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Was 2022 the Gen X-iest Year Ever?

We finally proved that we mattered, but did anybody notice?

Collage of pop culture icons
Geoff Kim

Sandwiched between the boomers and the millennials, Gen Xers are accustomed to being the forgotten middle child. Like our old after-school companion Jan Brady, our generation got used to being overshadowed by the popular one ahead of us and the cute one behind. 

No more: 2022 was the Gen X-iest year in all of history, a year our peers proved their significance, our cultural touchstones captured the zeitgeist, our sports icons put their bodies on the line, and … Well, we still mostly got ignored. 

But a victory is a victory, and we will take this one. 

A look at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2022 will tell you that Generation X has completely taken over the culture. Icons of the ’80s like Eurythmics, Pat Benatar and Lionel Richie got the nod, and newly minted quinquagenarian Eminem got in on his first ballot.

But perhaps the most shocking display of our newfound and fearsome power is the induction of Duran Duran. Duran Duran! The band a previous generation dismissed for emphasizing the aesthetics over the music will now permanently be celebrated for its contribution to rock ’n’ roll, which is especially delicious when you consider that its contribution to rock ’n’ roll mostly was emphasizing the aesthetics over the music. 

Popular music is taking so strong a cue from the music of our generation. My Spotify Discover Weekly playlist sounds like a mixtape I would’ve made in college. On her newest album, Renaissance, Beyoncé combines the mainstream R & B of the ’90s with the decade’s hardest house beats, and has at least three moments that sound like a (hypothetical) episode of Family Matters where the kids all go to a gay club. 

On the Billboard 2022 pop charts, nearly 37 years after it was the choice of discerning kids at high-school musical cast parties, Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” got a needle drop on Stranger Things, and became the song of the summer, which is the strangest thing. 

At the movies, Gen X nostalgia was the only thing putting butts in seats. We’re out of superhero properties, and people don’t want to leave the house for romantic comedies anymore, but Tom Cruise in a flight jacket? Two, please. Top Gun: Maverick gave us just enough of what we needed from a Top Gun sequel: a vague plot, a Val Kilmer grace note, sweat. It made me feel young again for two hours.

I had to see Everything Everywhere All At Once twice (regular-style, seat bolted to the floor), partially because its plot unfolded through infinite dimensions, but largely because I spent most of the first time saying, “That’s Short Round from Temple of Doom!” 

And in Jackass Forever, we got to watch Johnny Knoxville try to get himself sent to the emergency room one more time: After getting flipped by a bull, Knoxville regained consciousness with a look in his eyes that clearly said, “I am too old for this.” And now he’s in Hulu’s Reboot, where he can work on a nice safe set, like a sensible man in his 50s. 

Tom Brady may not have had the best year of his life, but he did come back from retirement in his mid-40s and perform respectably, which gives me hope for a future in which I am not at risk of injury from a seat at a multiplex. Tony Hawk broke his femur in March, in an injury so severe he questioned whether he’d ever again walk unaided, and by October he was doing kickflips again. 

I don’t have a third thing, because I don’t really follow sports, but I did get to see Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg re-create the sound of The Chronic in the halftime show, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, just blocks from where the defining sound of the early ’90s was created. That’s progress. That’s us.

It was not all good news for Generation X. We lost some of our icons. We realized how much we’d taken Coolio for granted. We think Judy Tenuta would appreciate the dissonance of a very serious Judy Tenuta obituary. Taylor Hawkins left us, but his friend Dave Grohl gave us two tribute concerts that were each six hours long and — talk about innovation in the area of tribute concerts — not boring for a single second. 

We continue to be a forgotten generation. But like ol’ Jan Brady — lifted to icon status by our generation on Saturday Night Live and in those Brady Bunch movies — maybe we just needed to be patient and let our significance be revealed over time. 

That time has arrived. 2022 was our year. 

Nobody will notice. But we will know.