Revivalists: 1974-82

By: Joshua Glenn
April 17, 2010

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The founders of n+1, from left: Benjamin Kunkel, Mark Greif, Keith Gessen, Marco Roth

Members of the Revivalist Generation were in their teens and 20s in the Nineties (1994-2003; not to be confused with the ’90s); and they are in their 20s and 30s now, in the decade we might call the Oughts (2004-2013; not to be confused with the ’00s).

Though their eldest were lumped in with the so-called Generation X (an MSM-concocted hodgepodge of Reconstructionists, younger OGXers, and older Revivalists), most members of the 1974-82 cohort were lumped into the so-called “Generation Y.” Which, to journalists and pop sociologists, means: parent-loving, resume-polishing, conservative paragons of virtue. That description might fit their immediate juniors, the so-called Millennials (i.e., the Social Darwikians), but it’s not an accurate portrayal of the Revivalist Generation. Revivalists are precocious and earnest, entrepreneurial, and dedicated to renewing bygone cultural forms and franchises.

Some of our favorite hi-, lo-, and hilobrow Revivalists include: Marco Roth, Keith Gessen, and Mark Greif; Jack White and Meg White; Talib Kweli, Aesop Rock, Madlib (rapper) (honorary), and Danger Mouse; Neil Patrick Harris (honorary); M.I.A., Dan Auerbach, and Conor Oberst; Sufjan Stevens, Devendra Banhart, and Joanna Newsom; Amy Winehouse (honorary), Russell Brand, and Zadie Smith. PLUS: Cee-Lo, Steve-O, and Karen O.

Note that the Revivalists (like the Post-Romantics) are a nine-year, as opposed to a ten-year cohort. This is due to seismic cultural shifts whose nature I am attempting to ascertain.


A reminder of my 250-year generational periodization scheme:

1755-64: [Republican Generation] Perfectibilists
1765-74: [Republican, Compromise Generations] Original Romantics
1775-84: [Compromise Generation] Ironic Idealists
1785-94: [Compromise, Transcendental Generations] Original Prometheans
1795-1804: [Transcendental Generation] Monomaniacs
1805-14: [Transcendental Generation] Autotelics
1815-24: [Transcendental, Gilded Generations] Retrogressivists
1825-33: [Gilded Generation] Post-Romantics
1834-43: [Gilded Generation] Original Decadents
1844-53: [Progressive Generation] New Prometheans
1854-63: [Progressive, Missionary Generations] Plutonians
1864-73: [Missionary Generation] Anarcho-Symbolists
1874-83: [Missionary Generation] Psychonauts
1884-93: [Lost Generation] Modernists
1894-1903: [Lost, Greatest/GI Generations] Hardboileds
1904-13: [Greatest/GI Generation] Partisans
1914-23: [Greatest/GI Generation] New Gods
1924-33: [Silent Generation] Postmodernists
1934-43: [Silent Generation] Anti-Anti-Utopians
1944-53: [Boomers] Blank Generation
1954-63: [Boomers] OGXers
1964-73: [Generation X, Thirteenth Generation] Reconstructionists
1974-82: [Generations X, Y] Revivalists
1983-92: [Millennial Generation] Social Darwikians
1993-2002: [Millennials, Generation Z] TBA

LEARN MORE about this periodization scheme | READ ALL generational articles on HiLobrow.



The cynicism, irony, and skepticism that had sustained previous generations during the Cold War reached an apex, during the Nineties — think of Seinfeld and The Simpsons, for example. At a tender age, several Revivalists — most famously, Jedediah Purdy — called for and modeled a hip mode of earnestness, instead. For their immediate elders, the Reconstructionists (my own generation), this was confusing, off-putting. Our younger siblings, if you will, seemed more mature and together, in certain respects, than we did. They were the Claudia Salinger, if you’ll forgive the Party of Five reference, to our Charlie. They didn’t want to learn, from us, how to rebel; instead, they wanted to parent us.

This no doubt explains why the earnest hipster Dave Eggers, though often unpopular among fellow Recons, was beloved by his Revivalist juniors. If you’ll recall, in his Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, he explicitly encouraged readers to regard his own family as a real-life Party of Five; and in his introduction to the bestseller’s paperback edition, he took great pains to reject the notion that he was in any way cynical, ironical, or skeptical. This may also explain why the post-ironic fiction of David Foster Wallace is more popular among Revivalists than it is among members of his own generation.

Although the Recons may have invented the Web as we know it, the Revivalists made use of the Web for a hip, earnest form of social activism: a networked “movement of movements.” Madrid94, J18, Seattle/N30, Genoa: These are the political touchstones for the Revivalist Generation’s so-called anti-globalization movement. Revivalists also founded City Year (founded in 1988), Teach for America (1990), AmeriCorps (1994); and they pioneered the “service learning” trend.

WISED-UP KIDS. Fictional precocious kids from the Recon generation — e.g., Anthony Michael Hall in Sixteen Candles and Breakfast Club, Ricky Schroder on Silver Spoons, Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting — were (depending on their age) portrayed as pathetic geeks, tortured outcasts, or annoying brats. But think of Natalie Portman in The Professional and Beautiful Girls, Anna Paquin in The Piano (and those MCI commercials), Sara Gilbert on Roseanne, Jason Schwartzman in Rushmore, Fred Savage on The Wonder Years, Claire Danes on My So-Called Life, Topher Grace on That ’70s Show, Mark-Paul Gosselaar on Saved by the Bell, Thora Birch in American Beauty and Ghost World, Christina Ricci in Mermaids and The Addams Family, Wiley Wiggins in Dazed and Confused, Edward Furlong in Terminator 2, Anna Chlumsky in My Girl, Kristen Bell on Veronica Mars, Alexis Bledel on Gilmore Girls. Not to mention honorary Revivalist Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie Howser, M.D.) and the entire cast of Dawson’s Creek. Like Lacey Chabert (Claudia Salinger), Revivalists were portrayed as hyper-articulate, wised-up, and altogether un-childlike.

