Gen X: Defining Moments in Pop Culture

Generation X, the forgotten middle child of American generations, is getting old.

Born between 1965 and 1980, we are now middle-aged and the subject of New York Times thinkpieces. We used to be at the forefront of cool but were kind of forgotten between the heyday of the Baby Boomers and a surge of Millennials. The movie Reality Bites turns 25 this year, and it remains a touchstone film for Gen X. Dealing with AIDS, coming out and selling out, Reality Bites was one of the first major films to address the struggles of young adults in the 1990s.

But we are so much more than "My Sharona." Let's take a look at some other highlights from Gen X culture.

Reality Bites fans loved the alternative-lite soundtrack anchored by Lisa Loeb's smash hit "Stay (I Missed You)." But for some, New Jack Swing was king. Fusing R&B with hip-hop, producers like Teddy Riley, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis ruled the charts. Check out All the number ones by New Edition, which includes a mix of the boy band's hits along with tracks by members Bell Biv Devoe, Bobby Brown and Johnny Gill. You could also rock out to Master of Puppets or Daydream Nation, both of which inspired kids to go start their own bands.


What were Gen Xers reading? Elizabeth Wurtzel's bestseller Prozac Nation explored her own life as a depressive and questioned why so many of her generation needed antidepressants anyway. For better or worse, we learned about dating and marriage from The Rules. And, of course, there was Generation X, Douglas Coupland's 1991 novel that basically named the generation with its sarcastic and often pessimistic take on American culture.


Gen Xers grew up watching the Brat Pack. The films of John Hughes captured the awkward yearnings of suburban youth. Molly Ringwald became a teen icon thanks to The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink. These movies weren't exactly diverse, however, and Gen X was lucky to have also witnessed a black filmmaking renaissance. Mainstream movies finally started to reflect a variety of black lives, from the streets of Crenshaw in Boyz 'n the Hood to the poetic romance of Love Jones.



The so-called slackers of Gen X reinvigorated youth media (How Sassy Changed My Lifeopens a new window), changed the music industry forever (Sonic Boomopens a new window), and reinvented the way we connect to the world of information (In the Plexopens a new window). Now old enough to be in positions of leadership, Gen X could even change the world (X Saves the Worldopens a new window).

What pop culture moment defines Gen X for you? What tapes were playing on your Walkman? Let us know in the comments!

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