Cartoon: These Kids Today Have Always Sucked


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This cartoon is another collaboration with Becky Hawkins, doing the variety of costumes and environments that she excels at. Here’s a screenshot of what’s in Becky’s folder for this cartoon, just to show you all the research images she used.

Older generations believing that the new generation is uniquely lazy or squalid or worthless seems to be a human universal. When I thought of this cartoon and started doing the research, I was worried about if I’d find enough quotes; instead I found more quotes than I could use.  Which is definitely where you want to be with a strip like this one. So I mainly chose the quotes for having some element that amused me – complaining about nick-names, or using the word “fribbles.”

It took me a long time to decide if this cartoon should start with the present and move backwards, ending with the caveman, or if it should move forwards and end with the present day. Either way could have been a good cartoon. But then I remembered that Becky and I had done a caveman punchline fairly recently, in “Feminism Used To Be Good,” so it would be better to avoid repeating that here.


I had to radically shorten most of the quotes to fit into this format. Aristotle’s quote, for example, is actually “Young people are high-minded because they have not yet been humbled by life, nor have they experienced the force of circumstances. They think they know everything and are always quite sure about it.”

The caveman is named “Thag” as a reference to the great “Thagomizer” Far Side cartoon.

Who knew nick-names were once considered offensive?

“Fribbles” is definitely my favorite new-to-me insult word of 2021, so thank you, anonymous letter-writer to Town and Country Magazine in 1771.


I hope Dr. Jean Twenge won’t be too cheesed off if she ever sees this cartoon. The quote is my attempt to thumbnail an amazing 4399-word rant about millennials Dr Twenge had published in Time Magazine, which includes every imaginable cliché in the “these young people today” genre. (To her credit, Dr. Twenge was self-aware enough to begin the article by saying “I am about to do what old people have done throughout history: call those younger than me lazy, entitled, selfish and shallow.”)


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has nine panels, arranged in a three-by-three grid. The central panel (panel 5) has no image other than large, friendly, 3-D styled lettering saying “THESE KIDS TODAY HAVE ALWAYS SUCKED.”

Other than panel five, each panel features a single figure speaking, with a caption at the bottom of the panel identifying who they are.

PANEL 1

A cartoon caveman sits alone in a cave by a campfire, angrily ranting.

CAVEMAN: Hrrr hrrr. Urg! Grumble grrr huuuh grunt!

CAPTION: Thag, 20,000 BC

PANEL 2

A bearded man in ancient Greek dress holds a scroll and rolls his eyes as he speaks to the readers with an irritated expression.

ARISTOTLE: Young people think they know everything! And they’re soooo sure about it!

CAPTION: Aristotle, 4th Century BC

PANEL 3

A monk, wearing robes in the style of the Muromachi period of Japanese history, sits in front of a low table, where he’s writing on a scroll. He has paused in his writing to look at the reader.

YOSHIDA KENKO: Modern “fashions” are more and more debased! And their language nowadays is so coarse!

CAPTION: Yoshida Kenko, 1330

PANEL 4

A sour-looking man wearing a long wig of white curls looks directly at the reader, raising a forefinger in an admonishing way.

ROBERT RUSSELL: The towns and streets today are filled with lewd wicked children! They curse and swear and call one another nick-names!

CAPTION: Sir Robert Russell, 1695

PANEL 5

This panel has nothing in it but the title lettering. In large, friendly, 3d styled lettering, it says THESE KIDS TODAY HAVE ALWAYS SUCKED.

PANEL 6

A man in an upper-class 1700s suit sits at a writing-desk, leaning back with his feet on the desk. In one hand he’s holding a quill pen, in the other a bottle of some alcoholic liquid. It’s dark, and a candle on the desk is providing light.

MAN: Whither has the manly vigour of our forefathers flown? Youth today are effeminate, self-admiring, emaciated fribbles!

CAPTION: Town and Country Magazine, 1771

PANEL 7

A man with thick gray eyebrows stands in a hilly field; we can see a village in the distance behind him, and sheep in the field. One of the sheep is standing next to him, placidly eating a plant. The man is wearing a brown Irish flat cap and carrying a walking stick, which he is shaking at the reader.

FALKIRK HERALD: Young people are so pampered nowadays that they have forgotten there was such a thing as walking!

CAPTION: Falkirk Herald, 1951

PANEL 8

A professionally-dressed woman, with long wavy hair and a blue suit, is sitting behind a table with books displayed on it (one of the books is entitled “Kids 2day” and has a frowny face on the cover; her other book’s cover has a picture an iphone with devil horns and a smiley face). A TV camera is pointed at her, and a microphone is pointed at her. She smiles as she speaks to the camera.

JEAN TWENGE: Millennials got participation trophies growing up! So now they’re fame-obsessed, narcissistic, stunted and lazy.

CAPTION: Dr. Jean Twenge, 2013.

