Recommendations from the Editors
Malcolm Harris’ retort to all those dumb articles about millennials; a TV show to watch instead of Sex and the City; and two books that made us think about our grandmothers.
Kids These Days, Malcolm Harris
It’s telling that the birth of the millennial generation coincides with the release of IBM’s first personal computer. In 1982, we didn’t yet have GPS, MP3s, JPEG, the World Wide Web or wi-fi, Google, Amazon or Facebook. So, when you hear people complain about millennials not conforming with traditional notions of work, family, worldviews or financial planning, you really have to ask yourself if these people have any idea how radically these new technologies have altered the world.
The discrepancy between what average people of our parent’s generation expect of us millennials and how the world treats us is what Malcolm Harris sets out to correct in his recent book Kids These Days — Human Capital and the Making of Millennials. Reading his detailed, data-driven analysis and historical account makes it clear why there’s such a disconnect: millennials are one big contradiction. In many respects, we’re the most educated, well-resourced, invested-in, skilled, hard-working, disciplined generation there ever was. Yet, we’re also the most indebted, under-employed, anxious, depressed, medicated, individually isolated of any living generation. It’s not really that surprising, and Harris puts the explanation right there in the subtitle: with millennials, capitalism perfected the process of turning humans into capital, pushing the increasing uncertainty of return on investment onto individuals and their families.
If you don’t already do so, reading Kids These Days will make you start seeing worker exploitation everywhere: in the education system and summer camps, in college sports and social media apps. You’ll realize how deeply fucked we are, and probably feel a lot more sympathetic towards everyone our age.
On 4/20 I didn’t have any weed around, or anything to do, so I popped an Adderall and watched a bunch of Kurosawa movies. (I also spent several hours manually inflating two macerated memory foam pillows –which had arrived vacuum-sealed in the mail while I was deep into Ikiru –with a hairdryer, a tortuous method of my own making which felt like riding an elevator to the sky and stopping on every floor.) You can tell where this is leading: A few hours later, I was in a terrible mood. I went out to meet a friend, but I wasn’t good to talk to, so we watched TV. Which I wasn’t good at either because I kept becoming anxious over the scripted scenarios while earnestly trying to tamp down the extremity of my unease. But then this wonderful friend of mine introduced me to Pulling, a show that dragged me into an entirely other emotional register, one that allowed me to laugh and drink alcohol.
Pulling is a sitcom written by *Motherland *co-creator Sharon Horgan and Dennis Kelly that ran on BBC Three for two seasons and a special between 2006 and 2009. It stars Horgan (Donna), Tanya Franks (Karen), and Rebekah Staton (Louise), as a group of self-centered single roommates living in south-east London, and takes as its point of departure Donna’s decision to end her engagement to a man who makes breakfast for her, named Carl. Karen is an alcoholic elementary school teacher who behaves without mercy toward the loser men that inevitably become obsessed with her. Louise works in a cafe and is gleefully open to life, is into stuff like shoplifting and dating repentant flashers for their personalities. Donna’s coltish narcissism gets her into plentiful scrapes, like inadvertently quoting Hitler in the conference room of a company that knows better (so, probably not Facebook), and, of course, the perennial one of having friends who are too cool for her.
Sex and the City would be an obvious influence or corollary since Pulling premiered two years after its conclusion and its three protagonists are single white women on the edge of 30 (plus, arguably, Carl, sweet Carl, who lives the life Mr. Big deserves). But here there’s no omniscience, no “I couldn’t help but wonder.” The leads of Pulling experience no qualms about articulating depraved and corrosive truths, nor do they strive to structure their lives as theses, dream boards, or long-distance word play. In this way, the show’s a sort of proto Girls, without self-consciously fashioning itself as groundbreaking, or the emissary of a voice of a generation, although it gestures immodestly at both. Available wherever you can get your hands on it, which is none of the major commercial streaming platforms, at the moment (you can buy it on iTunes?).