Is the Millennial Generation a bunch of Cylons?

Battlestar Galactica is a modern myth, in the vein of the original Star Wars. Each generation is represented in the series, including the Millennials.

Spoiler alert: If you have not watched any of Battlestar Galactica, or have only watched the first season, there are plot spoilers to follow.

“The cylons were created by man. They evolved. They rebelled. There are many copies. And they have a plan”

I was watching the first few episodes of Season 2 of Battlestar Galactica last night and got to the point where they find the “map” to Earth in the form of the 12 zodiacal constellations. Until that point I had been seeing the story as a myth that portrayed the Cylons as the believers in the “One True God” (e.g. Christians) vs. the humans who believe in a multi-pantheon (e.g. New Age Spiritualists). Others have said that the humans represent the United States and the Cylons represent modern terrorists. But last night I realized it might be a more subconscious modern myth that symbolizes the current living generations.

Science fiction has a history of taking on social concepts, from Star Trek with it’s strong social themes to Star Wars which was profiled by Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell as the modern telling of the Hero’s Journey. Thinking in those terms, of the mythical meaning of the Battlestar Galactica, (which is produced and directed by Boomers and X’ers), I couldn’t help but wonder if the battle going on right now between the generations is represented in the story.

Let’s look at the current living generations and then compare with some of the characters.

  • Silent Generation: Born 1925-1942. This group is starting to fade from prominence right now, but they had a reputation as being an expert, if overly conservative generation.
  • Boomer Generation: Born 1943-1960. Moving into elder leadership now, this generation represents the “Prophets” who have a strong vision of the future and will argue their opinions to the death.
  • Generation X: Born 1961-1981. Moving into midlife right now, this generation is practical and pragmatic, but often cynical. They are individualistic and do not particularly care for large institutions or dogmatic leadership.
  • Millennial Generation: Born 1982-200?. Moving into young adulthood now, this generation is optimistic, empowered, team-oriented and at times a bit arrogant about what they will accomplish.

For those of you that are fans, can you see the connection between the various characters now? The Silents are not well represented, but the other groups are definitely in there.

adamaroslin

For example, Bill Adama, commander of the Battlestar and President Laura Roslin are both of the elder generation, similar to the Boomers. They are highly opinionated and have their unshakable vision in what needs to be done. The President literally believes that she is a prophet, destined to take the human race to a new and better future. Adama is driven by a desire for honor and order as prescribed by his military background. Both are willing to attack each other to defend their view and control of the future. That, in a nutshell, is the attitude of the Boomer/Prophet generation. Strong opinions, a visionary view and and a righteousness in the face of adversity.

starbuckapollo

The Commanders’s son, Lee Adama, whose call sign is Apollo, as well as Starbuck (and many more of the crew) are all much more pragmatic in their approach. Although they will take sides if forced to, they judge everything by it’s practical implications. Starbuck is a loner, alienated from most of those around her. Even though Apollo is the golden boy son (hence his call sign) of the Captain, he refuses to believe in the Commander’s ideals. This is very much in character with Generation X, a generation that is practical, pragmatic and don’t really care about ideology or following rules. They are the nomad generation.

millennialcylons

So that leaves the Millennials. They are represented by the evil Cyclons. The Cylons believe in “One True God”, one perfect ideal that they must create. They are literally “of one mind”, having a serious case of group think. There are only a few models of Cylon, and that means that they mostly think alike. They work together flawlessly as a team and are moving towards creating a world based on their singular vision. They are optimistic (perhaps overly so) about their future and see their success as pre-ordained. This represents the stereotype of the Millennial generation quite well. Millennials are generally seen as having a strong civic nature, a desire to rebuild society based on their ideals. They also work together very well and tend to be optimistic and at times arrogant about the likelihood of their success. They are the “Hero” generation, but clearly not portrayed in that light in the series.

The interesting thing to note if you buy that characterization is that the Cylons are considered EVIL and are out to destroy the entire human race! What does that say about the Millennials? It actually says a lot more about the Gen X/Boomer bunch that created Battlestar Galactica than it does about the Millennials. Although even by the start of season two there are some humans who are starting to sympathize with the Cylons, they are still very much considered the enemy. The same can be said for the attitude of many Gen X’ers and Boomers towards Millennials. There are a few of the older generations that believe in the positive qualities of the Millennials, but most are pretty put off by what they believe is a sense of entitlement and brazenness. Books like “Dumbest Generation” and “Generation Me” point towards a belief that “kids today ain’t no damned good”. The other parallel is the idea of the Cylons being machines that look like humans. The Millennial generation is also categorized as being the “digital” generation, networked to each other through their devices and constantly in communication with each other.

