Tuesday 17 September 2019

Ciara O'Connor: 'The Picnic has lost my generation'

Millennial diary

Billie Eilish fans at Electric Picnic. Photo: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie
Billie Eilish fans at Electric Picnic. Photo: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

Ciara O'Connor

Today marks the day when millennials from all over the country who congregated in Stradbally for the weekend say: Never Again.

Millennials like to think that we invented Electric Picnic, and therefore 'boutique' festivals generally, coming of age as we did when the Picnic was taking its first Bambi-like steps into being, with only 10,000 of our closest friends. We raised it, shaped it in our image. This year, with its 57,500 capacity and many of the same acts we saw in 2009, we realised that we don't know the Picnic any more.

We see the beautiful young things with their leotards and biodegradable glitter. They were toddlers when Kate Moss first devastatingly wore short shorts and wellies at Glasto.

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Electric Picnic isn't for us any more. Time for us to bow out until middle age, when it becomes acceptable once again to put on hemp trousers and get wasted on mystery juice in a field listening to Jarvis Cocker.

See you there.

*******

Lizzo's VMA performance was a celebration of womanhood, blackness, love - but it was mostly a celebration of butts. Not the glossy and perfectly globular Kim Kardashian butt, but Everywoman's butt: Lizzo's butt, my butt, your butt.

A 15ft inflatable butt bobbed around the back of the stage; backing dancers had two neat holes on the butt-cheeks of their leggings. There were butts of all persuasions, jiggling in glorious harmony. It didn't feel porny, or rude; this smorgasbord of butts was wholesome and lovely. That's the power of Lizzo.

The musician has become the patron saint of millennial women everywhere, since bursting into the public consciousness earlier this year with her third album Cuz I Love You, but 31-year-old Lizzo has been grafting in the industry since 2010.

Lizzo says that if you can love her 'big black ass', you can love yourself. If she's 'shining, everybody gonna shine'. Lizzo is the new craze in self care, in mental health. Lizzo is the new mindfulness. Lizzo is yoga. While listening to Lizzo, women who have never been to a gym have pulled on a pair of big ol' shorts and jiggled around on a treadmill. Women have ended their bad relationships, or successfully seduced men who seemed hitherto unreachable. Lizzo, according to the half-in-earnest-wholly-in-jest internet, has cured eating disorders, depression, anxiety, body dysmorphia. She's fluent in millennialese, hitting the sweet spot between motivational, insta-quotable treat-yo'self pop-feminism and incisive interrogations of race and social power structures.

Lizzo's inclusivity feels authentic in a way that Taylor Swift's, or Beyonce's falls flat. It's difficult to listen to Beyonce preaching empowerment and telling us we're all beautiful, and then watching her on Netflix drive herself to the edge of sanity to 'get in shape' for Coachella after giving birth to twins: "In order for me to meet my goals, I'm limiting myself to no bread, no carbs, no sugar, no dairy, no meat, no fish, no alcohol… and I'm hungry," said Beyonce. Lizzo's instagram handle is 'lizzobeeating'.

We have all bought into this collective fantasy that Lizzo has made it okay to be fat, that fat is sexy now. That fatphobia and body-shaming are in the past. Lizzo is the millennial hero we need, but don't deserve.

*******

But she wasn't the only triumph at the VMAs. Another era-defining moment was gifted to us by the hero we don't need but probably deserve - John Travolta.

Travolta, who is most famous among a certain generation for being That Old Guy Who Inexplicably Introduced Idina Menzel as 'Adele Dazeem' at the Oscars in 2013, surpassed himself when presenting the Video of the Year award. The winning video was Taylor Swift's gaytastic You Need to Calm Down, and she took a squad of cast and crew on stage with her to accept it; John Travolta then attempted to hand the award to drag queen Jade Jolie, whom he had mistaken for Swift.

Obviously, it was spectacular. Travolta was unflapped, and apparently Taylor thought it was 'hilarious'. But Swift has a habit of 'owning' moments like these and turning at least a single/music video out of them. I look forward to seeing Taylor Swift defiantly in drag as Taylor Swift as her next reinvention. Look what you made her do.

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