CHIC GEEKS. Revivalists, fictional and real-life, were the first chic geeks — that is, they successfully merged a strong proficiency with technology and coolness/attractiveness. Adam Brody (Seth Cohen on The O.C.) and Alexis Bledel (Rory on Gilmore Girls) were only the most obvious fictional examples. Math wizard and programming wunderkind Bram Cohen, the cofounder of BitTorrent; Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, the cofounders of YouTube; Digg’s Kevin Rose; Slashdot’s Rob Malda; and Janus Friis, cofounder of KaZaA, Skype, and Joost, are real-life chic geeks — and all Revivalists.

WUNDERKINDS. In the arts, too, we’ve come to expect Revivalists — Zadie Smith and Jonathan Safran Foer; the founding editors of the intellectual journal n+1 (Keith Gessen, Mark Greif, Marco Roth; the fourth founder, Ben Kunkel, is a Recon); Conor “Bright Eyes” Oberst — to achieve great things while still wet behind the ears.


In a 2000 New York Times story titled “Coming of Age, Seeking an Identity,” sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild was one of the first to point out that there was no such thing as Generations X or Y. What defined Americans then in their late teens and early-to-mid-20s (i.e., the cohort I call the Revivalists), she said, was the fact the were coming of age during an era in which America was trending “toward a more loosely jointed, limited-liability society, the privatizing influence of that trend and the crash-boom-bang of the market….” Result? Unlike the slow-to-start Recons, Revivalists were ferociously entrepreneurial from the get-go.

US economic growth accelerated as the Nineties (1994-2003) began, while unemployment and inflation remained low. In 1995, Newsweek announced a New Economy. Magazines like Wired and Fast Company urged young go-getters to eschew the lifetime-employment-with-benefits mindset of previous generations. Startups sprung up in valleys and alleys from coast to coast. The Revivalists’ experience was one of permanent, steady growth of the US economy, plentiful white-collar jobs, and a generational immunity to the boom and bust macroeconomic cycles. When Time Magazine noted in 1997 that “Gen Xers” were “flocking to technology start-ups,” the “Gen Xers” to whom they were referring were actually younger Recons and older Revivalists. In fact, during the Nineties, many of us Recons found ourselves employed by Revivalists.

Whereas OGXers and Recons were blindsided and bummed out by the economic changes of the Seventies (1974-83) and Eighties (1984-93) — including the collapse of the Bretton Woods monetary system, the emergence of efficient automation, outsourcing and offshoring, and demands made by corporations that workers be flexible instead of loyal — fresh-out-of-college Revivalists thrived in a culture where hard-won experience at a single job had become a liability. Why shouldn’t they have done so? After all, they didn’t have any experience yet.

Those boom times may be over, but Revivalists’ entrepreneurial instincts haven’t vanished. HR professionals say that Americans born from the mid-1970s onward feel more entitled in terms of compensation, benefits, and career advancement than older generations. Revivalists expect to be paid more; they expect to have flexible work schedules; they expect to be promoted within a year of being hired; they expect to have more vacation or personal time; and they expect to have access to state-of-the-art technology. Revivalists reportedly have a tough time taking direction, since they regard their elders as dinosaurs who should just hand over the business! Which explains the Revivalist phenomenon of tell-all underling fiction and bloggery: Lauren Weisberger’s The Devil Wears Prada, Emma McLaughlin’s and Nicola Kraus’ The Nanny Diaries, Jessica Cutler’s Washingtonienne, Nadine Haobsh’s Jolie in NYC, Jeremy Blachman’s Anonymous Lawyer.

Donald Trump could not have launched The Apprentice using Recons as cast members. Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth and the other first-season strivers were Revivalists. Even Revivalist good-time gals and guys — e.g., Kimora Lee Simmons, Paris Hilton, Tila Tequila, and everyone from Jackass (with the exception of Johnny Knoxville, who is older) — are businesspeople.


In 2000, Arlie Hochschild wrote, of Revivalists: “To be sure, every American decade has fashion marketeers define generational looks and sounds, but probably never before have they so totally hijacked a generation’s cultural expression.”

To progressive older Americans, the Revivalists’ marked lack of ironic distance from received cultural forms is worrisome. Ironic OGXers and PCers mix and match fragments of received cultural forms, which sometimes results in works of great originality, and sometimes (e.g., Ben Stiller’s brand of comedy) simply means freshening up reheated entertainments with air quotes. But members of the 1974-82 cohort simply dig the past; think of how Andre 3000, Sisqo, Pink, and Jack White, among many other Revivalists, slip bygone cultural forms on and off like so many Halloween costumes. When it comes to venerable cultural forms and franchises, like vintage videogames, Revivalists want to reboot them.

Speaking of Halloween, heavily inked Revivalists like Angelina Jolie, 50 Cent, Drew Barrymore, Christina Ricci, Steve-O, David Beckham, Lil Wayne, Nicole Richie, Amy Winehouse, Eve, and the Suicide Girls have transformed their flesh into costumes.

Revivalism is, among other things, an un-ironic reheating of previous generations’ pop culture franchises. When Revivalist actresses portray cartoon heroines — for example, Sarah Michelle Gellar as Daphne from Scooby-Doo, Jessica Alba as Sue Storm from Fantastic Four, Rachael Leigh Cook as Josie from Josie and the Pussycats, Christina Ricci as Trixie from Speed Racer — there’s no distancing smirk, no look-at-me-playing-a-cartoon scenery-chewing.

The most widely beloved American and English rock acts of the 1974-82 cohort are, respectively, garage-rock revivalists (The Strokes, The White Stripes, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Kings of Leon, The Black Keys) and post-punk revivalists (Bloc Party, The Libertines, Editors, Interpol, Kaiser Chiefs, Babyshambles, Franz Ferdinand). Revivalist chanteuses Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys, Norah Jones, and Amy Winehouse, meanwhile, are soul revivalists.

