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September 28, 2014 4:59 AM   Subscribe

Generation Wuss » by Bret Easton Ellis [Vanity Fair]
"In his books, he used to shoot at the materialistic excesses of his generation. But today, youth has become Bret Easton Ellis' favorite target. According to him, young people are just too sensitive, too narcissistic ,too stupid. But ultimately, as he explains in this exclusive text, he kind of feel sorry for them ( and they love it !)."
posted by Fizz (63 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is why if anyone has a snarky opinion of Generation Wuss then that person is labeled by them as a “douche”—case closed.

Your perception of this may be colored by the fact that you're Bret Easton Ellis.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:05 AM on September 28, 2014 [48 favorites]


"Now you young twerps want a new name for your generation? Probably not, you just want jobs, right? Well, the media might do us all such tremendous favours when they call you Generation X, right? Two clicks from the very end of the alphabet. I hereby declare you Generation A, as much as the beginning of a series of astonishing triumphs and failures as Adam and Eve were so long ago."
-- Kurt Vonnegut, Syracuse University commencement address, May 8 1994
posted by Fizz at 5:09 AM on September 28, 2014 [17 favorites]


So fifty year old bloke is living together with somebody barely half his age and generalises wildly based on this.

Eh.

A few more wingnut buzzwords and he's ready for his National Review column.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:14 AM on September 28, 2014 [21 favorites]


I feel like the only appropriate response to Bret Easton Ellis is "bitch, please"
posted by pxe2000 at 5:17 AM on September 28, 2014 [26 favorites]


My patience is limited at the moment but oh boy I bailed when he talked about Tyler Clemente. That kid's suicide goes into his Wussification Narrative? Fuck you, and don't ever talk smack about DFW or I will come and cut you.
posted by angrycat at 5:19 AM on September 28, 2014 [10 favorites]


"Hmm, before I get started on this rant I really should spend a paragraph or so promoting my shit."
posted by selfnoise at 5:20 AM on September 28, 2014 [9 favorites]


I'm sorry, I wasn't aware that the crippling self-hatred and mountains of cocaine that marked his generation were markers of courage.
posted by oinopaponton at 5:25 AM on September 28, 2014 [28 favorites]


Are the grammatical goofs of the introductory blurb supposed to be ironic? Like maybe some pusillanimous millennial editor of VFair tapped it out on their new iPhone 6? Also, Brett Easton Ellis is and always will be a hack.
posted by dis_integration at 5:32 AM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


Great author, horrible person. Also, did anyone notice the photo? He's turning into Philip Seymour Hoffman somehow.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 5:32 AM on September 28, 2014



My patience is limited at the moment but oh boy I bailed when he talked about Tyler Clemente. That kid's suicide goes into his Wussification Narrative?



Well, you know, his roommate never touched him or threatened him, only humiliated him and violated his privacy in a gross and shocking way. But that's not abusive enough for Ellis, apparently.
posted by louche mustachio at 5:33 AM on September 28, 2014 [9 favorites]


The worth of Bret Easton Ellis was one of the core wellsprings of doubt in my insanely vexing transcontinental romantic complication some years back, when my quarry would make an impassioned case for the guy and I'd waste more of my short, tragic life slogging through Ellis's interminable tracts, only to come back angry, because I can forgive a lot of assholish views, absurd notions, and blowhardery from an author if they'll just please, please not be so fucking boring.

Seriously, though, name-checking your barely legal boyfriend is Hollywood in the worst possible way, and goddamn if this isn't just as boring as Ellis ever is, while attempting to rouse ire with that big ego that lets the guy think he's throwing Molotov cocktails at a literary party.