I think that Battlestar Galactica is a good example of the sort of modern myth that Cambpell and Moyers identified years ago in Star Wars. The first Star Wars series was really about the path of the Boomers (think Luke Skywalker) overthrowing the GI Generation (think Darth and the empire). Like all myths it was probably not consciously made with this connection to the current social forces, but they were embedded in subconsciously.

Should we trust the Cylon/Millennials? Like the characters in Battlestar Galactica we probably don’t have much choice in the matter. And unlike the Cylons, the Millennials ARE going to take over the world eventually (unless Boomers and X’ers figure out a way to magically extend their lives). So perhaps it is time to figure out how we can work together to build something better. Boomers and X’ers control pop culture right now and trying to feed a message to society based on their values. The Millennials have a different take and that makes those in control uncomfortable. But make no mistake, Boomers and X’ers, the Millennials will win this battle (eventually) and treating them like they are babies, less than, or unimportant will not help matters.

I haven’t seen this comparison anywhere else on the Internets. There is a book on the philosophy of BSG. There are also several analysis of the cylons as an analogy for modern terrorists, here, here and here.

I would love to hear people’s comments on the concept, but I have one request: don’t spoil the rest of the series for me by giving away plot lines beyond the first few episodes of the second season. Also, any of you generation types out there have a guess as to who represents the Silents in the series?

15 thoughts on “Is the Millennial Generation a bunch of Cylons?”

  1. Very interesting. I don’t watch BSG, but I might have to start now. It’s fascinating how the different generations are demonized and/or romanticized by other generations. I think we’re all guilty of it and I find it hard to fight it in myself even when I consciously attempt to. It seems like every generation is probably capable of both heroic and villanous acts–so is it circumstance or the generations themselves that determine which one wins out?

    Do you know the ages of the creators of BSG? That would be interesting to know.

    1. There are, like for most TV Series, lots of writers and directors. Here are a few of the prominent ones:
      Directors:
      Michael Rhymer, born 1961 (X)
      Michael Nankin. born 1955 (Boomer)
      Rod Hardy, born 1949 (Boomer)
      Sergio Mimica-Gezzan, born 1957 (Boomer)

      Writer/Producer:
      Ronald D. Moore, born 1964 (X) – wrote or co-wrote 73 of the episodes

      There were other writers, but it looks like most of the episodes were written by Ronald Moore. So there is a lot of X influence on the series.

      I got this info from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0407362/fullcredits

  2. Excellent post. Found your post via a Google Alert on “Nomad generation.” Your perspective, understanding and ability to communicate generational theory and dynamics is fantastic.

    I haven’t watched any of the BSG episodes, so I don’t have that knowledge to comment on your post. I would add that while Cylons/Millennials may “win the battle (eventually),” that’s just the nature of generational dynamics. Each gen, as it ascends into midlife (42-62 years old), has cultural dominance and power. The Cylons will be tempered and slowed by the next gen to follow, and all their glory and victory will be toppled and called soulless and bad by the next gen of Prophets to be born, in time. It’s the pattern. Doesn’t make one gen right or better, more glorious or more hateful. It’s just generational dynamics, played out again and again.

  3. Sounds like your generational analysis of BSG is bang on (ie. the cylons represent the fears of the X and BB gens.). I am troubled by the tendency of millenials to place so much trust in their networks, and to be jerked like puppets by the latest “truth” – in a way it just seems like so much electronic gossip – that was once done by housewives over the hedge – sometimes they were right – and sometimes they destroyed peoples lives with innuendo and misinformation.
    I had a friend who had the misfortune to live in an old-fashioned town where the boomer ladies got together and spread nasty unfounded rumours about anyone they didn’t like (anyone younger, prettier, different than them) – they spread the rumour that she was an alcoholic (she actually didn’t drink at all because of a medical condition), etc. etc. Seems like twitter is just the same thing with a sci fi touch because it’s new. But hopefully the millenials will learn to be more discerning and critical as they age.