This is the generation that has been instructed a million times, by the American Idol judges, to “take a hit song from the past and make it your own, make it relevant.” American Idol stars Kelly Clarkson, Justin Guarini, Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Hicks, Jennifer Hudson, David Cook, Elliott Yamin, Kimberley Locke, Josh Gracin, Bo Bice, Bucky Covington, Blake Lewis, Danny Gokey, Chris Daughtry — not to mention Ryan Seacrest — are Revivalists. Adam Lambert might be the last Revivalist to become an American Idol star; the torch is now passing to the next generation.

As for the aforementioned journal n+1, undoubtedly the Revivalist Generation’s most impressive accomplishment thus far, its editors are patently wistful for the New York Intellectual scene of the 1930s-50s. This is demonstrated not only by their socialist aspirations, intellectual sprezzatura, and eagerness for literary dust-ups, but by their journal’s design — a tribute to long-ago issues of Partisan Review and Dissent. Each n+1 cover is a love letter from the editors to a lively New York Intellectual scene about which they’ve only heard stories.


Can you spot Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, and Ryan Gosling?

Having made all these (mostly) positive comments about the Revivalists, I should note that Middlebrow — which lost its firm grip on American youth after the Boomers, began to make a comeback in the Nineties. Revivalist celebrities Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, JC Chasez, Ryan Gosling, and Keri Russell got their start via the Disney Channel’s revived Mickey Mouse Club. Still, the Disneyfication of American youth is much more pronounced among the Revivalists’ immediate juniors, the Social Darwikians.

For what it’s worth, infamous school shooters Wayne Lo, Barry Loukaitis, Jamie Rouse, Evan Ramsey, Luke Woodham, Michael Carneal, Andrew Wurst, Kip Kinkel, and, of course, Columbine’s Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, are Revivalists.


Meet the Revivalists.

HONORARY REVIVALISTS (born 1973): Neil Patrick Harris (actor), Stephenie Meyer (author of Twilight series), Franklin Foer (New Republic editor), Jason Zengerle (New Republic writer), Tyra Banks (model, created America’s Next Top Model), Madlib (rapper), Nas (rapper), Neve Campbell (actor, Party of Five), Mario Lopez (Slater on Saved by the Bell).

1974 (cuspers): Cee-Lo (rapper/singer, Goodie Mob, Gnarls Barkley), Lil’ Kim (rapper), Elizabeth Banks (actor), Harmony Korine (director), Steve-O (daredevil, Jackass), Meg White (drummer, White Stripes), Marco Roth (intellectual, n+1), Adrian Tomine (cartoonist), Amy Adams (actor), Ryan Adams (singer/songwriter), Christian Bale (actor), Fairuza Balk (actor), Victoria Beckham/Posh Spice (singer, Spice Girls), Big Moe (rapper), Melanie C/Sporty Spice (singer, Spice Girls), Kevin Connolly (actor, Eric Murphy on Entourage), Penelope Cruz (actor), Shaggy 2 Dope (rapper), Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (NASCAR), Donald Faison (actor, Turk on Scrubs), Jimmy Fallon (comic, Saturday Night Live), Jenna Fischer (actor, Pam Beesly on The Office), Mark-Paul Gosselaar (actor, Zack on Saved by the Bell), Seth Green (actor, Dr. Evil’s son Scott), Alyson Hannigan (actor, Willow on Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Tricia Helfer (actor, Number Six on Battlestar Galactica), Derek Jeter (baseball player), Jewel (singer/songwriter), Daniel Kessler (guitarist for Interpol), Eva Mendes (actor), Alanis Morissette (singer), Kate Moss (supermodel), Mekhi Phifer (actor), Ryan Phillippe (actor), Joaquin Phoenix (actor), Chris Pontius (skateboarder, Jackass), Giovanni Ribisi (actor), Ryan Seacrest (host of American Idol), Chloe Sevigny (actor, It Girl), Hilary Swank (actor), Tiffani Amber Thiessen (actor), Amber Valletta (actor, model), Barry Watson (actor Matt on 7th Heaven), Edgar Wright (director, Shaun of the Dead), Xzibit (rapper), Nicole Krauss (author), Nicola Kraus (author), Nicholas McCarthy (guitarist, Franz Ferdinand), Andrew White (guitarist, Kaiser Chiefs). HONORARY RECONSTRUCTIONISTS: Jemaine Clement (musician/actor, Flight of the Conchords), Stephen Merchant (film/TV producer, The Office, Extras), Leonardo DiCaprio (actor). Also Peter Rojas (blogger, Gizmodo, Engadget), whose birthdate is c. 1975.

Russell Brand (actor, comic), Keith Gessen (author, n+1 editor), Mark Greif (intellectual, n+1 editor), Sara Gilbert (actor, Darlene on Roseanne), Lauryn Hill (soul/hip hop singer and producer), Jack Johnson (musician), Angelina Jolie (actor), Milla Jovovich (actor), Talib Kweli (rapper), M.I.A. (rapper), Zadie Smith (novelist), Sufjan Stevens (singer/songwriter), Jack White (musician, White Stripes), (rapper, Black Eyed Peas), Tiger Woods (golfer), Natalie Imbruglia (singer/songwriter), Casey Affleck (actor), Drew Barrymore (actor, director, producer), Tom Anderson (co-founder of MySpace), André 3000 (musician, OutKast; fashionplate), Asia Argento (actor), Melanie B/Scary Spice (singer, Spice Girls), David Beckham (soccer star), Mayim Bialik (actor, Blossom Russo on Blossom), Jolene Blalock (actor, T’Pol on Enterprise), Moon Bloodgood (actor), Zach Braff (actor, Scrubs), 50 Cent (rapper), Bram Cohen (creator of BitTorrent), Hugh Dancy (actor), Stacy Ferguson (Fergie from Black Eyed Peas), Richard Kelly (wrote and directed Donnie Darko), Sean Lennon (musician), Max Levchin (co-founder of PayPal), Brian Littrell (The Backstreet Boys), Eva Longoria (actor, sex symbol), Tobey Maguire (actor), Danica McKellar (actor: Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years; mathematician), Jamie Oliver (TV chef), Tara Reid (actor), Alex Rodriguez (baseball player), Kimora Lee Simmons (fashion designer), Charlize Theron (actor), KT Tunstall (singer/songwriter), Kate Winslet (actor), Nell Freudenberger (author), Curtis Sittenfeld (author), Jedediah Purdy (intellectual), Wendy Shalit (neocon prodigy), Zia McCabe (Suicide Girl, musician with Dandy Warhols).