SO FUCKING SMALL, THIS GUY.
posted by sonascope at 5:34 AM on September 28, 2014 [20 favorites]


(FYI, major NSFW on the scroll down. Once I finished with Ellis' lazy screed I was immediately confronted with things only safe for work in France.)
posted by dis_integration at 5:44 AM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


Old man yells at wee.
posted by leotrotsky at 5:51 AM on September 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


There's a brief part of this where it appears that Ellis is trying to do something vaguely interesting, puncturing the way 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 then on closer reading he's just sneaking in the same old Boomerist claptrap, positioning "his generation" as self-critical, cleverly ironic, and able to pierce illusions in ways that Millennials cannot.

"Yes, there are bad Boomers," he says. "But not me; I'm one of the good ones. If only You Kids could be cool and wise and self-deprecating in exactly the right proportions."
posted by kewb at 5:59 AM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


Thank God someone is calling bullshit on the youth of today. Just think: if someone had called bullshit on Bret Easton Ellis when he was young, we might not be subjected to his crap now.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:59 AM on September 28, 2014 [17 favorites]


a short synopsis of his next novel, american cyberbully

*reviews kayne west's yeezus*

*goes on to facebook and calls a high school student a weenie*

*reviews bjork's biophilia*

*starts a flame war by offering loaded d-20s on #gamersgate*

*reviews katy perry's prism*

*shits in a bag and sets it on flame at the doorstep of a hipster coffee house in portland*

*reviews magnetic fields' 69 love songs*

*mailbombs pitchfork, buzzfeed and metafilter with zillions of emails, all saying one thing -

GET OFF MY LAWN
GET OFF MY LAWN x2500*
posted by pyramid termite at 6:02 AM on September 28, 2014 [7 favorites]


I don’t feel like that old man complaining about the generation supplanting his.

No one does, Bret, no one does.
posted by escabeche at 6:02 AM on September 28, 2014 [40 favorites]


If Bret lives to be 100 he will still be the enfant terrible. It's all he knows how to do.
posted by localroger at 6:20 AM on September 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


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,

That's a function of being young. I was like that when I was young.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:42 AM on September 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


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.

This reads like a robot who is trying to learn human emotions only by reading NYTimes trend pieces
posted by Greg Nog at 6:45 AM on September 28, 2014 [26 favorites]


I'm also delighted that the author photo looks like he bought a Bret Easton Ellis costume for $14.99 at the local Halloween Express
posted by Greg Nog at 6:49 AM on September 28, 2014 [18 favorites]


Maybe write about yourself, Bret, and the people in your personal experience.
posted by newdaddy at 6:50 AM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


Well, he certainly knows how to put stuff out there that will generate chatter, which is lucky for him since he hasn't written anything important since his significant other was about four.
posted by nanojath at 6:58 AM on September 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


In absolutely unrelated news, I discovered yesterday that there's a Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library chapter here in Baltimore. Please let me know if they ever do a similar thing for BEE, and I'll eat the hat of your choice.
posted by newdaddy at 7:06 AM on September 28, 2014


So I guess I'm alone in agreeing with a lot of what he says in this...

And I thought American Psycho was rather great - but have never enjoyed David Foster Wallace at all.
posted by mary8nne at 7:21 AM on September 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


He tweets about his whiny boyfriend.

That's so pathetic.
posted by kanewai at 7:27 AM on September 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


Won't someone think of the real victims?
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:35 AM on September 28, 2014


I'm sympathetic with a lot of what he says, but I don't think it's specific to Generation Y but rather to the general disconnect between youth and age. It seems that emotionally people are aging more slowly (I know I did), and it manifests in really weird ways. I have no data to back this up. It's just a feeling. Sometimes my interactions with people younger than myself—and on the Internet specifically—seem like a giant exercise in tantrum throwing.
posted by echocollate at 8:23 AM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


There's something to what he's saying, but the angle he's missing, or only hits as a kind of grace note, is the way middle class opportunity truly has rotted out from under a whole generation of people who grew up in its bounty. That makes people anxious as fuck. And, needless to say, is sort of in tension with the perpetualized beaming skin-mask culture of social media etc., underneath which people are really less connected than ever yaddayadda... But then it's all mixed up with preening about superior existential toughness or whatever, in the same way as every cranky grandpa who had to walk 10 miles to school, and then on the back end a plain old retrograde type construction of mental health issues as loci of personal failure. Bah.

