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Ciara O'Connor: Millennial Diary

 

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Penn Badgley

Penn Badgley

Penn Badgley

For about a month now, I have been transfixed by a prolific Instagrammer called Caroline Calloway. She is a 27-year-old New Yorker who blogged her time (love life) at Cambridge University, got a sizeable following online and landed a much longed-for book deal, before reneging on her contract, having spent the advance.

Caroline touts herself as the first Instagram influencer. She reckons she was the first to use Instagram for anything other than dreadfully filtered photographs of breakfast; she wrote long captions, you see.

This conventionally attractive young middle-class white woman has legions of deeply invested fans, who appear to see her as a sort of friend. But the blogger found herself at the centre of an internet furore recently, when she sold thousands of tickets to a 'creativity workshop' multi-city US tour, without having so much as booked a venue.

Caroline promised, in two and a half hours of teaching time, to educate attendees on creativity, writing, making art, establishing routines for productivity, making mistakes, building a brand on Instagram, mental and physical health, heartbreak, authenticity and making orchid crowns. There would also (obviously) be a photoshoot, personalised 'care packages' and letters and home-made (by Caroline) salad for lunch.

One by one, the promises fell apart as Caroline realised they were completely impossible. But the tickets had been launched at such late notice that they did not come under Eventbrite's returns policy. She 'hated' cooking for so many people - could they bring their own lunch tomorrow? There was no time to write 40 personalised letters - she'd send an emoji by email instead. Could people booked for other cities come to New York instead?

Caroline Calloway is the very distilled essence of every malign accusation ever levelled at millennials: her entitlement, her self-belief, selfishness, her financial irresponsibility, her bloody-minded glorification of personal fulfilment above all else.

The s**tshow of a tour spread across the internet like wildfire, drawing accusations of scamming. Under pressure, she cancelled the tour and went quiet. But a day or two later, it was uncancelled, with her saying she would be adding a section on 'resilience' to the 'syllabus'.

Within a day or two, the PR genius had spun the unmitigated disaster in a very Instagram way, "Blessed be the meek for they shall inheirit [sic] the eart [sic], but sacred by the very frightened because YES MY EVENT NEEDED CATERING AND LESS PROMISES OF FLOWER CROWNS, but I love that I am brave enough to try again. I love that about myself."

I'm tired. I need to lie down.

*******

Last week, Gillette got itself in hot water for an advert with the strapline, 'we believe in the best in men'. It featured a montage of news clips from MeToo and anti-sexism campaigning, and encouraged men to act when they are confronted with sexism.

It was pretty feel-good, with cute kids and brave and dignified shaven men looking inspirationally into the middle distance, with kind yet determined eyes that somehow said, 'I understand that the patriarchy oppresses men as well as women, and that everyone would benefit from its destruction. Toxic masculinity is responsible for the current crisis in men's mental health, and in any case, improving the lives of women is an urgent and worthy cause with which I ally myself'.

Naturally it has sent incels and Men's Rights Activists into a meltdown of epic proportions: an internet bacchanalia of toxic masculinity.

Piers Morgan took time out from leafleting against vegan sausage rolls to rail against Gillette to punish them for believing in the best of him. How dare they, when he has built a career on being the very worst a man can be. AS IS HIS RIGHT, GILLETTE, OKAY?

The advert has been a great exercise in sorting the wheat from the chaff; the men who will fight to the end to allow their sons to beat up other people's sons at sunny barbecues, and the men who won't; the men who demand to defend their right to shout at strange women in the street, and the men who won't; the men who believe instilling empathy and kindness in the next generation is reprehensible, and those who don't.

But, perhaps, it's just a cynical move by Gillette, who has been backed into a corner because it can no longer sell men razors by telling them that women love smooth faces - a barefaced (sorry) lie.

And boys, if you don't like being told there's something wrong with you by the beauty industry in order to sell you stuff, welcome to our world.

*******

And then women, fresh from a You binge on Netflix, stepped in to remind us that none of it matters anyway: being the worst a man can be is sexy!

Penn Badgley, who is most famous for playing a stalker with literary pretension for five years in Gossip Girl, stars in the new popular series as a serial killer stalker with literary pretensions; his character Joe meets a woman once in his book shop and then finds out everything he can about her from social media, and begins following her.

Despite my resilience in the face of terrible TV, I couldn't drag myself through many episodes, but I gather it all gets worse and he kills a load of people.

Naturally, girls the internet wide have been saying how Joe is bae and they wish guys would fancy them enough to stalk them. 'Who would want to run away from Joe and his dreamy smile and those eyes?' swooned one girl on Twitter, 'Kidnap me plz'.

Badgley, in his innocence, had thought the show would be a good way to explore issues around unhealthy behaviours and white male privilege. His current pinned tweet is for an interview offering 'some reflections and thoughtful context' for the show. On Instagram he greeted his legions of randy new followers with a video telling them "I'd never thought I'd see the day... I have a million followers. I don't know what to say because all it took was for me to start murdering people. Y'all, get the f**k out of here!" Badgley now views the show as a "litmus test to see the mental gymnastics that we're still willing to perform on a cultural level, to love an evil white man".

Men might be the worst, but women suck. Feminism is cancelled.

As you were, Gillette.

Sunday Independent