1976: Rashida Jones (actor), Salman Khan (founder of thr free online education platform Khan Academy), Rob Malda (Slashdot founder), Janus Friis (cofounded KaZaA, Skype), Yotuel Romero (rapper, Orishas), Chester Bennington (singer, Linkin Park), Jayson Blair (disgraced NYT reporter), Bloodshy (Swedish music producer), Emma Bunton/Baby Spice (Spice Girls), Orkut Buyukkokten (designed Google’s Orkut social network), Jennifer Capriati (tennis), Jenny Lewis (singer, actor), Sarah Chalke (actor, Dr. Reid on Scrubs), J. C. Chasez (*NSYNC), Brandon DiCamillo (Jackass), Anna Faris (actor), Colin Farrell (actor), Feist (singer/songwriter), Isla Fisher (actor), Soleil Moon Frye (actor, Punky Brewster), Adrian Grenier (actor, Vincent Chase on Entourage), Lukas Haas (actor), Melissa Joan Hart (actor, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch), Taylor Hicks (singer, American Idol alum), Jennifer 8. Lee (New York Times reporter), Peyton Manning (pro football), Danny Masterson (Hyde on That 70’s Show), Bret McKenzie (musician, actor: Flight of the Conchords), Freddie Prinze, Jr. (actor), Ronaldo (soccer star), Ja Rule (rapper), Keri Russell (actor: Felicity), Fred Savage (actor: The Wonder Years), Josh Schwartz (creator, The O.C.), Alicia Silverstone (actor), Audrey Tautou (actor), Jaleel White (actor: Urkel), Reese Witherspoon (actor), Wiley Wiggins (actor, musician), Dave Itzkoff (NYT writer), Peter Hayes (musician, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club), Amanda Palmer (musician, Dresden Dolls), Cat Deeley (So You Think You Can Dance host), Paul Thomson (drummer, Franz Ferdinand), Gordon Moakes (musician, Bloc Party).

Selena “Missy Suicide” Mooney (cofounder, Suicide Girls), Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy on Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Jonathan Safran Foer (novelist), Danger Mouse (music producer), Chad Hurley (cofounder of YouTube), Kevin Rose (founder of Digg), Vinnie Paz (rapper, Jedi Mind Tricks), Laila Ali (boxer), Fiona Apple (musician), Oksana Baiul (figure skater), Orlando Bloom (actor), James Blunt (musician), Tom Brady (football player), Isaac Brock (frontman, Modest Mouse), Sophie Dahl (model), Dustin Diamond (actor, Screech on Saved by the Bell), Joey Fatone (*NSYNC), Edward Furlong (actor, Terminator 2), Ben Gibbard (singer, Death Cab for Cutie), Jon Gosselin (reality TV: Jon & Kate Plus 8), Maggie Gyllenhaal (actor), Elisabeth Hasselbeck (TV personality, The View), Jon Heder (actor, Napoleon Dynamite), Ludacris (rapper), Chris Martin (musician, Coldplay), John Mayer (musician), Bode Miller (ski champion), Brittany Murphy (actor), Kal Penn (actor, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle), Jason Reitman (director), Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (actor), Shakira (musician), Liv Tyler (actor, model), James Van Der Beek (actor, Dawson on Dawson’s Creek), Tom Welling (actor, Superboy on Smallville), Kanye West (rapper, music producer), Lauren Weisberger (author, The Devil Wears Prada), Jeremiah Green (drummer, Modest Mouse), Daniel Alarcón (author), Simon Rix (bassist, Kaiser Chiefs), Nick Hodgson (drummer, Kaiser Chiefs), Spencer Krug (musician, Wolf Parade), Jaime Pressly (actor).

Karen O (singer, Yeah Yeah Yeahs), Kristen Schaal (actor, Flight of the Conchords), Ben Cohen (activist), Jim James (frontman, My Morning Jacket), Ashton Kutcher (actor, Kelso on That 70’s Show), Clay Aiken (American Idol winner), Paul Banks (frontman, Interpol), Carl Barât (co-founder of The Libertines), Gael García Bernal (actor), Jason Biggs (actor, American Pie), Foxy Brown (rapper), Julian Casablancas (frontman, The Strokes), Laetitia Casta (model), Jessica Cutler (blogger, Washingtonienne), Diablo Cody (author), Eve (rapper), Kevin Federline (dancer), James Franco (actor, Freaks and Geeks), Nelly Furtado (musician), Topher Grace (actor, Eric Forman in That 70’s Show), Josh Hartnett (actor), Katherine Heigl (actor), Perez Hilton (gossip blogger), Katie Holmes (actor, Joey Potter on Dawson’s Creek), Joshua Jackson (actor, Pacey on Dawson’s Creek), John Legend (musician), Justin Long (actor, Mac commercials), Rachel McAdams (actor), Benjamin McKenzie (actor, The O.C.), A. J. McLean (The Backstreet Boys), Andy Samberg (actor, Saturday Night Live), Jake Shears (lead singer, Scissor Sisters), Sisqo (singer), Ruben Studdard (American Idol winner), Usher (musician), Robert Levon Been (musician, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club), Brian Chase (drummer, Yeah Yeah Yeahs), Nikolai Fraiture (bassist, The Strokes), Jamie Rouse (school shooter), Elliott Yamin (American Idol star), Steve Chen (co-founder, YouTube), Ben Lee (musician/actor), Ricky Wilson (Kaiser Chiefs), Drew McConnell (musician, Babyshambles).

