JACK POSOBIEC: 'Hanksgiving' and the origin story of millennial cringe

Last week, a viral tweet emerged spotlighting yet another page in the long catalogue of evidence proving that the millennial generation is not okay. The tweet featured a TikTok clip of an unnamed woman explaining (in the kind of dull monotone that no one could mistake for excitement) that she’d been invited to her friend’s exclusive thanksgiving party, at which everyone dresses up like Tom Hanks, there are pictures of Tom Hanks everywhere, and prizes even get given out for the best dish and costume. They call it “Hanksgiving,” a name which would probably make even sitcom laugh tracks give up in disgust.

Many, many people have observed that a party thrown for the sole purpose of giving meaning to a terrible pun, let alone such a party being thrown annually, is evidence of the barrenness, sterility, and essential misery of millennial culture. You might call it Millennial Malaise. No one who was capable of real laughter would, after all, be even tempted to laugh at “Hanksgiving.” However, lost in this (admittedly deserved) mockery is an understanding of how a generation raised on South Park and Family Guy could ever have been so thoroughly emasculated, both mentally and (often) physically, that they’d find this funny. And so, to that end, I come to explain the origins of “Hanksgiving,” not to mock it; or at least, not solely to mock it.

It's far from a Nobel Prize winning observation that the millennial generation is depressed. A popular observation about depression is that it is nothing but anger turned inwards, and when it comes to millennials, I have no reason to argue with that sentiment. However, unfortunately, for as many reasons as millennials have to be angry, they also lack any obvious way to fix those sources of anger. This has led it to metastasize into depression, which now masquerades as ironic detachment that somehow still manages to be cringe.

But why are they angry? Well, as an elder millennial myself (aka, Centennial), let me count the ways:

Firstly, over the past decades, the cost of living has ballooned, even as the cost of labor has stayed stagnant. In particular, homeownership and the ability to raise children are now thoroughly outside the price range of most young people, in part due to the fact that many colleges preyed on the hopes of millennials (and, more importantly, their parents) in order to get them to accept excessive loans with exorbitant interest rates. Many of those colleges, it should be noted, were the ones with the lowest salary potential. Many elite schools, on the other hand, leave students with comparatively little student debt. This means that it is often precisely the people who graduated with degrees in useless subjects, from schools that only look impressive to Barista hiring managers, who have the highest amount of debt: debt which they can never escape, even in bankruptcy, and which has the power to wipe out a huge amount of their earning potential, and thus their potential for upward mobility. Yet hope and maturation are both intrinsically tied to the chance for upward mobility, and absent both, you get a powder keg of childish rage turned to fatalism.

Secondly, as Human Events contributor Bill Hurrell argued in a recent piece, the critical theory and Leftist though-policing so beloved by millennials has inflicted a species of psychological paranoia upon them whereby anything they might imagine is considered presumptively racist, or at least problematic, due to the belief that all of society has systemically indoctrinated them with evil ideas. This means that any attempt to imagine solutions to their problems, or even to express their anger and hopelessness through art or humor is cut off, as well. Only the most unproblematic and simplistic humor and art is acceptable, and even then, the oppressive conformity forced upon this generation by Leftist educators/bureaucrats, and now maintained by their peers through callouts and cancellation also deadens any chance at authentic self-expression. Even happiness is not safe, for any excessive show of excitement or enthusiasm could get you branded “cringe.” Thus, millennials think they can feel nothing fully. Except depression. Notice how many millennials are obsessed with ‘existential dread.’

Thirdly, because the prospect of having children looks remoter by the day thanks to the farce that is “Bidenomics,” not only can millennials not mature; they also can’t even have hope for their children. And really, why would they? If current trends continue, those children will be even more Russian serfs than their parents were. Millennials are emotionally stuck in their mid-20s because they are economically stuck in their mid-20s.

It gets worse. If millennials remain childless, all but the most famous will be left with no one to remember them. Generation Me will become Generation Never Was. And while they might pretend to be okay with the perpetually single, perpetually adolescent, gaslight-gatekeep-girlboss fantasy that they’re taught to want, make no mistake, every millennial can feel themselves getting older and lonelier with nothing but a wall of Funko Pops and dusty video game cases to show for it.

What does this all have to do with “Hanksgiving?” Simple: in a world where all danger and offense have been scrubbed from existence, first by helicopter parenting and then by bureaucracy and the fear of cancellation, a world of eternal childhood where one is always being taken care of, but never accomplishing anything, how can you even feel alive? How can you even feel like an individual? Simple: You grab onto the safest, most bargain basement meme imaginable: one that trades on nostalgia (it wasn’t lost on me that most of the participants in the “Hanksgiving” costume party were dressed like characters from 90’s kids’ movies like “Toy Story” and “Big”), and invokes the name of one of the most famous, if also one of the dullest, most “unproblematic” whitebread movie stars imaginable, and try to fashion an identity from that. You even make it an exclusive party, because in a world where mediocrity is plentiful, the only scarce resource left to signify importance is allowing select other people to partake in the same shared, pitiful rite of ersatz self-expression.

You get, in short, Hanksgiving: a cry for help disguised as a celebration. An event without meaning; just something to do. “Well, that happened,” as the millennial writing cliché goes.

No generation deserves this. A better future is possible; one with real meaning, real life, real self-expression and yes, real achievement. But the cost is tolerating offense. The cost is accepting danger. The cost is being willing to grow up if society offers you the chance.

Do I think that chance is coming? I hope it is. But just in case, count yourself among the chosen few if this December you receive a copy of the Declaration with a secret invitation on the back to my St. Nicolas Cagemas Party.


Image: Title: Hanksgiving