At any rate, he should definitely be wearing one of those white Tom Wolfe suits at this point...
posted by batfish at 8:36 AM on September 28, 2014 [5 favorites]


batfish: He talks about exactly that pretty extensively.
Our reality compared to Millennial reality wasn’t one of economic hardship. We had the luxury to be depressed and ironic and cool. Anxiety and neediness are the defining aspects of Generation Wuss and when you don’t have the cushion of rising through the world economically then what do you rely on? Well, your social media presence: maintaining it, keeping the brand in play, striving to be liked, to be liked, to be liked. And this creates its own kind of ceaseless anxiety.
I'm not a fan of his writing, or his persona, but he has a point about the current generations's desperate need for total, constant approval, and the rage/anxiety/despair they feel at the slightest hint that acclaim may not be universal.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:40 AM on September 28, 2014


Imagine if coke bloat was a human being
posted by The Whelk at 8:51 AM on September 28, 2014 [16 favorites]


Sometimes my interactions with people younger than myself—and on the Internet specifically—seem like a giant exercise in tantrum throwing.

This is anecdotal, but the biggest tantrum-throwers in my life are all 60+ years old. If anything, I am surprised by how quiet younger people seem.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:56 AM on September 28, 2014 [18 favorites]


There's something to what he's saying, but the angle he's missing, or only hits as a kind of grace note, is the way middle class opportunity truly has rotted out from under a whole generation of people who grew up in its bounty. That makes people anxious as fuck.

Most of these screeds against 'millenials' for being unwilling to take risks, narcissistic, et cetera are either making shit up or completely ignore class and economics.
posted by anemone of the state at 9:03 AM on September 28, 2014 [14 favorites]


This is anecdotal, but the biggest tantrum-throwers in my life are all 60+ years old. If anything, I am surprised by how quiet younger people seem.

Yea, no doubt. But in my view it seems to run full circle.
posted by echocollate at 9:18 AM on September 28, 2014


Our reality compared to Millennial reality wasn’t one of economic hardship

my reality is that i came of age in a factory town where half the factories had closed - so, bullshit

We had the luxury to be depressed and ironic and cool.

it's not a luxury, it's a coping mechanism
posted by pyramid termite at 9:18 AM on September 28, 2014 [5 favorites]


batfish: He talks about exactly that pretty extensively.

I guess I read that bit you're quoting as pretty handwave-y in the context of an attempt to reify a generational personality type the author is calling the "Wuss."
posted by batfish at 9:22 AM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


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.
wherein bret easton ellis repeats the central thesis in how the Reagan revolution rewrote the history of the sixties. The sixties and seventies were full of very serious people committed to radical social change, not luxury and ironic poses. What happened was that on one side they were co-opted and on the other they were crushed, often quite violently.

which gets into the whole "Generation X" mode of social analysis. One of the things that happened in the seventies was that serious sociology in the US was radically defunded. The sort of fine-tuned studies of what people are actually doing in our society don't really exist, outside of marketing, at a scale that would make it possible to make policy decisions based upon them... which has left a void into which marketeers have carved out a huge chunk of the public consciousness with marketing categories like "Generation X." Which, if you think about it, recapitulates exactly why marketing is different from sociology. A category is valid in marketing if you can show that your analysis leads to sales to that segment, that is, marketing is about inducing your category to respond in the way your analysis suggests would happen. This is like getting a PhD for conducting research where you trained people to act in accordance to your research hypothesis. So, everyone thinks in marketing terms because the people promoting them have succeeded in eliminating everything else from the "market place of ideas."