John Krasinski (actor, Jim Halpert on The Office), Dan Auerbach (guitarist, vocalist, The Black Keys), Avey Tare (founding member, Animal Collective), Lance Bass (*NSYNC), Brandy (singer, actor played Moesha on Moesha), Adam Brody (Seth Cohen on The O.C.), Catherynne M. Valente (sf/fantasy author), Rachael Leigh Cook (actor), Claire Danes (actor, My So-Called Life), Rosario Dawson (actor), Pete Doherty (ex-frontman for The Libertines), Jennifer Love Hewitt (actor), Kate Hudson (actor), Norah Jones (singer), Mindy Kaling (actor, screenwriter, Kelly Kapoor on The Office), Heath Ledger (actor), Evangeline Lilly (actor, Lost), Bam Margera (skateboarder, appears on Jackass), Matisyahu (Hasidic rapper), Petra Nemcova (model), B. J. Novak (screenwriter, actor, Ryan Howard on The Office), Pink (singer), Maggie Q (martial arts actor), Corinne Bailey Rae (singer), Mena Suvari (actor), Peter Wentz (bassist for Fall Out Boy), Nathan Followill (drummer, Kings of Leon), Matt Tong (drummer, Bloc Party), BRandon Routh (actor, Superman Returns).

Conor Oberst (singer/songwriter), Jason Schwartzman (actor, Rushmore), Zooey Deschanel (actor), Jason Segel (actor), Eliza Dushku (actor), Shawn Fanning (Napster founder), Jake Gyllenhaal (actor), Christina Aguilera (singer), Kristen Bell (actor, Veronica Mars), Gisele Bundchen (Brazilian supermodel), Nick Carter (The Backstreet Boys), Anna Chlumsky (actor), Chelsea Clinton (president’s daughter), Macaulay Culkin (actor), Ryan Gosling (actor), Isaac Hanson (Hanson), Andy Hurley (drummer for Fall Out Boy), Kim Kardashian (socialite), Chris Masterson (Francis on Malcolm in the Middle), Chris Pine (actor, Star Trek’s new Captain Kirk), Laura Prepon (actor, Donna on That ’70s Show), Christina Ricci (Actor, The Addams Family), Ronaldinho (soccer star), Jessica Simpson (singer, actor), Regina Spektor (singer/songwriter), Channing Tatum (actor), Wilmer Valderrama (actor, Fez on That ’70s Show), Michelle Williams (actor, Jen on Dawson’s Creek), Venus Williams (tennis star), Zac Posen (fashion designer), Albert Hammond Jr. (musician, The Strokes), Chesa Boudin (left-wing writer), Nadine Haobsh (blogger, Jolie in NYC), Ben Savage (Actor, Boy Meets World), Eva Green (actor), Fabrizio Moretti (drummer, The Strokes).

1981: Beyoncé Knowles (singer, actor), Devendra Banhart (freak-folk musician), Paris Hilton (celebrity), Britney Spears (singer), Justin Timberlake (singer, *NSYNC, actor), Jessica Alba (actor), Rachel Bilson (actor, Racehel on The O.C.), Alexis Bledel (Actor, Rory on The Gilmore Girls), Barbara and Jenna Bush (president’s daughters), Hayden Christensen (actor, Star Wars), Danielle Fishel (Topanga on Boy Meets World), Jade Goody (British TV star), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (actor, Third Rock from the Sun), Josh Groban (musician), Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold (Columbine school shooters), Jennifer Hudson (actor), Alicia Keys (musician), Anna Kournikova (tennis star, model), John Walker Lindh (American Taliban), Sienna Miller (actor), Beverley Mitchell (Lucy on 7th Heaven), Natalie Portman (actor), Nicole Richie (TV personality), Jamie-Lynn Sigler (actor, The Sopranos), Julia Stiles (actor), Tila Tequila (TV personality), Nick Valensi (guitarist, The Strokes), Serena Williams (tennis star), Elijah Wood (actor, Frodo in Lord of the Rings), Ben Kweller (musician), Jonathan Taylor Thomas (actor, Home Improvement), Blake Lewis (American Idol alum), Amanda Beard (Olympic swimmer, model), Evan Ramsey (school shooter), Barry Loukaitis (school shooter), Luke Woodham (school shooter), Jens Lekman (Swedish indie pop musician), Gwenno Pipette (singer, The Pipettes), John Hassall (bassist, The Libertines), Kele Okereke (musician, Bloc Party), Russell Lissack (guitarist, Bloc Party), Tom Smith (frontman, The Editors), Chris Urbanowicz (guitarist, The Editors), Edward Lay (drummer, The Editors), Candylac Suicide (Anne Lindfjeld, Danish goth pin-up model, Suicide Girl).

1982 (cuspers): Joanna Newsom (freak-folk musician), Jessica Biel (actor), Thora Birch (actor), Lacey Chabert (actor, Claudia on Party of Five), Kelly Clarkson (first winner of American Idol), Lupe Fiasco (rapper), Elisha Cuthbert (actor), Kirsten Dunst (actor), Lynndie England (Abu Ghraib dominatrix), Anne Hathaway (actor), Kat Von D (tattoo artist), Kristin Kreuk (actor, Lana on Smallville), Adam Lambert (American Idol star), Heather Matarazzo (actor, Welcome to the Dollhouse), Ne-Yo (singer-songwriter), Apolo Ohno (speed skater), Anna Paquin (actor), Brad Renfro (actor), LeAnn Rimes (country musician), Andy Roddick (tennis star), Yvonne Strahovski (actor, Sarah on Chuck), Lil’ Wayne (rapper), Prince William (British royalty), Nellie McKay (singer-songwriter), Caleb Followill (frontman, Kings of Leon), Amina Munster (Suicide Girl-type tattooed model), Dan Berger (comic book artist), Kip Kinkel (school shooter), Becki Pipette (singer, The Pipettes), Russell Leetch (bassist, The Editors). HONORARY SOCIAL DARWIKIANS: Micah White (activist, came up with the idea for Occupy Wall Street), Seth Rogen (actor), Dennis M. Moran (hacker, also known as Coolio; denial-of-service attacks), Evan Goldberg (Seth Rogen’s writing partner), Martin Starr (actor, Freaks and Geeks), Jay Baruchel (actor), Cory Monteith (actor, Glee), Kate Middleton (Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge).

