Art by Daiana Feuer

Generation X

Photo by Art by Daiana Feuer

15 Pop Culture Things That Make You Older Than a Millennial

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To make us feel better (and a bit smug), we give you our own set of childhood-resonant references. Sure, post-Gen-Xers have time to spare, so their list can have 100 items, but we’re busy and the clock is ticking so ours is much shorter. Sorry if you’re a little young for this, millennials!

“I gave her my heart. She gave me a pen.”

Oh, Lloyd Dobler, patron saint of everything straight Xer girls would look for in a guy that started the second they saw John Cusack’s dreamboat-slacker character in Say Anything… Writer-director Cameron Crowe would go on to write many, many, many more of our most-quoted movie lines: Jerry Maguire’s “You complete me,” Almost Famous’ “I am a golden god.” (And we are the generation that came of age in the golden years of movie-quoting.) But nothing lodged itself more firmly in our souls than Lloyd Dobler’s plaintive statement of heartbreaking fact about his split from brainy-beauty Diane Court. Don’t even get us started on the boom-box thing—suffice to say we’re still waiting for someone to do that for us.


Ethan Hawke, the bad-boy dreamboat slacker:

There was John Cusack for the angel on our shoulders, and then there was Ethan Hawke. Those soulful eyes, those lips, those cheekbones that made us all want to do things we straight girls didn’t quite understand yet…until we did. It all came into sexy, stark, blood-boiling, angsty relief when he played the too-cool-for–Winona-Ryder Troy Dyer in Reality Bites. (By the way, go back and watch that again now: You’ll find that Winona’s Lelaina is just as awful and non-committal as Troy; we just related so deeply to her that we thought she was the victim.) Hawke sealed his fate as the edgy Xer pinup in the soul-searching Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight.


Winona Ryder:

Speaking of Winona, for straight boys and gay girls—and, really, for all of us—Ryder was the original manic (and often mopey-depressive) pixie dream girl. Those big brown eyes, that bobbed hair, those floral dresses and chunky boots that we all wore but looked best on her and only her.



This was the first truly scary movie many of us saw, almost inevitably at slumber parties following a round of “light as a feather, stiff as a board.” It figures that a 1982 film aimed straight at kids our age would make us terrified of TVs (exactly how most of us were watching it on VHS!), not to mention clowns. “They’re heeeeere!”


k.d. lang:

Holy moly, was it a big deal when the Canadian singer appeared in a super-suggestive 1993 Vanity Fair photo shoot with Cindy Crawford a year after coming out in The Advocate. She also happened to have a great voice (remember “Constant Craving” and “Sexuality”?). But she was really our first big pop-culture wake-up call that a gay revolution was coming.



The Jacksons:

Michael and Janet were more pervasive in our young lives than sunlight and sleep. It felt like owning a copy of Michael’s Thriller was a legal requirement (one we happily followed). Every one of us has also involuntarily uttered the phrase “Miss Jackson, if you’re nasty” at least once in our lives.


TV theme songs

 Yeah, all of them from the ’80s. Millennials may think they’re so cool for knowing all the words to The Fresh Prince’s opening, but we lived in the glory days of the TV theme song. We know all of them, or certainly every word to the ones we watched. You know why? Because we had to sit there and listen to them, not fast-forward through them. I’ll throw out a few first lines—you join in, Xers: “The Love Boat, soon will be making another run…” (The Love Boat); “You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both, and there you have…” (The Facts of Life); “Thank you for being a friend…” (The Golden Girls); “Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got…” (Cheers); “Show me that smile again…” (Growing Pains).


The Cosby Show/A Different World:

We felt so comfortable with the Huxtable family, and then at Hillman College, that we sometimes mistake episodes of these shows for stuff that really happened to us. The best part: The ultra-cool Lisa Bonet was somehow on both, and neither, of these shows at once.



I mean, duh. This video game is the ’80s incarnate, and takes us back to a time of Atari Joysticks and pixelated, nonviolent, nonsensical video-game heroes (Frogger and Space Invaders, anyone?). It also reminds us that everyone—girls and boys alike—played Atari back then. There was even a Ms. Pac-Man. (Dig the respectful Ms., and the fact that eating only makes her stronger.)


Green Day:

It’s cute that millennials have their Blink-182, but we get to claim the original. Yeah, yeah, boomers invented punk—and we’re grateful for that—but then Green Day invented pop-punk. If there’s a rallying cry for X, it’s the opening lines of “Basket Case”: “Do you have the time to listen to me whine about nothing and everything all at once?” Boomers used to try to make us feel bad for that attitude, but now we know we’re the best whiners around. And we’re fine with that.



Carrie Brownstein can shred a guitar with the best of the boys (then fry some Portlandia-caliber comedy up in a pan). Along with lead-singer Corin Tucker and drummer Janet Weiss, she took the riot-grrrl movement mainstream and proved that even girls not named Joan Jett could rock hard.


Sweet Valley High:

Did you hoard your local library’s copies of Francine Pascal’s dreamy tales of good blonde, beautiful California twin Elizabeth Wakefield and bad blonde, beautiful California twin Jessica Wakefield? Did you covet their Fiat Spider and their kohl eyeliner? Us, too. Did you write terrible pop song lyrics in your Judy Blume diary loosely based on their books Double Love and Dangerous Love? No? Neither did we.



Why is there always one, and only one, Swedish pop group so huge it becomes emblematic of its time and thus a generation? Boomers had ABBA, millennials had Ace of Base, and we had Roxette. Is there some sort of conspiracy? A national program in Sweden to ensure the pop success of one anointed group per era? Whatever, we’ll be over here downloading “The Look,” “Listen to Your Heart,” and “It Must Have Been Love” to our “I used to own this on cassette, then I bought the CD, then I threw away my CDs, now I have to re-buy the tracks from iTunes for nostalgia reasons” playlist. They’ll be joining everything from New Kids on the Block and Debbie Gibson there.


The original Star Wars, bitches:

Yeah, that’s all ours. Sorry, millennials.



Prince confused the shit out of us all, didn’t he? He redefined sexy for both genders (many a girl wondered how she could want this guy and want to look like him) while teaching us all a thing or two about sex through his lyrics. “A pocket full of horses, Trojan and some of them used” means what? That song “Cream” is about what? And “Darling Nikki” did what now?


Honorable Mention: Ryan Gosling:

Hey girl, some guys just have a certain kind of enlightened, intellectual, respectful sexiness that spans generations. It’s a burden a very select few of us must bear.

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