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Generation Wuss


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Posted (edited)

In this link, Bret Easton Ellis describes the Millenials generation:

I have been living with someone from the Millennial generation for the last four years (he’s now 27) and sometimes I’m charmed and sometimes I’m exasperated by how him and his friends—as well as the Millennials I’ve met and interacted with both in person and in social media—deal with the world, and I’ve tweeted about my amusement and frustration under the banner “Generation Wuss” for a few years now. My huge generalities touch on their over-sensitivity, their insistence that they are right despite the overwhelming proof that suggests they are not, their lack of placing things within context, the overreacting, the passive-aggressive positivity, and, of course, all of this exacerbated by the meds they’ve been fed since childhood by over-protective “helicopter” parents mapping their every move. These are late-end Baby Boomers and Generation X parents who were now rebelling against their own rebelliousness because of the love they felt that they never got from their selfish narcissistic Boomer parents and who end up smothering their kids, inducing a kind of inadequate preparation in how to deal with the hardships of life and the real way the world works: people won’t like you, that person may not love you back, kids are really cruel, work sucks, it’s hard to be good at something, life is made up of failure and disappointment, you’re not talented, people suffer, people grow old, people die. And Generation Wuss responds by collapsing into sentimentality and creating victim narratives rather than acknowledging the realities of the world and grappling with them and processing them and then moving on, better prepared to navigate an often hostile or indifferent world that doesn’t care if you exist.

The sixties generation was the last one to subscribe to the myth of the creative genius. In other words it was once thought to be beneath an artist to market him/herself. Flyers, invitations, cocktail schmaltz, a mentality for enterprise was thought to be alien to creativity. Baby networkers are hip to the value of the sleazy seduction come-on, likely developed at home with their parents, turn on older people by touching their hearts or stimulate their protective instincts or feelings of guilt.

The millennials have to trade off between developing their original style and figuring out how to get noticed. Does all this self-promotion detract from creativity? Does that mean self-promoters have turned the market into an agressive competition in which the artists who spend more time on their work never get noticed? Have the rules changed between generations, creating an intergeneration dynamic?

Moreover, the millennial generation demonstrates a callous approach to the established talent, fail to show interest in the previous generation's work. Idols are no longer worshipped - merely appropriated as targets. How is this the case? How can anyone of middling talent have the presumption to fool an established icon of the previoius generation? Does the answer lie in the unhealthy relationship between the millennial and the baby boomer parents, in which the parents did not provide an atmosphere of authority/discipline to be rebelled against? That is where all the productivity of the established generation came from, the need to defy and escape their parents' authority made the established artist strive for independence and self-reliance, as well as avoid from becoming a shameless suck up.

The intergenerational dynamic must have been exceedingly intimate, ripe for feelings of entitlement on the part of the millennials. Since the baby boomer parents fraternized their children, the current generation are like pampered whores who are conviced that the older generation owes them a living.Lacking the tangible results of rebellion, the millennial is incapable of blaming anything on their overly permissive parents, and thus, his hatred is a buried, passive aggressive anger.

What will happen when the millennial generation becomes the older generation? Will the subsequent one even bother to listen or read them, since their output will consist of publicity and little else?

Edited by The Heretic
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Posted

Doesn't it depend on how representative culture is (or becomes) of the millennials? We can probably assume that there will be exceptions and maybe literature, say, will be where these these people react to the narcissism they grew up around. I wonder if the ease with which people can self-publicise is both a route to getting at these exceptions but also how they will end up overwhelmed by the noise.

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Is it not normal from somebody from a particular generation to lament the flaws in the next generation, while not considering the generation before the lamenter often made the same laments? There are cases of people ranting about "kids today," and then repeating what their own parents said about their generation.

Anyway, here's a counter-point to Ellis by Theo Merz.

The novelist and screenwriter is just the latest in a long line of men who've reached middle age and decided the generation born after them lacks sufficient grit, from Norman “my father got on his bike and looked for work” Tebbit to Socrates’ complaint that “our youth now love luxury” (and probably stretching back to early man mocking the droopy spears of his young in cave paintings).

Crudely labelling an entire generation one thing or another is a futile exercise and it’s strange that Easton Ellis thinks it’s something worth getting involved in. The one major difference between Easton Ellis’s generation and my own is that we grew up alongside the internet and social networking – but rather than make us wussier, as the author suggests, I would say it helps us handle criticism.

Older generations may also declare young people are wusses due to an ignorance of mental health. For example, a 20-odd year old with debilitating depression in the 1950s was much more likely to be told to grow a pair, stop being a cry-baby, just get on with life, etc. than they would be today.

