For a while there, it looked like the relationship between Dwayne Johnson and millennials was about to crumble. But now it seems like it’s steady as a rock.
The British tabloid, The Daily Star, ran a front-page story claiming that the former professional-wrestler-turned-action-star had criticized millennials — the self-absorbed generational cohort born between 1981 and 1996 — as “snowflakes” who are easily offended when folks say things they disagree with.
However, Johnson — better known as “The Rock” — took to Instagram to put out a video insisting the quotes were fake.
“The interview never took place, never happened, never said any of those words, completely untrue, 100% fabricated,” he said.“You know it’s not a real DJ [Dwayne Johnson] interview if I’m insulting a group, a generation or anyone, because that’s not me.”
Frankly, I’m not sure who to believe, or what to make of his whole story. Johnson comes across as genuine in his unequivocal denial. But, in my 30 years of practicing journalism, I have run across many more cases of people who said something to a journalist that they later regretted and had to walk back by denying the conversation over happened than I have cases of media outlets making up stories entirely out of whole cloth.
But regardless of who is telling the truth, I can say this: If Johnson did not call out millennials as snowflakes who go around looking for excuses to be outraged, bothered, insulted, or shocked, then that’s too bad. Because that sentiment is absolutely true, and more people need to express it.
And it’s not just millennials who have thin skin and trigger fingers when it comes to being slighted — or even, when there is no slight, merely seizing the opportunity of someone mis-stepping or misspeaking to feel morally superior to another human being.
Members of the baby boomer era and Generation X also scratch that itch on occasion. We are, too often, a nation of victims who are easily annoyed and offended by their own shadow. People used to brag about being “liberal” or “progressive.” Today, they say they’re “woke.” But a lot of that sanctimony seems to be coming from the same place.
Still, millennials do seem to have perfected the art of “snowflakery.” They either care more than the rest of us about (fill in the blank) — immigrants, the environment, animals, women, the working-class, etc. — or they just have a much greater need than everyone else to look down on their neighbors.
After all, before now, whoever heard of U.S. colleges and universities creating “safe spaces” in which students can retreat to avoid the trauma of having to confront hurtful language or even simply hearing a different point of view on a controversial issue? That’s a millennial thing.
Look what happened a few years ago at Yale University. Around Halloween 2015, a lecturer was attacked by students when she dared to suggest that they should be able to decide for themselves what costumes to wear — even if those choices offended others.
Erika Christakis, an expert on early childhood education, ran afoul of the political correctness mob when she wrote an email suggesting that the university shouldn’t have the power to tell students what costumes they could wear.
What brought this on? The Intercultural Affairs Committee at Yale had warned students that it would be insensitive for them to wear costumes that symbolized “cultural appropriation” like feathered headdresses, turbans, war paint, blackface, etc.
Christakis wrote:“I wonder, and I am not trying to be provocative: Is there no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious, a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive?”
Apparently, there was no room for such a radical concept in New Haven. The mob insisted that Christakis was giving students license to wear costumes that others might consider racist, classist, sexist, and other adjectives ending in “-ist.” Under fire, she resigned. She was out before Christmas.
Certainly, Americans are made of tougher stock than this. It does not speak well of the easily offended, or of those who allow themselves to be bullied by them, that these sorts of things happen.
That’s a message worth spreading, and a challenge worth tackling. We can do better, and fix what’s broken, if parents, teachers, coaches, and priests take more seriously the role they play in shaping the character of young people.
We don’t have to beef on millennials. That’s not what this is, one generation slamming another. Who has time for that?
This is about keeping America strong, for years to come and long after we’re gone. It’s hard to do that when the nation’s character has gotten weak.
Maybe The Rock didn’t say that. Maybe he doesn’t even see that. But he should. And so should the rest of us.
Ruben Navarrette is a contributing editor to Angelus and a syndicated columnist with The Washington Post Writers Group and a columnist for the Daily Beast. He is a radio host, a frequent guest analyst on cable news, and member of the USA Today Board of Contributors and host of the podcast “Navarrette Nation.” Among his books are “A Darker Shade of Crimson: Odyssey of a Harvard Chicano.”
Start your day with Always Forward, our award-winning e-newsletter. Get this smart, handpicked selection of the day’s top news, analysis, and opinion, delivered to your inbox. Sign up absolutely free today!