HONORARY REVIVALISTS (born 1983): Amy Winehouse (singer), Mila Kunis (actor, Jackie on That ’70s Show), Jesse Eisenberg (actor, Wonderland, The Social Network).




What do you think?

  1. As a corollary to their lack of irony, this cohort seems more completely in the thrall of Political Correctness than their immediate juniors (I’m a Throwback). No one else internalized the rhetoric of the multicultural society to the same degree, having come of age at precisely the moment when the liberal program dribbled into mere catechism. I submit that for all their exuberantly embraced DYI bequests (Re/Search mags, indie bands, and an adbusters sensibility are central to the Revivalist’s toolkit) they, and not the Throwbacks are the firmer Middlebrow redoubt. Who else would read Malcolm Gladwell in public?

  2. The New Yorker has chosen its “20 Under 40” list of fiction writers worth watching.

    Four of them are Reconstructionists: Chris Adrian (1970), Gary Shteyngart (1972), Sarah Shun-lien Bynum (1972), Yiyun Li (1972).

    Eight of them are Revivalists: Nell Freudenberger (1975), Rivka Galchen (1976), C. E. Morgan (1976), Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (1977), Daniel Alarcón (1977), Jonathan Safran Foer (1977), Dinaw Mengestu (1978), and Karen Russell (1981).

    Seven of them are born on the cusp between the Reconstructionists and Revivalists: David Bezmozgis (1973), Wells Tower (1973), Z Z Packer (1973), Joshua Ferris (1974), Nicole Krauss (1974), Philipp Meyer (1974), Salvatore Scibona (1974 or 1975).

    One of them is a Throwback: Téa Obreht (1985).

  3. From today’s New York Times Sunday Book Review: Tom Bissell, author of EXTRA LIVES: WHY VIDEO GAMES MATTER, “was born in 1974, which puts him on the cusp of gaming’s generational divide. That transitional position affords him a perspective not unlike — if you’ll indulge the grandiose analogy — that of Tocqueville or McLuhan, figures who stood on the bridges of two great ages, welcoming the horizon while also mourning what the world was leaving behind.” — Chris Suellentrop, an editor at The Times Magazine, has obviously been influenced by the only correct generational periodization scheme!

  4. Jean M. Twenge’s GENERATION ME claims that everyone born after 1970 is a member of the so-called “Generation Me.” According to Twenge (born 1971) Gen Me-ers are “more self-centered, more disrespectful of authority and more depressed than ever before.” Twenge has also co-authored a followup book, THE NARCISSISM EPIDEMIC.

  5. A July 2010 NYT story claims that “millennials” are aged 18-29; i.e., they were born 1981-92. Excerpt:

    “I don’t think I fully understood the severity of the situation I had graduated into,” he said, speaking in effect for an age group — the so-called millennials, 18 to 29 — whose unemployment rate of nearly 14 percent approaches the levels of that group in the Great Depression. And then he veered into the optimism that, polls show, is persistently, perhaps perversely, characteristic of millennials today. “I am absolutely certain that my job hunt will eventually pay off,” he said.

    For young adults, the prospects in the workplace, even for the college-educated, have rarely been so bleak. Apart from the 14 percent who are unemployed and seeking work, as Scott Nicholson is, 23 percent are not even seeking a job, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The total, 37 percent, is the highest in more than three decades and a rate reminiscent of the 1930s.

    The college-educated among these young adults are better off. But nearly 17 percent are either unemployed or not seeking work, a record level (although some are in graduate school). The unemployment rate for college-educated young adults, 5.5 percent, is nearly double what it was on the eve of the Great Recession, in 2007, and the highest level — by almost two percentage points — since the bureau started to keep records in 1994 for those with at least four years of college.

    Yet surveys show that the majority of the nation’s millennials remain confident, as Scott Nicholson is, that they will have satisfactory careers. They have a lot going for them.

  6. The TV show “Better With You” tries for “a sheen of topicality in the generational fault line between the younger couples,” we read in the NYT.

    Maddie and Ben, a lawyer and a hotel manager, dress like Nordstrom mannequins; Casey favors jeans and hoodies. After receiving a series of text messages from Mia (founder of an online-invitation start-up), Maddie says, “I don’t get this generation’s need for constant communication.” Reminded by Ben that she is only four years older than her sister, she replies: “But it’s a big four years. None of the famous people her age wear underwear.”

    That is to say, the older couple are Revivalists; the younger couple are Throwbacks. Do Revivalists truly feel old and out of step, already?


    “Earlier epochs had their own obsessions with what had gone before, but never before has there been a society so obsessed with the cultural artifacts of its own immediate past. Does this retromania sound the death knell for any originality and distinctiveness of our own era? Are we heading toward a sort of cultural-ecological catastrophe, where pop’s archival resources have been exhausted?”

  8. Thanks for the article, it’s a very interesting analysis of the “XY” cusp.

    Around 2005, a friend remarked to me that the defining characteristic of our generation — I was born in 1981 — was “the awareness of being aboard a sinking ship.” People my age have struggled to resolve the ironic/cynical cultural modes of the 80s and 90s with the consciousness of immediate, tangible problems (the ecological crisis in particular) that require pragmatic action rather than clever deconstruction.

    What I have observed among my cohort is not exactly a rebellion against irony, but rather an effort to put it into proper context; to locate an ideological foundation for sincere action while keeping a sense of humor about the basic absurdity of our circumstances. (Is this in some way parallel to the mentality of the Partisans? Not to get all Strauss & Howe on you or anything…)

    Hence the “revivalist” impulse to look to the past for systems of value and meaning, and to disguise an admittedly dorky earnestness in outlandishly retro “Halloween costumes” that relentlessly call attention to their own arbitrariness, thereby resolving the tension between surface irony and sincere intent.

