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OMG! Colorado Nonprofit Thinks 20-Somethings are Dumb, Drunk, Vapid, and Irretrievably Horny

Well, okay, maybe you are dumb, drunk, vapid, and horny (oh, and also, lazy and narcissistic—see Time). You’re young, after all.


In case you’ve not seen them, some Colorado ads to encourage young people to sign up for health insurance have caused a social media stir. One depicts a dude doing a keg stand—guzzling beer right out of the line as his friends hold him up. Another one shows party girls who urge that your money should go for “shots,” not “flu shots,” and a third features a young woman in the arms of a dude, wielding her birth control, declaring, “OMG! He’s hot!” and hoping that he’s “as easy to get” in bed as her birth control pills were. A note reminds us, however, that the pill does not protect against STDs. Oy.

When I first saw these ads I thought they were from The Onion. This is a meta-theme of 21st-century politics, its Onionification. Everything that you’re absolutely, positively sure is a farce turns out to be real. I was waiting to see an Onion headline such as, “In Desperate Move, Obama Tries to Get Real with Young People.”

Then, I thought they were a Fox TV or Rush Limbaugh parody of the lascivious world of fornication and moral corrosion that anything Obama does seems to conjure in their misogynistic, sexually-preoccupied imaginations.

But the ads were produced by a pro-Obamacare nonprofit called ProgressNow Colorado (judging from my Inbox, millennials like to urge us to do things RIGHT NOW). They look like they came out of a second-rate ad agency staffed by the cast of Girls.  Colorado Now director Amy Runyon-Harms says that taxpayer dollars didn’t pay for these ads, at all.

The organization also defends the ads in the new fashion by saying it’s good that people’s irritation about them is raising awareness. Today, it’s not about saying an elegant, witty, beautiful, or thoughtful thing that deserves attention. It’s about saying any old thing, however tacky or vulgar, that demands it; nay, extorts it.

Whatever. The mild sadness of these witless ads is one of two things: Either it really is true that they will appeal to 20-somethings; or, a political organization that speaks to millennials earnestly thinks that this is what appeals to 20-somethings—the promise of more hook ups, more shots, and more binge drinking right out of the keg’s beer line.

Thinking back to my 20s, in addition to doing some variation of all the activities shown in these ads, I also distinctly recall giving a shit.

The art and devotion of giving a shit—to politics in the largest sense, to my work, to ideas, relationships, and commitments—was a major part of life in my 20s and there were lots of people who felt the very same way. Among many other acts of giving a shit, we were heavily involved in a unionization campaign in graduate school.

Probably, 20-somethings give a shit, too. But they’re rarely asked to, because they get pandered to culturally instead, as if they’re dumb, drunk animals. What a sad expediency these ads reveal.

Obviously, middle-aged people like myself can’t say anything about young people, because the older person immediately becomes a fogey, and not without cause. But being a fogey isn’t such a bad thing. It used to be called, being the grown-up in the room. You have to wonder, where are the grown-ups in our world? And don’t you miss them once in a while?

I look at these ads by an Obamacare supporter, and recall the lofty Kennedy v. 2.0 rhetoric of Obama’s first campaign, and how he tried to tap into the political aspirations and instincts of young people, intimating that he’d solve the big problems. Indeed, young people were asked to care about politics, and they did. They knocked on doors and campaigned for Obama and largely got him elected. What a hollow sham his rhetoric turned out to be.

For all of his flaws, Kennedy knew something about the power (and illusion) of youthfulness. He tried to channel that energy into the Peace Corps, and the space shot. These ads take another approach. Don’t ask what you can do for country—just f**k more, get bombed, and drink shots. “Thanks Obamacare!,” How have the mighty fallen.

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