Feature Stories

Cancel this, man

Yesterday on Twitter, “Gen X” was trending in the United States. In a fit of ennui, I wondered what we had done wrong.  Nobody ever talks about us. In the endless (media-powered) battles between Boomers and Millennials (stop eating avocado toast and maybe you could afford a mortgage), and Gen Z and Millennials (stop side-parting your hair and using the laughing-crying emoji), Generation X is the lost middle-child generation. We’ve lounged on the basement couch sidelines, quietly observing, feeling a vague but equal disdain for all of it. 

Can’t we all just, like, quiet down? The Breakfast Club is on.

According to CBSN, Gen X doesn’t even exist.

So, out of only sheer surprise to realize that anyone but us remembers we’re out here existing, I clicked to see what the fuss was about. 

And then I laughed. 

Oh, how I laughed.

“Gen X” was trending due to Fox News and the NY Post calling on Generation X to save America from cancel culture.

Said Fox News correspondent Gillian Turner: “Cancel culture is spreading like wildfire. There is now a call for Generation X, that is X, to lead the charge to save America from the social media mob. Can they do it?”

“that is X…” she says, squinting at the teleprompter to make sure she’s reading that right.

“Cancel culture is out of control — and Gen X is our only hope,” screams the headline from the NY Post.

So…suddenly, Gen X matters? Not only that, but we matter enough to be called upon to save America?

It feels a bit like the movie Armageddon, when the fate of the entire world was laid in the hands of a team of unruly oil drillers.

“They have trouble making decisions. They would rather hike in the Himalayas than climb a corporate ladder. They have few heroes, no anthems, no style to call their own. They crave entertainment, but their attention span is as short as one zap of a TV dial,” wrote Time magazine in a 1990 cover story about us. “They possess only a hazy sense of their own identity but a monumental preoccupation with all the problems the preceding generation will leave for them to fix.”

In 1990, the eldest Gen Xer was 25. The youngest was 10. We were the first generation in American history to be written off before we even had a chance to begin. 

And we had plenty of heroes and anthems, thank you very much, but here’s the thing:

THEY TRIED TO CANCEL MOST OF THEM.

My, how the times have changed.

An abridged list of things they tried to cancel on us, in the name of “political correctness” aka cancel culture, in no particular order at all:

  • Madonna, because she writhed around on an MTV stage in a white wedding dress while singing Like a Virgin;
  • Tinky Winky, the allegedly gay purple Teletubby, by the religious right, lead by Jerry Falwell Sr., whose son, Jerry Falwell Jr. was recently canceled by Liberty University after it was revealed that he likes to get drunk and watch his wife have sex with the pool boy;
  • Oreos, after Oreo created limited edition rainbow filling Oreos in celebration of Pride Week;
  • Ellen DeGeneres’ sitcom, after she came out as gay;
  • 2 Live Crew, for being 2 Live Crew
  • NWA, for being NWA
  • George Michael, for being George Michael
  • Prince, for being Prince
  • Eminem, for being Eminem;
  • AIDS victims;
  • Dungeons & Dragons;
  • [Insert the name of basically any stand-up comedian here];
  • Roseanne Barr, for botching the National Anthem;
  • The Dixie Chicks for speaking out against then-President Bush;
  • French fries;
  • Judy Blume books;
  • Weed, the horrific gateway drug that would definitely have you eating the faces off your friends and living in a ditch if you dared to smoke it. WE LEARNED IT FROM WATCHING YOU! 
  • Irish singer, Sinead O’Connor, for ripping up a photograph of Pope John Paul II on live television during an appearance on Saturday Night Live, in defiance of the abuse Irish children have suffered at the hands of the Catholic Church;
  • Sex education, which left my entire generation literally fumbling around trying to figure out how to do the sex thing. So helplessly inept we were at it, many of us turned to porn for tips and live-action how-tos.
  • Oh yeah, porn;

And let us not forget the “Parental Advisory” album label debacle of the mid-1980s that had Dee Snider of Twisted Sister dragging himself out before Congress to defend music, looking like, well, Dee Snider, and, much to the hoity, jowled, shoulder-padded Congresspeople’s dismay, speaking like a knowledgeable, well-educated professor. 

Looking at you, Tipper Gore.

So while it’s nice to be recognized and all, we’re going to have to casually decline this request. Unlike the Armageddon oil drillers, who indeed stepped up and (spoiler alert) saved the world, Gen X will not be accepting the call to cancel culture arms. We will not be hopping on your wagon just so we can finally say we have a generational friend. We don’t need you. We’ve spent our lives alone, and we’re pretty damn good at it at this point. 

Instead, we’re going to do what we’ve always done: sit in our basements, alone, in our hoodies and jean jackets, eating Poptarts and Spaghettios, not listening to our favorite music because someone slapped a parental warning on the album cover, and think about what you’ve done.


Kristen Skeet is a writer and filmmaker from Western New York

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