Barbra Streisand, Marilyn Monroe

Video #2: Cher, George Michael, Dolly Parton, Frank Sinatra, Whitney Houston, Bette Midler, John Lennon, Madonna

The first two videos just dropped. If you enjoy, please share video #1 and video #2 — and please subscribe.

More to come in 2018!

5 Responses

  1. I see that all the time. In a way, I can’t blame them. We all dismiss “old things” when we were young.
    I’m in my forties but I hang out with guys who are in their early/mid 20’s. And they have basically no idea about gay icons. And they are not just “gay” icons, they are part of pop culture!
    A guy, who is 22 was telling me about the new movie Murder on the Orient Express. I start laughing and say: so, this is the 1,000.000 remake of the original? He had no idea.
    So sometimes it’s not about not knowing, it’s about not caring.

    • Matthew Rettenmund

      I agree — I don’t feel that they’re to blame or in the wrong; it’s just the change I find interesting. But I do disagree that past generations were as oblivious to the pop culture that came before. I think the reason is we all shared common movie releases, TV broadcasts, etc., and there was a lot less of EVERYTHING. Nowadays, kids and teens have countless things to explore that are new, let alone taking time to explore what is old. So though it’s easier for them mechanically to research, they’re less inclined and have less time to do it.

  2. I am shocked at how most of people under 25 don’t know Madonna. And even when you show them Madonna and waiting for WOW effect, they simply don’t care. This is unbelievable. How is this possible?

    • Matthew Rettenmund

      I didn’t actually show them any photos at all, I just said, “Madonna” — and they talked. Actually, only 1 guy had ZERO idea who she is. A couple were like they knew her but couldn’t go into detail. But at least some knew her and liked her.

  3. I guess nowadays there is so much content available (some might say the majority of it is hoohaa!) and with such a short shelf life, that there is not much time for anything to settle in and make an impact long term. I’m ‘just about’ a millennial being born in 1981 but know of all of these people talked about here. Ask me about the latest Bieber song or some other Nickelodeon teeny bopper and I wouldn’t have a clue. We are in a unique time of media I guess where developments of social media and internet content have progressed so quickly and dramatically that there will be a huge amount of forgettable content that changes so quickly. The stuff that sticks, that’s the truly iconic material. And I really hope that’s it’s for artistic talent rather than anything else.

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