PANEL 9

A smartly-dressed woman with spiky white hair sits at the counter of a coffee shop, thumb-typing on her smartphone. She’s got big teardrop earrings and a necklace with a large stone with a spiral pattern. A word balloon points at her smartphone, showing us what she’s typing.

AUNT: And don’t even get me started on Gen Z!

CAPTION: Probably your aunt or something, just last week.


This cartoon on Patreon.

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20 Responses to Cartoon: These Kids Today Have Always Sucked

  1. 1
    Jacqueline Onassis Squid says:

    It is truly surprising how often I find myself telling people, “Kids are exactly the same as we were only with different technologies and fads.”

  2. 2
    delagar says:

    I honestly think kids today are doing this human thing better than we did when I was young. (Source: I’ve been teaching freshmen in one role or another since 1986.) They’re more literate, they have better manners, and while they can certainly be mean and bigoted, they call each other out for it in a way that was not expected when I was young.

    Obligatory statement that I realize some pretty nasty kids do exist, and that this is a broad generalization.

  3. 3
    Eytan Zweig says:

    Thirty years ago, as a teen, I was expected to think that grown ups don’t understand me, and are phoney hypocrites. I probably did think that, I don’t really remember.

    Now that I’m in my forties, I am told that young people are lazy and untrustworthy, and that old people are greedy and selfish.

    In thirty years, I will probably find the kids those days to be spoiled and stupid.

    It’s the way the world is. All other generations are always terrible, and it’s all their fault. Just my poor generation is stuck in the middle, like the innocent victims we are.

  4. 4
    bcb says:

    In Bye Bye Birdie, the adults say “Why can’t they be like we were, perfect in every way? What’s the matter with kids today?”

    But when the adults from Bye Bye Birdie were kids, their parents were saying “The world has gone mad today and good’s bad today and black’s white today and day’s night today when most guys today that women prize today are just silly gigalos.”

  5. 5
    Douglas Scheinberg says:

    I never considered the older generation phony hypocrites, but I was pretty sure there were lots of things about me they didn’t understand, like what I was doing on the Internet all day back in 1996, or why I believed that there is a lot more to video games than “little men running around on a screen”.

  6. 7
    nobody.really says:

    In Bye Bye Birdie, the adults say “Why can’t they be like we were, perfect in every way? What’s the matter with kids today?”

    But when the adults from Bye Bye Birdie were kids, their parents were saying “The world has gone mad today and good’s bad today and black’s white today and day’s night today when most guys today that women prize today are just silly gigalos.”

    Well, back in the 1930s, people would say that anything goes. The generation that celebrated wine, women, and song would come to despair of the generation that seemed hooked on sex, drugs, and rock & roll.

    Or recall the frustrated final words of the King of Siam as his son assumed the throne: “Oh, why do you ask so many questions? When you are a king … YOU are KING.” (…darned fribble….)

  7. 8
    Em says:

    Hi Amp, it’s Em, from the email. This is my first comment on this site, so I don’t know what to expect. But this comic made me want to comment because I identify with it. That’s right, I’m one of those “kids these days”. (beep beep, Gen Z alert, beep beep, person under 18 on a political website, beep beep)
    I’ve heard most of the things in this comic, (except being called a “fribble”) either directed at me, someone else, or our generation as a whole. There’s also the new, nastier terms: snowflake, libtard, cuck, etc., directed at me, by both my own and older generations, for a very heinous crime: the crime of being not only young, but a young LIBERAL. (spooky music intensifies) Even my own parents believe I was brainwashed by the internet, ignoring the possibility that the internet liberated me from the religious brainwashing of my parents. Then there’s the argument that we’re too young to care about or even understand politics. But they forgot when they were teenage hippies, and older people were using that same argument as they protested the Vietnam war. They’ve forgotten what it’s like to be discriminated against for being young, so they insult us collectively. When we retaliate with “Ok Boomer”, they claim they are discriminated against for being old. But as this comic makes clear, the concept of ageism against both the old and young is not young, it’s very old. And it’s not going away anytime soon unless we all stop pushing the rhetoric of us vs. them. Another great comic, Barry. Keep it up.

  8. 9
    Kate says:

    In my experience, the “kids these days” gripes are lead by conservative white, working and middle class Boomers, who came of age in a segregated world of affordable education and housing (among other things). With the Civil Rights movement, they couldn’t stomach extending those benefits to other races, so one by one, they pulled the ladders up after themselves. Then, they taunt their kids and grandkids for being losers, because we can’t fly up to their level.

  9. 10
    nobody.really says:

    Oh, so harsh!.

  10. 11
    Ampersand says:

    Hi, Em! It’s nice to “see” you again. I hope you had a good birthday.

    I’m glad you liked the strip! I think this is one of the better ones Becky and I have done.

