In an attempt to help companies, academia, government and parents fully understand the next generation, I try to find things that help awaken the awareness of just how differently Millennials and Generation Z were raised. Whether it's Millennials, Gamers, Digital Natives, Gen Y, Cloud Kids or whatever you may call them, anyone born AFTER 1977, is a child of the future.
Besides toys that interacted and talked back to them (think Teddy Ruxpin and Speak & Spell), the psyche of Digital Natives has been forged by TV, Movies and Video Games...all tied to toys, books and action figures. So, buckle up...
Here's my awesome list of Movies & TV Shows that had a direct impact on Millennial Thinking:
1) Hey Arnold!Animated TV Series
Arnold lives with his grandparents in a multi-racial boarding house. Along with a cast of friends— Helga, Gerald, Harold, Stinky, etc...Arnold is surrounded by motley assortment of neighbors and friends living at the lower end of socioeconomic scale. In other words, more of a real slice of American life.
Having aired over 100 episodes and a major motion picture in 2002, Hey Arnold! has been cited for it's depth and emotional storytelling.
This was a favorite in our household. Television shows like this exposed Millennials to a world of true racial diversity and acceptance. I highly recommend it.
2) Harry Potterby J.K. Rowling
some sort of secret powers waiting to be awakened, it was this gem by J.K. Rowling.
Ironically, no one believed in the book at first. It was believed at the time within the publishing industry that 10 year old boys did not read big books or children's books written by women, or that boys would not read a book about a boy wizard. So the original cover showed only a boy standing by a train.
When *Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone was released, it became the start of a billion dollar franchise. *(It was released in the United States as Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone).
The story centers around Harry, a young impish boy who is raised by his Aunt & Uncle Dursley who spare not a single moment chastising Harry, treating him like a servant instead of their nephew, while loading lavish praises on their spoiled bully of a son Dudley.
The plot sits squarely on the mystery of Harry's parents James and Lily Potter, and their death at the hands of the evil wizard Lord Voldemort. Harry somehow survives but retains a lightening bolt shaped scar on the right side of his forehead.
As Harry reaches 11 years of age, his life changes dramatically when giant Hagrid bursts through the door delivering a birthday cake, and a letter explaining that Harry is a wizard and has now been accepted to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry.
Along the the journey, Harry meets his trusted companions Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, who remain his trusted companions throughout the book series and movies.
WHY is this on my list? Think about the plot; A little boy, being verbally abused by his family, lives with a secret power. He believes that somehow, someday, he will be vindicated. Suddenly all his suspicions are confirmed; He is part of a secret group of masters who teach him how to wield high technology (magic) in order to beat evil adults.
If there was one thing that helped Millennials believe in themselves, Harry Potter is it.
3) PokémonJapanese Animated TV Series and Card Game
Harry Potter was a dominating force to be found on Millennial bookshelves, then a close second was Pokémon.
It appears that Yu-Gi-Oh was for kids, while Pokémon was a bit more appealing to all age groups...and clearly, the leader of the two franchises. So I'll focus on Pokémon.
The franchise began as a pair of video games for the original Game Boy, and developed multi platform video games, trading card games, animated television shows and movies, comic books, and toys. According to Wikipedia, "Pokémon is the second-most successful and lucrative video game-based media franchise in the world, behind only Nintendo's Mario franchise."
In a fusion of martial arts & the science of bug collecting, Pokémon takes place in a fictional universe were Pokémon Trainers (humans) attempt to collect and capture as many Pokémon creatures as possible. Each creature has special powers and falls within categories that are to be used by the Trainer during gladiator styled battles within a Pokémon Arena.
Along with life lessons, Pokémon taught children strategy, tactics and the importance of friendship. And one more thing: don't judge someone based on stature.
4) Ender's Game
by Orson Scott Card
Not quite as popular as Harry Potter, Ender's Game was required reading in many American high schools.
Set in Earth's future, the novel and major motion picture presents an imperiled mankind after two conflicts with the "buggers"—an insect-like alien species. Earth's defensive forces are training and building more advanced star ships in anticipation of a third invasion.
In order to develop commanders capable of defeating the much larger alien forces, the International Fleet creates a crash training program for children. The theme throughout Ender's Game is that children have an advantage over their older commanders at Battle School; having faster reflexes when it comes to gaming interfaces and out-of-the-box thinking.
In other words: being older is a hindrance.
