Monday 14 October 2019

Millennial Diary

A bunch of Friends. Photo by Gerald Weinman/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
A bunch of Friends. Photo by Gerald Weinman/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Ciara O'Connor

In many ways, it must be hard being Marta Kauffman. Sure, she's rich and successful beyond her wildest dreams, having created Friends, the defining sitcom of the 1990s. (And if you're a 46-year-old, who's about to write an angry letter to the editor right now, I'm sorry but it's just not Seinfeld okay? I don't make the rules.)

Anyway Marta Kauffman has spent the 15 years since Friends ended trying to explain that it has, in fact, ended. It's over. We are not on a break. Marta has continued to do new and exciting things, but all that anyone wants to talk to her about is a hypothetical Friends reunion. It's like people coming up to you constantly asking about an ex-boyfriend, "Do you ever see him still? God, he was so great. Such a catch. Is he married now or...?" Marta Kauffman must be exhausted.

Last week, in an interview with Rolling Stone, Marta tried to put the issue to bed explaining very clearly, as if to a small and stupid child, why Friends really wouldn't be returning.

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"One, the show is about a time in your life when your friends are your family. It's not that time anymore. All we'd be doing is putting those six actors back together, but the heart of the show would be gone. Two, I don't know what good it does us. The show is doing just fine, people love it. A reunion could only disappoint - The One Where Everyone's Disappointed."

The show IS doing just fine; it's doing much better than just fine. Netflix has reportedly paid nearly €90m to keep it on their service for another year, after mass hysteria broke out before Christmas when there were malicious rumours that it was about to disappear.

Famously, millennials don't deal well with change and progress. Every time there's an iOS update we lose our minds. When we see the price of a Freddo or Instagram's new algorithm, we take to the streets, keening and wailing and shaking our fists at the heavens. It's no wonder we're so keen for Friends to come back to make us feel warm and safe, like our mams have a shepherd's pie in the oven for us for after hockey, like we've a new ice-blue eyeshadow for the disco tonight. But millennials also don't know what's good for us - we're like dogs who will eat a week's worth of food in one go if it's put in front of us, only to throw up all over the new couch. Make no mistake: a Friends revival could only lead to 29-year-olds everywhere destroying their couches with disappointment and betrayal.

*******

Taylor Swift possesses many of the qualities that I look for in a hero: she is a woman, she's a bit country, she writes songs about her famous exes and not in an ambiguous Carly Simon kind of way. She's got it all. But for some reason (internalised misogyny? casual xenophobia?) I just can't cope with Taylor Swift. Luckily, I don't need to. We have our very own TayTay right here under our noses; an uber-Tay, a Taylor 2.0, The People's Taylor: Una Healy. Una has become the woman scorned that dreams are made of: when her ratbag of a husband was found out, she went full Sandy-from-Grease, dying her hair blonde and taking to head-to-toe black leather whilst being photographed on the arms of men so large they could physically crush Ben Foden with a single thumb. Honestly, Una Healy provided some of the most uplifting content of 2018.

Una refused to engage in public mud-slinging and has remained stoic and dignified regarding her philandering ex. But last week she broke her silence in spectacular fashion, releasing a single called Strangers, which included the lyrics, "every word you said to me was empty/Broken every promise that you made me," and, "you made me feel like I was going crazy/Believing all those lies that you fed me."

With 'toxic' being Oxford Dictionary's word of 2018, and 'gaslighting' a close runner-up, Una couldn't have timed her elegy any better. In case there was any confusion about the truth or fiction of Una's art, she announced the release with an Instagram post (her on a black leather couch, because Una understands personal branding) captioned, "It's the most honest track I've ever written". If Una doesn't start her own cult, I'm going to have to do it for her.

*******

It's little wonder the college admissions scandal in the US has captured the world's imagination; it has 1980s sitcom stars, Noughties drama stars, contemporary YouTube stars - it's essentially a retrospect of recent entertainment history and changing cultural norms. It's a parable of parenthood and privilege. It's an allegory for Trump's America.

In the interests of serious journalistic research and integrity, I spent a few hours watching the strangely hypnotic YouTube videos of the girl at the centre of it all, Olivia Jade, a successful beauty influencer with nearly two million followers. Her vlogs have titles like, 'WINTER BREAK MORNING ROUTINE' and 'get ready with us: college party ft. my roommate!' and 'work week or a 19 year old youtuber'. A vlog in which she shows us the new clothes she's bought (a 'haul') has 986k views.

It's very, very easy to make fun of Olivia Jade, because Olivia Jade is a frivolous person - but she's very good at it. She's truly talented at making mundane videos that a certain demographic want to watch. She's monetised it. She's already reached the apotheosis of 2019 influencerhood: she has her own make-up palette (the reviews of which now include things like 'This palette has such intense highlight I thought it would blind others to my privilege and toxicity').

She might have been the next Kylie Jenner. Kylie Jenner didn't go to college because Kylie Jenner probably wouldn't be very good at college. Say what you will about Kris Jenner, but that is a woman who truly understands where the talents of her children lie.

Alas, Olivia Jade's parents refused to accept their daughter for what she is: a very photogenic girl with an intuitive and bankable understanding of contemporary internet culture. Olivia Jade is on the record repeatedly saying that she has no interest in college, that YouTube will always be her number one priority. Olivia's mother, Lori Loughlin, who allegedly paid $500,000 in bribes to have her admitted to the University of Southern California knew this.

In one vlog, Olivia roars at her in another room asking whether it's 'sarong' or 'saronj'. In another, in which Lori appears with John Stamos, the latter deadpans, dripping with sarcasm: "We knew when you were a little child that one day you'd be a YouTube sensation."

Olivia asks: "Really?!"

To which her mother replies softly, smile frozen and eyes pained: "No."

It's unclear as to whether Olivia herself was complicit in the fraud - but it almost feels cruel to question her when she's most used to answering questions like: "It looks like you and your roommate's decor are fairly coordinated, but not matching. So, was that planned? How did you coordinate beforehand?"

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