Letter to the Editor: I’m with Comic Sans

Jerry Lee is my colleague, my confidant and a Comic Sans hater. On Jan. 5, I scrolled through my Facebook feed and came across his column arguing that “there is little use for Comic Sans.” And though I agree with Lee that there is a level of unprofessionalism associated with what is arguably the most identifiable font of our generation, claiming the font is “useless” negates the importance of Comic Sans as a font representative of the Millennial era.

The Pew Research Center defines “Millennials” as those between the ages of 18 to 34 in 2015, which comprises the majority of Northwestern undergraduate students. Notably, Comic Sans was born in 1994 — the same year as many of us — and has also come of age along with Millennials. Yet, for whatever reason, people are not very font of Comic Sans. Millennials are often described as being pragmatic, attention-seeking and forever young, yet we constantly hate on the font that manifests all of those qualities.

Beyond the fact that many of us grew up in classrooms plastered with the font, its rise in popularity is ultimately connected to and intrinsic in some of the most salient aspects of the Millennial generation. Throughout our lifetimes, we have seen the fall of flip phones, the rise of a “post racial society” (note the quotes) and the shock of a nation that elected a Cheeto who admitted to sexually harassing women and represents how far we are from this so-called society. To address the politics of these constantly shifting realities, Millennials have often resorted to cultures of humor and self-deprecation to cope. In fact, we have birthed and become increasingly attached to an entirely new digital medium to house our self-deprecating nature: the meme.

Urban Dictionary defines a meme as being “an idea, belief or belief system, or pattern of behavior that spreads throughout a culture either vertically by cultural inheritance or horizontally by cultural acquisition.” The widespread phenomenon of memes today is the result of horizontal connection — passed on not from generation to generation, but among people inhabiting the same spaces — and with that came the repackaging of Comic Sans as a cultural marker. Memes often use Comic Sans for text that expresses a very specific brand of humor, one that is simultaneously ridiculous yet relatable, funny yet realistic, self-deprecating yet empowering. Our generation has come to immediately relate to these qualities of memes, and Comic Sans functions in practically the same way, manifesting a form of humor intrinsic to millennials.

2017 has been a turbulent year for us, and with this has come an increase in meme culture. Similarly, we need Comic Sans now more than ever. It is a meme in and of itself that Donald Trump, a reality star who defended the size of his anatomy, was elected to the highest office of the United States government, an event that “shook” up much of the Millennial generation. In typical Millennial fashion, we often chose not to accept Trump and his dangerous nationalism, rather choosing to “meme-ify” all he represents. We took him and wrapped ourselves up in a bubble, filled with grumpy cats and Comic Sans letters, fully aware of the stereotypes we are living out but continuing to do so anyway.

And this happens all the time. We are constantly using memes to navigate our world, and Comic Sans is one of them. The self-deprecation of Millennials is increasingly reflected on our campus, now with a Facebook group with over 1,000 members, and though I don’t know what will come of this meme culture moving forward, I know that some constants remain. Although we’re going through our growing pains right now, Comic Sans is going through it with us.

Justine Kim
SESP Sophomore