Protagonist Andrew "Ender" Wiggin is a trainee who excels at gaming simulations and military tactics. Despite his lilliputian stature, Ender isn't half bad in a fight either, utilizing strategy and Aikido as his secret weapon. Fighting skills he developed from an abusive brother.
Although it is a science fiction novel, Ender's Game is suggested reading for many military organizations including the U.S. Marine Corps as a prime example of out-of-the-box tactics and strategy.
Ender's Game WILL help you understand the blurry lines of right and wrong that Digital Natives see around them all the time.
Live Action Television Series
Barney is a purple dinosaur with a goofy voice. Makes no sense, but kids loved him and carried the plush toy around like Boomers carried a Teddy bear.
Each show was live action and centered around Barney and his dinosaur pals; Baby Bop, BJ and Riff who are joined by a small cast of children.
They share adventures, sing songs, dance and play games that make learning fun. The series focuses on caring, sharing and learning, and if you watch long enough, there is always a lesson to be learned about these above mentioned themes.
Acceptance and tolerance for those who are different were also a big theme throughout the show.
Major Motion Picture Franchise
all millennials have heard about the awesomeness that is Star Wars. So when George Lucas re-released it in 1997 complete with his own horrible attempts at digital animation, I dragged my nephew Sebastian to see them all.
In 1977, Star Wars kicked off the idea that one young person, trained in a mystical technology and a lot of intuition, can defeat an entire Empire....just listen inwardly.
If you haven't noticed, from 1977 on, out of the top blockbusters over the past 35 years, 7 have been science fiction or fantasy driven. And the same theme, over and over again.
But something bigger is happening with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. But guess what statement it makes?
The new younger Jedi Knight, needs less training, can train themselves, AND is connected to their intuition more so than previous generations.
Television Seriesplayed the misogynistic bachelor Barney Stinson on the hit comedy How I Met Your Mother, Neil Patrick Harris was known to American TV audiences from 1989-1993 as Doogie Howser MD.
Created by Steven Bochco and David Kelley, the series follows the daily trials and tribulations of a 16-year old Harvard Medical School prodigy and graduate Doogie Howser.
The series centered around the pressures of being a kid surgeon, along with Doogie's attempt to be a regular teenager.
His window-entering best friend Vinnie Delpino kept Doogie from getting too boring, dragging him away on some adventure.
The show always ended with Doogie narrating the lesson learned in his computer journal.
The series exposes just how much of this child prodigy pressure Millennials have in their psyche; to be successful at a young age.
On a side note: Doogie Howser, MD is the number one show in India, capturing a brand new audience through reruns.
So, to sum it all up, Millennials have been exposed to thousands of hours of the "Hero's Journey" Stories throughout childhood. Understand that, and you understand them.
Now THIS list is mostly American & British brands. Globally there are other factors.
Now, Toys and Pop Culture are not the only things that created the Millennial Psyche; there are Three More Influencers that transformed them into today's Wunderkinds...But that's in my books and talks, and for another blog post.
Want more research? Try these cartoons and movies:Transformers cartoon series, Transformers movies, Up In The Air, Office Space and The Intern.
Big thank you to my resident Millennial, and nephew, Sebastian.
Hope this has helped.
Global Management Consultant
Millennial Expert, Leadership Development & Workforce Performance Strategies
Author of the award-winning, bestseller Liquid Leadership: From Woodstock to Wikipedia, Brad is a former C-level executive of a publicly traded company that he cofounded that went from entrepreneurial start-up to IPO in three years; the first Dot Com Agency to go public on NASDAQ. His company K2 Design, experienced 425% hyper-growth, due in part to a unique management style that won his company the Arthur Andersen NY Enterprise Award for Best Practices in Fostering Innovation.
Today the world’s leading business publications seek out Brad’s insights on Millennials, and he has been featured in Forbes, The Huffington Post, New York Magazine, Inc., Advertising Age, The International Business Times, and The Hindu BusinessLine to name a few, along with television, radio and podcast appearances on CBSand other media outlets.
Brad's programs have transformed a new generation of business leaders, helping them maximize their corporate culture, expectations, productivity, and sales growth in The Information Age.
* 2011 Axiom Business Book silver medal winner in the leadership
* #1 Amazon Best-Selling Author
"I just had my mind blown..." - A.S., Vistage, New York
Liquid Leadership by Brad Szollose is available at all major bookstores and for Kindle, Nook, iPad and Sony ereaders. Internationally published in India and S. Korea.