Survivor Adopts a GenLens—Xers vs. Millennials

My Xer wife and I were recently catching up on some of our TV shows (as Xers do), when they showed a preview for the upcoming (33rd!) season of one of our personal favorites, the iconic Survivor. When I saw that the theme is centered around pitting youthful Millennials versus the somewhat older Generation Xers, the generational junkie in me started doing backflips.

Sure, the stereotypes coming out of the castaways’ mouths seemed a bit scripted, and even a little silly. I mean, older Millennials are now in their mid-30s, and when a disgruntled Xer (who sounds more like a “back-in-my-day” Traditionalist) accuses them of “not having a clue what their lives are gonna be like” and not being “battle-tested,” it sounds a bit dated. That being said, it’s going to be fun to see just how many of these expressed stereotypes play out on the show as true (or as true as semi-scripted reality TV can be), and which ones should really end up on Exile Island!

And the show is really leaning hard on the Xer vs. Millennial rivalry. In the preview, Sunday, a southern Xer, makes it known that her opinion about Millennials is that they aren’t driven, have a “who cares” attitude, and all live with their parents who are footing the bill for their education. When we meet Mari, the professional online gamer who seems quite content with her laid back career choice, some of us may feel like Sunday has a point. But the GenExpert in me puts a stop to this gut reaction. As we’ve seen from a recent Pew study, Millennials might not be staying at home because they’re “lazy,” but for a variety of other factors: fewer employment opportunities after college, lower wages, and Millennials are waiting longer to settle down than generations before them. You have to sympathize with that!

Or do you? Your typical Xer probably wouldn’t. Most Xers couldn’t wait to get out of the house to search for their independence. Sure, most of them were working a couple minimum-wage jobs through college and even after they graduated, but this generation would rather eat ramen, mac-n-cheese, and spam in a ratty apartment than head home to Mom and Dad. In Survivor-speak, Xers would rather play the game on their own—staying below the radar, winning a few Immunity Idols—than join a collaborative Alliance!

And that’s why I'm most likely to put my money on the Millennial crew to win the dang million dollars. Yes, they do love to collaborate… I shudder to think how an Alliance of 4–5 Millennials working together might pick off the independent Xers one-by-one. And yes, they did get trophies for 7th place growing up, and while there is no 2nd place in the Reward Challenges, they will definitely try their hardest as a team. That will win major points in Tribal Council. And you know that when their parents visit for the Loved Ones Challenge, this meeting with their helicopter heroes will drive them over the top.

Bottom line: Let's be honest—both of these generations are at a massive disadvantage because they're equally in love with technology. If they are able to “outwit, outplay, outlast” without the use of their iPhones, then they truly deserve to win the trophy for Best Generation Ever!