    Take the “Vegan Black Metal Chef” of Youtube fame as an example. The juxtaposition is weirdly apt: vegan home cooking is at once the most dorkily earnest and the most “brutal” of activities. It is “brutal” because veganism is a response to a truly brutal problem, and it takes a particularly “brutal” sort of self-discipline to rise to the challenge (particularly for a generation as over-indulged as we were!) Also “brutal” is the recognition that much of the popular culture we grew up with is of little consolation. Still, there is an optimistic message: if rock n’ roll rebellion can be commodified, it can also be re-purposed, through an act of satirical inversion, to inspire an act that is genuinely subversive, albeit in a quiet and un-rock n’ roll way. I guess that does sound equal parts optimistic and “wised up.”

  9. In an article that was critical of the Occupy Wall Street protesters, Ginia Bellafante wrote in The New York Times: “The group’s lack of cohesion and its apparent wish to pantomime progressivism rather than practice it knowledgeably is unsettling in the face of the challenges so many of its generation face – finding work, repaying student loans, figuring out ways to finish college when money has run out.”

  10. I don’t understand the appeal of the get-to-work critique; protest and political action aren’t inimical to productive employment. First one, then the other. But there’s a strong strain of “get back in line, you” which is straight-up low middlebrow, and which finds its objective correlative in the ugly coercive tactics that police now use in response to peaceful protest.

  11. Thank you so much for this wonderful article. Classic, and in my case, very accurate. :)

    Have you published any books on this subject? I would love to buy them.

  12. November 12 New York Times trend piece by William Deresiewicz on “Generation Sell” (supposedly born from late 1970s through mid 1990s) claims:

    It’s striking. Forty years ago, even 20 years ago, a young person’s first thought, or even second or third thought, was certainly not to start a business. That was selling out — an idea that has rather tellingly disappeared from our vocabulary. Where did it come from, this change? Less Reaganism, as a former student suggested to me, than Clintonism — the heroic age of dot-com entrepreneurship that emerged during the Millennials’ childhood and youth. Add a distrust of large organizations, including government, as well as the sense, a legacy of the last decade, that it’s every man for himself.

    Because this isn’t only them. The small business is the idealized social form of our time. Our culture hero is not the artist or reformer, not the saint or scientist, but the entrepreneur. (Think of Steve Jobs, our new deity.) Autonomy, adventure, imagination: entrepreneurship comprehends all this and more for us. The characteristic art form of our age may be the business plan.

    AND that, I think, is the real meaning of the Millennial affect — which is, like the entrepreneurial ideal, essentially everyone’s now. Today’s polite, pleasant personality is, above all, a commercial personality. It is the salesman’s smile and hearty handshake, because the customer is always right and you should always keep the customer happy. If you want to get ahead, said Benjamin Franklin, the original business guru, make yourself pleasing to others.


    Doree Shafrir wrote in Slate, a few months ago: I was born during Jimmy Carter’s presidency, a one-term administration remembered mostly for the Iran hostage crisis, the New York City blackout, and stagflation. The Carter babies—anyone born between his inauguration in January 1977 and Reagan’s in January 1981—are now 30 to 34, and, like Carter himself, the weirdly brilliant yet deeply weird born-again Christian peanut farmer, this micro-generation is hard to pin down. We identify with some of Gen X’s cynicism and suspicion of authority—watching Pee-Wee Herman proclaim, “I’m a loner, Dottie. A rebel,” will do that to a kid—but we were too young to claim Singles and Reality Bites and Slacker as our own (though that didn’t stop me from buying the soundtracks). And, while the proud alienation of the Gen X worldview doesn’t totally sit right, we certainly don’t yearn for the Organization Man-like conformity that the Millennials seem to crave. So, half in jest, I posted on Twitter: “I’m not Gen X and I’m not a Millennial either; I’m some low-birthrate in-between thing. WHO WILL SPEAK FOR ME.”

  14. Catherynne Valente tweets about this post:

    WOW. And this one is SPOT ON. Calling us Revivalists (1974-83) and basically nailing everything in my childhood/psyche.

  15. Yay non-decade based periodization! But hang on, I was in my 20s in 1994 and I am a) ” of a certain age” and b) not a revivalist by sentiment or style.

  16. Note about the Strokes from the New York Times Magazine this weekend:

    Q&A with Gordon Raphael, a musician and music producer.

    Q. When you produced the Strokes’ first two albums, did they ask you for a particular sound?

    A. Yeah. They said, “We want to sound like a band where you go into the future and find a forgotten recording of the distant past.”

  17. “Note that the Revivalists (like the Post-Romantics) are a nine-year, as opposed to a ten-year cohort. This is due to seismic cultural shifts whose nature I am attempting to ascertain.”

    I imagine the causation of that seismic shift for the people born in 1983, is internet access and online socializing during their formative years.

    As a person born in 1983, I am firmly a revivalist and definitely not social darwikian. But I was one of the youngest people in my class (so I hung out with people born in ’82) AND I got the internet at home later than some people – probably not until I was 14, and thus I had my brain roughly wired already. The internet wasn’t as great, and chatting wasn’t ubiquitous, until I was in my mid-late teens. I didn’t have a cell phone until mid-college! Definitely not during the years when I was establishing “how to be social.”

    On the subject of internet being causation, I would be willing to bet there is a correlation to go with it: pubic hair stylings. (People born after 1983 seem to find it unacceptable.)

  18. Yeah, have to agree with Nicole. 1983 here and I in no way identify with the social darwikians. I often felt like the youngest the groups I identified most with and now feel the oldest in the groups I’m often lumped together with (“millennials” in general).

  19. Note to self, cf. Nicole and Drew’s comments: Could the Revivalist Generation last until 1983?

  20. Great article. Just when I thought I was the only one who thought that my inclusion in the ” shiny happy people generation was a bit premature “, I come across an article that really does a great job articulating what I and many members of my immediate age cohort always suspected .
    I do however, have to disagree with your contention that revivalists are ” almost completely uncynical” and known for their over earnestness ” . Most of my immediate circle always seemed pretty cynical to me.

