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Burg: Pandering to millennials is silly but effective

Madeline Burg, Columnist

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I love being catered to. I love it when you flatter my vanity and stroke my ego. I want you to make me feel like I’m the only girl in the world, the only one that you’ve ever loved. The only one that knows your heart.

As a twenty-something and staunch millennial, I know that I’m the demographic that everyone loves to hate and hates to have to tailor their ad campaigns to, if they want to sell anything at all. But they’ll do it. They’ll read up on the latest cultural memes, force themselves to become fluent in social media and scramble desperately to cultivate the insouciant tone of mild disinterest and superiority, the one they sense is the only tone we’ll find accessible. We are cool, and we are the authority on cool, and we’re ready to be pandered to. Don’t pout about it, advertisers. Take a tip from first lady Michelle Obama and just give in.

I love people not of our generation trying to be “with it.” I’m not trying to be snarky; I honestly think it’s adorable and also a fascinating comment on the power of age demographics. So this week when I saw our first lady’s recent gift to social media, my shrieks were not of disdain. They were of pure appreciation. The Obama administration has eagerly rocketed into the 21st century, taking wholeheartedly to Facebook, Twitter and more recently Vine. The White House has a Vine channel. What a world we live in.

Last Tuesday, Michelle Obama participated in a question-and-answer session on the Vine app, answering posts tagged with #AskTheFirstLady by posting from the White House channel. She takes every opportunity to publicize her “Let’s Move!” campaign, promoting healthy eating and living for our nation’s youth, and what better place to reach the nation’s youth than on social media? In a surprisingly informed move, the first lady responded to another Vine user’s query about how many calories she burns every time she “turns up” by softly head-bopping to Lil Jon’s smash hip-hop single of last year, “Turn Down For What” while holding a bright purple turnip. “Turnip for what?” asks the first lady. Turnip for healthy eating. And turnip for a beautiful marriage of persistent cultural memes and social media trends, Michelle Obama. Whoever came up with this Vine concept demonstrates a shrewd acuity regarding pop culture awareness. I’d like to believe this was Michelle Obama herself. Aided by Sasha and Malia Obama, possibly. Is President Barack Obama a Lil Jon fan?

If not, the people of Rock the Vote definitely are. Earlier this month the nonprofit organization released a music video featuring Lil Jon and a coterie of other celebrities dancing to a remix of “Turn Down For What,” modified to “Turn Out For What.” The answer is voting, and Rock the Vote is using this remix as the anthem for mid-term elections, trying to get younger voters to the polls. Either everyone believes that we millennials accept Lil Jon as our patron saint or somebody’s been doing their meme research. Lena Dunham, Natasha Lyonne, Darren Criss and other celebrities jam out with Lil Jon and explain for what they’re “turning out”: reproductive rights, prison reform, education, marriage equality and, on Lil Jon’s part, legalization of marijuana. Glitter confetti fills the air; there is breakdancing. The polls are the place to be. Fred Armisen of “Portlandia” fame admits that he’s turning out because he wants to impress his friends, “the only reason to ever do anything.”

People are outraged in the comments section of this YouTube video, but what else is new? These are the people that have yet to understand the undercurrent of irony that pervades every single thing twenty-somethings do. We are a generation that will only do something if we can defend it under the banner of irony. I will eat turnips if I can giggle at the irony of the White House stooping to Vine levels. I will vote if I can make fun of the people who think that Lil Jon swinging a giant joint around the voting booths will make me want to “turn out.” I’m not offended by sweet, slightly clumsy attempts to pander to my demographic. I find it endearing. And if it gets me to do what they want me to do, like eat healthy and exercise my civic duty as an American citizen, I see no problem with it. Turnip for the unwitting employment of irony.

Madeline Burg is a Weinberg senior. She can be reached at madelineburg2015@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com.

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