  4. @Jessie X – You should definitely try BSG when you get a chance. It is not your typical Sci-fi and has great storylines. You can pick it up on Netflix (as my wife and I have been doing). And I agree that the pattern we are following is a time-honored one.

    @susan – I also wonder what the results of the Millennial networking will be. It is easy to champion their use of technology, but it is also easy to cast doubt on it as well. Only time will tell if they figure out how to use all this high tech for good purpose.

  5. Maybe that’s why I’ve never really gotten into BSG. But then again, I’ve never really even tried that hard. Speaking of Sci-Fi, all indications of the new Star Trek movie is that it should be a major hit with Millennials. If The Dark Knight of 2008 was a very dark movie (The Ultimate Gen-X movie according to 4T.com poster JPT), then Star Trek is its opposite, showing the bright side of humanity and a very optimistic future in which humans have overcame the global political, ethnic, technological, economic, religious, and ecological challenges of today.

  6. I think that’s pretty arrogant to judge a generation that hasn’t even turned 30 yet. We’re dealing with the recession and just came out of a conservative government. We’re not clones, or robots. Narcissists, sure. We’re not evil robots out to destroy you. Like it or not, we’re the future.

    1. @Millnnial – I totally agree. I think the characterization in Battlestar comes from the collective unconscious of the Gen X and Boomer creators. And you are definitely right when you say “Like it or not, we’re the future”. I, for one, am expecting big, and good, things from the Millennials.

  7. I like this comparison from another Xer out in cyberspace : Obi-won represents the Boomers. Han Solo represents my X generation(rebellious cynical type). Luke Skywalker represents the whiny “hero” type Millennials.

  8. After I read your take, I watched BSG again and I see a lot of Boomer/GenX archetypes in the show, some of which have already been written about elsewhere online. e.g. Saul Tigh is eerily like John McCain, Laura Roslin could be Hillary Clinton etc.

    My take is that Starbuck = the personality type of Gwen Stefani and other independent, strong women of the Gen X era. (Think about Gwen Stefani’s tomboyishness, her career and family life. Isn’t she a lot like Starbuck??!)

    Also, you didn’t see a Silent Generation character, but I picked one out — Doc Cottle, the chain-smoking, wise-cracking doctor who can adapt to any situation. ***SPOILER ALERT*** like when Bill Adama is shot, and Tigh asks the doctor if he’ll die. The doctor’s reply: “How should I know? I’m not a psychic.” LOL!! That’s a lot like the easygoing Silent Gen person I know in real life, who coincidentally is also a healer.

    Anyway, thanks for this great take on BSG. Really enjoyed reading it and thinking about generational theory. Cheers!

  9. Depends if you are part of the older or younger Millennials. The first Older Millennials shared the same childhood in the 80’s and watch some of the same things that the Younger Generation X did growing up. I was born in 1977 so I was only 5 years older then the first born Generation Y. The Younger Generation X and the first Older Millennials were both the Ginnea Pigs of the Cyclons technology sort of speak. I have not seen this show but, it sounds that Generation X is upset that the Millennials (not all) are not respecting the price the Generation X paid being the Ginnea Pigs. They have the battle scars and were forgotten for them. I think that Baby Boomers are afraid that the Millennials will take away their values and roles of leadership with the Cyclons technology sort of speak (lots of jobs or taken away due to changes of technology) Fearful that the Millennials we leave that Baby Boomer’s in the Poor House sort of speak. This is my view about what is going on between the Generations.

  10. I have not seen this show but, this is what I got by reading this article. The Baby Boomer’s are fearful the Millennials (Cyclons) tech world sort of speak will take away their values and roles of leadership because lots of jobs are taken away due to changes of technology. Fearful that the Millennials will leave the Baby Boomer’s in the Poor House sort of speak. Generation X is upset that the Millennials are not respecting the price the Generation X paid being the Ginnea Pigs of the Cyclons technology sort of speak. They have the battle scars on being the Ginnea Pigs of the technology that Millennials now enjoy. They were used as Ginnea Pigs sort of speak then forgotten and left with dealing with the battle scars alone. The Millennials (Cyclons) technology has a way of changing them. They in some ways act like the enemy because they live in a culture that traps the other Generations because in order to meet the Millennials everyday needs other generations needs are not met. So it is what they have and not them that attacks the other Generations. In other words the Millennials (Cyclons)have a win or lose tech world that they live in.

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