All the being said, generations, like individuals, are complex, and generalisations about any one will lead to pitfalls and exceptions. I could wonder if older generations are even capable of understanding depression, anxiety, etc. even if they (unknowingly) have suffered from them, but then there are very likely plenty of young people today who have a woeful and dangerous ignorance of mental health. We could say kids today are lazy and undisciplined, but our own teachers probably said the same about us, and as somebody who works with kids I'd say such a statement simply isn't true.

When the millennials become the older generation, they'll probably tell subsequent ones how they used to run 15 miles uphill in the snow in scorching heat every day just to get to school - a time-honoured tradition passed down from generation to generation.

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Posted (edited)

 

Hugo Holbling,

Yours question of accurate representation founders on just how rigorous are the generation labels: are they result of a sociology research? or something more cynical and manipulative, like marketing?

The central thesis of BEE's "Generation Wuss" is this:

My generation was raised by Baby Boomers in a kind of complete fantasy world at the height of the Empire: Boomers were the most privileged and the best educated children of The Great Generation, enjoying the economic boom of post-World War II American society. My generation realized that like most fantasies it was a somewhat dissatisfying lie and so we rebelled with irony and negativity and attitude or conveniently just checked-out because we had the luxury to do so. Our reality compared to Millennial reality wasn’t one of economic hardship. We had the luxury to be depressed and ironic and cool.

IOW, the thesis restates how the Reagan revolution engaged in revisionist history of the sixties. There were plenty of serious people committed to radical social change in the sixties and the seventies as opposed to luxurious or ironic poses. Sadly, they were either co-opted, or violently smashed.

That problematizes the "Generation X" mode of social analysis. In the seventies, serious sociology, the sort of fine-tuned studies of what people were actually doing in society, was severely defunded. There was no longer anything at the scale that allows policy decisions to be based on, leaving a void for marketeers to occupy and manipulate public consciousness with easy packaged labels like "Generation X."

This recapitulates the difference between marketing and sociology. A category is valid in marketing if and only if you can demonstrate that your analysis leads to sales in that segment - in which marketing is essentially the inducing of your category to respond in a way that your analysis predicts will happen. Somewhat like acquiring a doctorate in research where you train people to behave in accordance to your hypothesis. Therefore we think in marketing terms because advertisting has succeeded in eliminating everything else from the marketplace of ideas.

Certainly, there's room for serious critiques of sociology. But there's no room for serious critiques of artifice like "Generation Foo," which came from a pop culture book that defended the Mod movement in British youth culture, one that was based on buying certain fashionable items.

Douglas Copeland in the 90s recycled the Gen Foo concept and it spread like wildfire, helping sell products to a certain market segment. The concept really does not explain anything but we in the public no longer have the intellectual tools to assess it. It is obvious that the buzzfeed-ization of pop culture, the reduction to inflated catchphrases, artificial concepts derived by advertising exercises, etc., are based beyond the internet.

Bottom Line: Generation Wuss is BEE's attempt to don a Hannibal Lecter-styled flesh mask of a Reagan greednomics yuppy in order to draw attention from corporate media that'll sell his product.

Edited by The Heretic
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Posted (edited)

 

DaveT,

I am sympathetic to your point about the inveterate nature of generations putting down the next ones. However, the most interesting point about BEE's pseudo-old man rant is when he tries to puncture how all generations self-mythologize:

My generation was raised by Baby Boomers in a kind of complete fantasy world at the height of the Empire: Boomers were the most privileged and the best educated children of The Great Generation, enjoying the economic boom of post-World War II American society. My generation realized that like most fantasies it was a somewhat dissatisfying lie and so we rebelled with irony and negativity and attitude or conveniently just checked-out because we had the luxury to do so. Our reality compared to Millennial reality wasn’t one of economic hardship. We had the luxury to be depressed and ironic and cool.

But it doesn't quite get there, because BEE falls back on the same old Baby Boomer-ist bullshit in which he privileges his generation as something self-critical, utterly & cleverly ironic, totally capable of shattering illusions that Millennials cannot. He's trying to say that there are bad Baby Boomers, but he's not, and he hopes that the millennials need to be more cool and self-deprecating in the same way. :whatever:

 

Edited to add: What i think BEE misses in his Wuss essay is that the middle class opportunity has rotted out from under an entire generation of people who grew up in its abundance. Therefore, people are anxious as hell, and in tension with the phony, shit-grinning skin-mask culture of social media. Meaning people (millennials) are even less connected than ever. But it's all mixed within BEE's posturing about some superior existential endurance, like every grandfather claims.

Yes, he is right about the current generation's desperate need for total and constant approval, and the anxiety or rage they feel at the slightest hint that acclaim isn't universal.

Edited by The Heretic
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