Generation Y Collectively Squirms at the Truths in Lena Dunham’s Girls

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If you're a member of the much-maligned generation of nepotistically buoyed slackers born sometime in the late 80s and early 90s and you tuned into the premiere of Lena Dunham's Girls, chances are you squirmed during the show's opening scene, when main character Hannah's "groovy" life of casual sex and unpaid internships in New York loses its chief financial backers — her parents. You probably squirmed because, other than the fact watching family confrontations on screen is really discomforting, the scene reminded you of your sordid post-college life of either living in your parents' unfinished basement and sleeping on a mattress made out of insulation, or calling from the cellphone you don't pay for just before the first of every month to make sure mom and pop didn't forget to mail your rent check for you.


Millennials, according to some depressing data gathered by Business Insider, have taken it on the chin during the economy's torpor. Not only are they the most un- and underemployed group of working-age people (only 54 percent are employed full-time), those who are fortunate or savvy enough to have full-time gigs have seen their pay drop by an average of 6 percent, a steeper tumble than that of any other age group. Without reliable streams of income, 85 percent of millennials have been forced to shack back up with their parents, or, if both parties find that arrangement somehow distasteful, rely on their parents for financial support. When Hannah — SPOILER ALERT OMFG LOOK AWAY QUICK! — proclaims in her opium reverie that she thinks she's "the voice of her generation," or at least "a voice of a generation," she's not far off — a lot of people her age are going through the same, painstakingly slow process of weaning themselves off of their parents' money-dripping nipples.

But all is not well with the baby boomers, either, as the generation of seemingly well-heeled, permissive parents has seen their retirement funds be slowly nibbled away by the banking sector and those profligate southern Europeans with their loose morals and Vespas. Boomer parents are, as a result of being less liquid, finding it tougher to finance their children's seemingly endless bildungsromans. Though some have suggested that parents who cut kids off entirely actually do more harm than good to that child's financial maturation, who wants to keep paying for a twenty-five year-old son's shitty Los Angeles apartment while he works on his HBO series at the local Coffee Bean?

Nobody, that's who. There are more important things for boomers to spend all that extra money on, like wool socks and iPads that quickly turn into mere paperweights because their superannuated users' arthritic old fingers can hardly navigate a daunting touch screen. (Hannah's mother, for her part, would rather splurge on a lake house than keep her daughter from becoming a subway person.) All this emphasis on finances, though, just feels so materialistic and superficial. Who cares, anyway? Money makes us all prisoners of capitalism and, like, corporate America — we'd be better off forgetting all about money and moving to, I don't know, Paris or Rome, someplace that lets people mosey through life.

However you responded to its onscreen musings, Girls may be making its most profound point about shiftless, directionless Generation Y behind the scenes, as all four of the principal stars are the daughters of successful, Boomerish parents. And not just any old sort of blandly successful banker and lawyer parents — these are men and women who've achieved a level of fame in the overlapping art and entertainment worlds. Dunham and her cast, however engaging you think they are or are not on screen, are proof of the trouble millennials have disentangling themselves from the success of their immediate progenitors. In that sense, Girls is less a television series than it is a self-reflexive piece of performance art, which could make for interesting viewing if you're into that sort of thing. If you're not, I hear they do some wonderful things over on AMC, what with the zombies and the handsome gentlemen.

HBO's ‘Girls' Hits Too Close To Home For Millennials [Business Insider]


Kat Callahan

This is the best Doug Barry article yet. And the best thing about this best article is that by the definition offered here, I AM NOT GEN Y/MILLENNIAL. Thanks, Mr. Barry. I have much maligned you, but you have recouped my respect.

If you remember Nancy Reagan telling you to just say no, and you started elementary school when the USSR was still accurately portrayed on the map, and you remember watching the Berlin Wall coming down... you're probably not a Millennial. Maybe you're not Gen X, but you are something else...


P. S. Scholars are calling early 80s "Cold Y" in current journal articles, but the idea that there is some small generation between X and Y/Millennial is gaining ground.