Now, there's plenty of room for serious critiques of sociology. But there's no room for serious critiques of schema like "Generation Foo." It originates in a pop-culture book defending the "mod" movement in British youth culture... a movement incidentally focused around purchasing certain fashion items. Amusingly, wikipedia describes the book as "sociology." The concept was then recycled by Douglas Copeland in the nineties and it spread like a virus and latched onto to sell product to a market segment. The concept basically doesn't explain anything, but the public doesn't even have the intellectual tools to talk about it. You can see that the buzzfeedization of popular discourse i.e. a reduction to hyped viral catchphrases, pseudo-concepts derived from marketing exercises, etc. has roots far outside the internet.

tldr: bret easton ellis wants to cut the flesh, to tear the flesh, to wear the flesh of a greed-head Reagan era yuppy, so that his flesh becomes the key to getting attention from big media daddies who will sell his product.
posted by ennui.bz at 9:29 AM on September 28, 2014 [30 favorites]


My takeaway is that if went to the right school at the right time with the right people it is literally impossible to fail no matter how many chances you are given.
posted by The Whelk at 10:08 AM on September 28, 2014 [19 favorites]


Douche has a point though.
posted by newton at 10:17 AM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


My takeaway is that if went to the right school at the right time with the right people it is literally impossible to fail no matter how many chances you are given.

Yes, that's what meritocracy is all about. Although there's not much of a narrow chunk of time as a persistent pattern crossing multiple generations of welfare for the useless privileged.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:42 AM on September 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm not a fan of his writing, or his persona, but he has a point about the current generations's desperate need for total, constant approval, and the rage/anxiety/despair they feel at the slightest hint that acclaim may not be universal.

Oh, does he? Please provide some examples or proof of some kind.
posted by IAmUnaware at 11:15 AM on September 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


People are afraid to age on freeways in Los Angeles.
posted by chavenet at 11:28 AM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


he had that totally compelling anecdote about the tug-of-war. that was what sold me.
posted by angrycat at 11:29 AM on September 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


also, what was the target audience for The Canyons? I mean, I've read about the movie plenty, and thought the central problem of the movie and the reason that it failed was that it was not good.
posted by angrycat at 11:31 AM on September 28, 2014


American youth (and much of the rest of the developed, and newly developing world) has been victimized by a generation of powerful, interconnected organizations/people that have made themselves more wealthy at the cost of sustainable culture; this includes the victim-parents of that victim-youth. This has been happening for a while - see ennui.bz's post

What I mean by "sustainable culture" is culture that enables education; positive contribution; a healthy environment; peace; etc.

What's left for we proles is a kind of an ever-present generalized snarking at each other and raging at power, due to the increasing realization at the loss of our collective power, relative to powers that be.

My sense is that the era of inter-generational snark is nearing a close, and that we will begin to take a higher road. It's hard to say when this will happen, but we're heading that way.
posted by Vibrissae at 11:45 AM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


also, what was the target audience for The Canyons?

Apparently the audience of people willing to pay to see James Deen boink Lindsey Lohan was smaller than anticipated.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 11:48 AM on September 28, 2014


You know, Dennis Coupland doesn't pull stunts like this.
posted by The Whelk at 11:55 AM on September 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


Douglas Coupland, sir. and Ellis is a fucking hack.
posted by jonmc at 12:58 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


I like ennui.bz's discussion of the eclipsing of sociology by marketing. Nicely done.

Not so nicely done are the misspellings and inconsistent capitalization of proper nouns which, yeah, normally I'd not give it a second thought, but the discussion is about authors as authors and, so, some attention to detail is in order.
posted by mistersquid at 1:09 PM on September 28, 2014


Lemme climb up on my hobby horse and say that any valid points Ellis has to make — viz. the reactionary politics espoused by too many Social Darwikians and the as yet undefined generation just starting to come of age — are completely overwhelmed by his employment of the labels "Boomer," "Generation X," and "Millennial."
posted by ob1quixote at 1:15 PM on September 28, 2014


My sense is that the era of inter-generational snark is nearing a close, and that we will begin to take a higher road.