  21. I was born in Feb 73. My wife in March 74. I see no difference at all. Why putting the line on 74 while?
    I feel far more different from my sisters born in ’67, ’68 as well as than my friends born in 1975. The same way I found that those born in ’71 have stronger reminiscences of TV shows that had disappeared when I reach the age to remember them

    Those cutting line are very arbitrary and omits the transition zone…

  22. Josh:

    Do you think the earnest of this generational cohort may stem from them having come of age during a relatively stable, uneventful, “end of history” era. I have some friends born during this period and we always butt heads over ‘art and culture’ matters, and they just don’t understand the necessity for engagement in art. They really just do not get it. It’s frustrating. The Recons came of age at the climax of the Cold War. The Throwbacks grew up with 9/11, the Bush Years, and the GFC. So the two cohorts bookending the Revivalists understand the need for engagement with one’s historical moment, whereas Revivalists who came of age during the relatively stable Clinton/Blair years seem to see Art as some elevated diversion that exists ‘outside time’. They’re almost disaffected Kantians in a sense.

  23. Born in ’76 here and could never really bond on a generational level with so-called “Gen X”. Too much happened between the 80’s and 90’s – I was too young for the Cold War and the ’80s pop culture and never made it to adulthood without internet. I was watching Clarissa Explains All whilst Reconstructionists were going to grunge concerts, idolized Cher from Clueless and played Pokemon in my early ’20s. I came of age to Clinton. Everytime I am around 60s/early 70s born individuals, I realize how important the ’80s were to them – the lack of digital media, their fashion, their music, their politics, a world that means nothing to me without Alvin and the Chipmunks.
    Revivalists? I’m on board with that. As I am with adding the year 1983 to our cohort. Too far back into the 70s, however, and you get the ’80s factor again.
    No. I never watched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Not until I was 39. And it was kind of boring, actually.

  24. This is something I wrote expressing some of the feelings I have about being lumped into “Generation X”, titled “The ’80s Factor”. I realized while writing about the various birth years, that the degree of distance between my birthyear (1976) and those born earlier in the ’70s coincides beautifully with your cut off for the reconstructionist/revivalist divide. I can still identify with most people born in 1975 and 1974 on a generational level. 1973 starts getting difficult. 1972 is just another world.

    The ’80s Factor

    What bothers me most about being lumped into Generation X?

    The fact that I am being credited with an entire decade of  alien experiences that are not my own. It’s like I’m expected to have roots in a ground that was still too hard for me to grow in. It feels as if the world assumes I absorbed the nutrients from an environment that I wasn’t able to access yet. It is like lying about where you’re from and trying to explain your false homeland to one of its true natives, even though you’ve only briefly visited as a tourist and have no grasp of actual daily life and customs.

    Those were the ’80s to me. My mind was still unformed, delusional, hazy with childish notions and perceptions. When I think of the ’80s, I remember parents, grandparents, visiting relatives, first pets, toys and games and warm, fuzzy memories of summer days and splashing water. Now, in 2017, I can look back at the ’90s, the 00’s and the ’10s with clarity, able to define each decade according to its particular flavor of pop culture, technology, events and politics. But the ’80s….

    They were just childhood. Seemingly endless childhood.

    I can see it everytime I associate with anyone born earlier than I was – each extra year spent in the ’80s seems to add a new note to that decade for those who lived through it. People born in 1975 seem to be on the cusp of ’80s identity – not quite able to grasp it, but having touched it briefly before it faded away into obscurity. For 1975, it felt like an ephemeral prick to fingertip without the power to break skin, leaving little more than the promise of a memory. 1974 managed to hang on for a moment, long enough to begin to absorb, only to have it torn away and morphed into something else. 1973 might have clung to it, suckling like a newborn babe, refusing to let it be wrenched away, at least for a while. And 1972 or earlier seemed fully resilient to the tide of change, fully immersed and flooded with its essence, until they themselves became the reason, and change itself was founded upon their experience.

    But for 1976, the ’80s were the past and we found ourselves standing on the doorstep of what was then the future.

    Those are just my perceptions, of course. But the distance I feel towards anyone born in 1972 cannot be expressed in temporal terms. What are 4 years? Well, 4 years can end an era. And we were simply born on separate fronts of the divide. I call it the ’80s factor, that wispy concept that barrs me from Generation X. The more gravity the ’80s have in someone’s life, the less they have in common with me. You see, I was a tourist in the foreign land called the ’80s, spending most of my time in a secluded resort, away from the heart of the country. I was there, but I was not really part of your world. I can no more call myself Generation X than I can claim to be a Parisian. My tour bus quickly passed through your streets, zipping past a few of the main attractions, but I didn’t see the grit, the history, the character, the true nature of your city.

    I don’t have the ’80s factor.

  25. Says a lot about society that Nickelback are a mostly Revivalist band, lol.

    JBTDD: If you’re reading this, Josh Glenn does account for cuspers in his generational schema. So in this case, some ’73ers (and possibly late ’72ers) can be Revivalists, while some ’74ers (and possibly early ’75ers) Recons. In your case, you would probably be an honorary Revivalist.

    ANDIE: That’s really interesting! I have to agree that ’76ers feel really cuspy compared to their neighbors, even if most ’76ers would never admit that and seem to be adamant on claiming “Gen X”. I’m curious as to you playing Pokemon Gen 1 in your early 20s; I feel you must’ve been an outlier there haha, as I generally don’t see many people born before 1984 who’d admit to being Pokefans.

  26. Hey, I’d like to suggest a few individuals who might be honorary Recons, due to their “brooding over fragments” creative styles: Jhonen Vasquez (1974, created Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and Invader Zim) and both members of Daft Punk, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo (1974) and Thomas Bangalter (very early 1975). This Youtube vid on One More Time demonstrates this paradigm quite well, I feel.

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