in Analysis and Commentary

“Young people” are being blamed for the “When We Rise” ratings dip. I doubt it’s true, but here are some responses to that ridiculous unproven claim anyway.

Have you seen “When We Rise,” the new ABC mini-series documenting the history of LGBT civil rights in the U.S.?

You haven’t? Neither have I. And we’re not alone, apparently.

Taking a glance at LGBT media, op-eds and social media, you’d think the sky was falling this week, as ratings fell for the televised series each night it aired.

The Advocate alone wrote not one, but two articles on the ratings dip, accompanied by an op-ed, “When We Fall in Ratings, We Fail Our Movement.”

The condescending, finger-wagging disapproval has been intense, and a lot of it, especially on social media, has been directed at “young people” who “don’t know their history” and “need to be watching so they can learn a thing or two” (you get the drift).

I’m not convinced everything can be blamed on “young people.” Yes, I know the fad: hating on millennials is the cool thing to do these days, and it’s the natural, though certainly not always accurate, go-to for old folks looking to cast blame. But, for argument’s sake, let’s just go with their unproven premise.

I’m certainly not the youngest of the “young” — a millennial, for sure, but among its older cohort. Still, I think I have a firm idea why it is so many “young people” might not be tuning into “When We Rise,” if indeed this “problem” (like, apparently, all world problems) can be blamed on us.

If you’re on social media, opining about young people and how they don’t care about history and aren’t watching, here are some reasons why that might just be the case:

We don’t watch live TV

For several reasons. We work, often in low-paying jobs in retail or the service sector with odd and late hours. Or, we go to school, again, with odd and late hours for either class or homework. Both make it difficult to sit down and watch a live airing of almost anything in primetime hours.

We don’t watch cable TV

It’s expensive. Even some of the cheapest cable and internet packages can run upwards of $80 or more each month. For a low-income millennial worker or student, that can be as much as 10 percent or more of a month’s wages that could buy a week or two of groceries, help pay for rent or tuition or student loans. In case you weren’t aware, cable TV is a luxury.

I can hear the millennial critics now: “You don’t have to have cable, you can watch it over the air!” Yeah, well, assuming we’re at home when it is being broadcast, we might not even have a TV! Besides the extreme cost of cable, we’re cord cutters. We watch everything online.

Cable companies ruin everything

For those of us who happen to have a TV and something like Apple TV (as I do), TV providers and cable companies sure don’t make life easy. I would have already begun watching “When We Rise,” but the very same cable companies we’ve tried to cut out of our lives? Well, they force themselves right back in, with locked-down content on streaming devices. You want us to watch? Make it easy and cheap for us to watch. Or just stop complaining.

Also, there are more important things to care about

It was only after about the bazillionth time I’d seen criticism of “young people” who are “not watching” this miniseries that I finally had to sit down and craft out this rant.

Before that, I really just didn’t care.

All that energy and hand-wringing over a TV show? Come on, y’all. This is the very definition of #firstworldproblem.

There are more important things I’m concerned about, be it in my daily life or in our movement as a whole. And, no, skipping out on a TV show will not “fail our movement.” What can fail our movement? Misplaced priorities — like, oh say, freaking out over TV ratings while transgender people and other members of our larger LGBTQ community are going homeless, without food or clothing and turning to sex work for survival, to name just one issue.

Get a grip on reality, y’all.

(P.S. — I’ll watch “When We Rise.” On my own time, when I have time. Stop the finger-pointing, and maybe go spend that spare time volunteering with a non-profit or something.)

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