Not once people of Ellis' age find out they can live longer by harvesting the organs if the young.
posted by happyroach at 1:25 PM on September 28, 2014


Long as he's on the table, I like Douglas Coupland's Slogans for the Twenty-First Century.
Response time is the new distance
Being an individual only goes so far
There's no shopping on Star Trek
posted by postcommunism at 1:37 PM on September 28, 2014 [4 favorites]


Millennials are mostly scared and angry, and who wouldn't be? I don't see any point in flinging more shit at them. Who cares if they had helicopter parents and participation ribbons? The world they inherited is in brutal and possibly fatal upheaval. They have enough problems without Bret fucking Easton Ellis pissing on them. Jesus.
posted by emjaybee at 2:13 PM on September 28, 2014 [4 favorites]


Bret Easton Ellis calling a generation "too narcissistic" in Vanity Fair. My irony meter just went to 11.
posted by theora55 at 2:51 PM on September 28, 2014 [17 favorites]


After my white tea colonic, which I administer using a Black & Decker Spurtmaster 2000 while squatting in my bathtub made of custom-designed Spanish marble and with chromed fixtures by Dolce & Gabbana, I rinse my anus and testicles and the backs of my legs with three bottles of Voss, and then spend nine minutes flossing. While I floss I move about the apartment, naked, admiring my physique in the wall-length mirrors of the media room, the spare bedroom, and my personal gym (I can move 180lbs on the Tru-Squat now). I open the Braun dishwasher to confirm that it is still full of heads, lift my iPhone 6 with imported Louis Vuitton case in the classic pattern from the kitchen counter, and ask Siri to set a reminder to remove the heads before the maid arrives. I then spend the rest of the day talking shit on Twitter.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:28 PM on September 28, 2014 [11 favorites]


Showing my age here, but at the time American Psycho was published, Young Kittens felt it was basically a spoiled rich kid slumming into the realm of extreme horror fiction that proles in the splatterpunk movement had been doing better as paperback originals for years.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:57 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is anecdotal, but the biggest tantrum-throwers in my life are all 60+ years old. If anything, I am surprised by how quiet younger people seem.

For further affirmation of this, spend some time in a coffee shop and watch the counter. No class of person has uglier shitfits than the well-to-do Boomer white man who perceives the service given to him to be subpar, especially if the server in question is a young woman.
posted by invitapriore at 4:09 PM on September 28, 2014 [9 favorites]


My takeaway is that if went to the right school at the right time with the right people it is literally impossible to fail no matter how many chances you are given.

I am living proof that this is not true.
posted by GrammarMoses at 4:27 PM on September 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


For further affirmation of this, spend some time in a coffee shop and watch the counter. No class of person has uglier shitfits than the well-to-do Boomer white man who perceives the service given to him to be subpar, especially if the server in question is a young woman.

In a coffee shop, I once accidentally bumped a man of this demographic with my backpack and I apologized. He still proceeded to throw a huge shitfit and claimed I had "practically climbed on top" of him.
posted by ChuckRamone at 5:24 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


I used to work retail, around the time that recycling and reducing waste were catching on. So, we were to ask each customer if they needed a bag for their items or not. Some of the older people would stare at you in disbelief, in horror, that you were suggesting that this part of their entitlements should be removed.
posted by thelonius at 5:43 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


I can't get past the misspellings and weird syntax. Is he doing that on purpose, to show the level of contempt he has for the subjects of this essay?
posted by pxe2000 at 6:46 PM on September 28, 2014


That needed a proofreader and an editor. Just see here for why (link).
posted by Dysk at 3:56 AM on September 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


"Rutger's"? Really? My generation would correct that shit if it showed up in a mere text message.
posted by persona au gratin at 12:47 PM on September 29, 2014


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