  11. 12
    Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Here’s a trend I’ve seen among young people on youtube that I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere– being *very* careful to not say anyone is wrong. It’s all just a matter of opinion (this is usually about reviewing fiction).

    This isn’t awful, except that people who say that sort of thing will say it a number of times in a 15 minute video, so it takes up time. It’s a measure of how raw a lot of people’s nerves are.

  12. 13
    Görkem says:

    @Nancy: I agree – saying “this is just my opinion” is really just needless use of breath. It doesn’t really seem necesary, to me, to explicitly point out that one is not making a statement of absolute fact any more than it is necessary to point out that one is not a silicon-based lifeform.

  13. 14
    Jacqueline Onassis Squid says:

    @8

    But they forgot when they were teenage hippies, and older people were using that same argument as they protested the Vietnam war. They’ve forgotten what it’s like to be discriminated against for being young…

    Yes! YES, YES, YES!!!! I’m an oldster from the very earliest days of Gen X and I’ve been complaining about exactly this for sooooo long. When my friends started becoming parents it was amazing to me how they had no memory of what it was like to be a kid – how afraid they were that their kids would do all of these things that they did as kids.

    In their defense, I’m told I have an exceptionally detailed memory of childhood/teenagehood so it seems likely that they don’t remember because they can’t remember, not because they don’t want to remember. It doesn’t make it any less infuriating and it’s hard for me to understand how folks don’t remember what it was like for them to be young, but there it is.

    I wonder how you’ll remember your youth in another 15 years. Will you remember how you felt today (and 5 years ago and 10 years ago) or will you have forgotten? I suspect that since you’re aware of it now that you’ll remember – but it’s only a guess. I hope this blog and me and you are still around in 15 years so you can come back and tell us.

  14. 15
    Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Görkem, I’m not just saying they’re saying “this is just my opinion”, I think they’re being very careful so as to avoid bringing a shitstorm down on themselves by hurting someone’s feelings by saying something someone likes is actually bad.

    I’m actually more inclined towards accepting variation in tastes, but I think I’m seeing a lot of fear.

  15. 16
    Em says:

    I wonder how you’ll remember your youth in another 15 years. Will you remember how you felt today (and 5 years ago and 10 years ago) or will you have forgotten? I suspect that since you’re aware of it now that you’ll remember – but it’s only a guess.

    Thank you for responding to my comment! I have made a vow to myself that I will never become one of those people who forgets what it’s like, but I’m sure I’ll slip up once or twice. The newest generation, Gen A, is already turning out to be- interesting, to say the least, but I will never blame it on them. I feel like most gen alphas are either the youngest child of gen x parents or the first or second child of younger millennials, so Gen Alpha will be a mixed bag. I hope that I grow up to be more like you- remembering what it’s like to be a kid/teen.

  16. 17
    Eytan Zweig says:

    I don’t know that remembering what it’s like to be a teen/kid is what you’re really after, though. Because all you can ever remember is what it was like to be *you* as a kid, and your experience will always be different than that of many others.

    There wasn’t a time in my life when I was less tolerant than when I was a teen. I was one of the youngest kids in my school year and I was socially awkward and less mature than most of my peers, and I felt constantly afraid that they’re outgrowing me and leaving me behind. So I grew resentful and fearful of any perceived “adult” behaviours they showed. I hadn’t learned to accept people whose experience was different than mine, and I couldn’t empathise with them. I’m not saying that’s universal of teens. I’m saying that that was what it was like for *me* to be a teen.

    It’s only later, mostly when I was in university, that I learned empathy with people who are not like me. And kids today – well, some of them are like I was when I was a kid/teen, but most of them are not. Not because they’re younger, or because they’re generation Z and I’m generation X, but because most people are just different from each other. So remembering my experience in their age isn’t going to give me acceptance or empathy for them for free. That’s only ever going to come out of learning empathy for its own sake, and holding on to it, at any age.

  17. 18
    Jacqueline Onassis Squid says:

    @17:

    … I was socially awkward and less mature than most of my peers, and I felt constantly afraid that they’re outgrowing me and leaving me behind.

    This is the important thing. You remember your adolescent fears and the effect it had on you. That means that you can understand why a teen might act out of fear. That memory gives you some insight into why teens do what teens do. You may have been a worse person then but – and this is the thing – you remember why you were that way. If you couldn’t remember being that person or why you were that person, you’d be unable to relate to those aspects of adolescence.

    Or so I think. I seem to be really stuck in on this one.

  18. 19
    Eytan Zweig says:

    @18 – See, I don’t know that that’s right. I have a story to tell about my teens. Is it a memory, though? Or is it an explanation I came up with as an adult that my teen self would not be able to recognise at all? I have no idea. I can’t go back 30 years and actually talk to my teen self.

  19. 20
    Jacqueline Onassis Squid says:

    @19

    That’s a fair point even if it doesn’t change my mind.

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