A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Touches on serious issues, including depression, self-harm, suicide, drug abuse, divorce, and peer pressure. Perseverance is a major theme, as is gratitude; the interviewer asks each subject "What are you most grateful for?" and their answers often reflect on familial love.
Positive Role Models
A mixed bag. The subjects talk about turning to alcohol, drugs, and other harmful influences to counter the effects of depression, and in some cases it brings them close to the breaking point. But later visits usually show them in a better place in adulthood, getting their lives on track with school, careers, and families. Ultimately, the series celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the determination these subjects have shown when faced with obstacles.
Series producer/interviewer Rick Stevenson is a White man. His 22 interview subjects are mostly boys (about two-thirds) and mostly White. Subjects of color include Black, Bangladeshi, Vietnamese, and Mexican Americans -- but half of them are lumped into an episode titled "Immigrants," which perpetuates the cliché about Asians and Latinos being "foreign." A few subjects have disabilities, and they're positively portrayed, defined by more than their leukemia or being an amputee. Two White male subjects discuss being gay, and one Black subject is a transfemme teen.
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Violence & Scariness
The subjects talk about violent acts such as self-harm, molestation, suicide, bullying, child abuse, and parental abandonment. No on-screen violence, but cutting scars on arms are occasionally shown.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Lots of discussion about teen sexuality and dating, but the details are glossed over. A few mentions of unplanned pregnancy as a byproduct of casual or unprotected sex. Nonconsensual sex is also discussed -- details in Violence & Scariness.
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Occasional use of "s--t" and "hell," plus name-calling such as "f-g," "loser," and "slut."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Nothing is shown, but the subjects talk about drug and alcohol use, including cocaine and heroin, that ranges from casual to addictive. Some of it comes with consequences (a subject mentions going to jail for DUIs and possession charges, for instance), other times not. Getting high to temporarily forget your troubles is a strong impulse, but these subjects confirm that it's not a solution.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Millennials: Growing Up in the 21st Century is a docuseries that compiles interviews with 22 subjects through their tween, teen, and young adult years to follow the ups and downs of their coming-of-age process. Serious topics such as sexuality, addiction, family troubles, and mental illness play roles in many of the interviewees' stories, with emotional responses. Expect to hear teens talk about contemplating death via suicide, struggling to come to terms with their sexuality, and suffering from low self-esteem and social seclusion. But there are also happier themes of success, health, and self-acceptance in later years. The interviewees show perseverance and gratitude on their personal journeys. This series would be most effective when watched by teens and their parents so that they can discuss the issues that arise.
Is It Any Good?
This docuseries isn't always easy to watch, but it's an eye-opening resource for parents and possibly teens who themselves are coming of age. The subjects' experiences run the gamut from emotionally wrenching to victorious and self-affirming, and Millennials: Growing Up in the 21st Century sheds light on issues that many viewers (especially adults) may not have any personal knowledge of. The interviewees are forthcoming with details of addiction, sexual violence, and mental illness, among other experiences, and while the stories are difficult to hear, the eventual healing and maturing process can be inspiring.
Since it's only a six-part series, the 22 subjects' stories -- presumably told through extensive interviews -- are condensed to mere minutes apiece, so there's a lot that's left unsaid. Even so, these slices of life are excellent ways to start conversations with your own teens about what's going on in their lives and what struggles they might be having, not to mention a great reminder that today's reality doesn't have to be tomorrow's.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.