Our generation needs a name. The slacker generation got their X. Our parents got their Boom. We’ve been preceded by the Silent Generation, the Beat Generation and somewhere deeper down those marble halls, the Greatest Generation.
I’ve got a proposal for the narrow sample of kids currently attending Yale College. If you were born between 1983 and 1987, welcome to the “Lion King” Generation.
Don’t pretend you didn’t watch it. If you were born in America between 1983 and 1987, you probably saw it in the theaters. If not, you wanted to. You can sing along to at least one of Simba’s songs. If you ever had to stay in at lunch on a rainy day in elementary school, chances are good that you watched it then, too.
You played with Pogs, for two turbulent months when Pogs were the thing to be played with. You watched “Full House.” You remember the momentous rise and fall of the Tamagotchi. You or a sibling owned a Lite Brite board, a Cabbage Patch Kid or at least one Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figure. You know that, no matter how dire the circumstances, the words “Duck Tales!” should always be followed by a gleeful “Wooo-ooo!”
This is our cultural patrimony. The Romans had Cicero. The Elizabethans had Shakespeare. The Beats had Kerouac. We have Uncle Joey.
We remember when the blue M&M debuted. We can reminisce nostalgically about the O.J. Simpson trial and the Starr Report. We watched “Clueless” and “Empire Records” on VHS, girls watching with their friends, boys with their big sisters.
We saw “Titanic” in the theaters. Some saw “Titanic” in the theaters, then saw “Titanic” in the theaters, then saw “Titanic” in the theaters again. The line “I’m king of the world!” once meant something to you.
An additional criterion for membership: You have no recollection of Ronald Reagan. You grew up during the Clinton years. You remember hearing jokes about white spots during the Lewinsky trial that you probably didn’t understand at the time. You watched “Family Matters,” “Boy Meets World,” “Step by Step” or early ’90s Nickelodeon. You knew Kelly, Zack and Screech. You have vague recollections of serious-sounding things in far-off places, where people were doing mean things to each other: Waco. Sarajevo. Rwanda.
Maybe you remember when Timothy McVeigh blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City.
We were the unwitting beneficiaries of Disney’s Second Golden Age. “Aladdin,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Little Mermaid” — we saw them all. Disney may still be making cartoons, but we know they’d run out of juice by the time they hit “Anastasia.”
We were the post-“Pac Man” generation, though some of us may remember playing “Duck Hunt” on an original 8-bit Nintendo. When “Donkey Kong Country” came out for Super Nintendo, we were mesmerized.
You remember when Kurt Cobain shot himself, and Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls got shot. You devoured Gushers, those little crackers with the red spreader and the cheese, and Fruit by the Foot, or envied the kids who did.
Later on, you remember when the new VW Beetle came out. You remember Oasis, Green Day, Boyz II Men and the “Men in Black” theme song. Will Smith welcomed you to Miami. You indulged in the idiotic joy of Blur’s “Song 2.”
You watched at least one Jim Carrey movie at a sleepover. You remember that guy getting his tongue stuck to a ski lift in “Dumb and Dumber.”
You remember the first season of “Survivor.” You remember Sept. 11, 2001.
Five years from now, when junior editorial positions at Rolling Stone and Slate start going to people born during Reagan’s second term, you’ll start reading stories on this stuff — deep, reflective pieces about the postindustrial allure of the Oscar Mayer Lunchable, the fate of Hulk Hogan, the secret history of Alf. A few years after that, scattered cover stories will start appearing attempting to label our generation with an epithet and a capital “G.” The epithet itself is, of course, immaterial. But if our generation hopes to accomplish anything on its own terms — whether social equality or education reform — we’ll have more unity and more gravitas once we have our own capital “G.”
Daniel Weisfield is a junior in Calhoun College. His column appears on alternate Tuesdays.