Wednesday 19 December 2018

Millennial diary: Ciara O'Connor

Emma Watson arriving at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party . Photo: PA
Emma Watson arriving at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party . Photo: PA

Ciara O'Connor

A gleeful internet descended on Emma Watson after photographs of her at the Oscars last week showed a misspelled ‘Time’s up’ temporary tattoo on her arm.

Emma Watson is that girl in school who always gets top of the class in exams but is also captain of the hockey and debating team. All the boys want to snog her and all the girls want to be invited to her birthday sleepover. The teachers kind of want to be her.

Since graduating from the Harry Potter franchise that shot her into the limelight at the age of 11, Emma Watson (pictured inset) has devoted much of her time to advocacy and activism work. She can be found on panels, speaking at feminist events and leaving copies of Maya Angelou books on the underground.

She’s also very good-looking. She’s not very good at acting, but we forgive her that because she’s Hermione. And anyway, acting isn’t the point of Emma Watson.

There is literally nothing at all wrong with Emma Watson, other than that she is really, really annoying. We were all only waiting for her to trip up, so our irritation could be validated. And in what spectacular fashion! It wasn’t a sex tape or wardrobe malfunction — which millennials can style out, but a grammatical error. There really is no carrying that off. Grammar is the millennial kryptonite, the way we fight back when we having nothing at all left. We wouldn’t have batted an eyelid if the tattoo was on literally anyone else — but on teacher’s pet Emma? Hold me back.

Perhaps we were expecting her to come out and sincerely apologise for undermining the movement, diverting attention away from the real issues, setting a bad example to children, letting down Brown University, making a mockery of the tattoo industry etc, etc.

But she has an incredibly irritating habit of defusing controversies with logic, reasoning and a kind of bland humour. When she posed in a see-through top for Vanity Fair, she said: “Feminism is about giving women choice, feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women with. It’s about freedom, it’s about liberation, it’s about equality. I really don’t know what my tits have to do with it.” She really does seem aggressively nice and articulate.

She tweeted: “Fake tattoo proofreading position available. Experience with apostrophes a must.” God, she’s good.

The Sun covered itself in glory last week, breaking the stunning revelation that “Snowflake students claim Frankenstein’s monster was ‘misunderstood’ — and is in fact a VICTIM”.

What next? Will snowflakes try to argue that Juno and the Paycock suggests nationalism had its problems? That Hamlet was actually depressed? That To Kill a Mockingbird is about inequality and not avian hunting? Where will the over-intellectualising end?

I sometimes wonder whether the story or the puns come first. Like, did they come up with the superb headline ‘Flakenstein’ and then hunt around for a story to construct around it?

The Sun was outraged by the new introduction to a 200th anniversary edition of the book, which suggests “growing support” for the beast. Professor Nick Groom wrote in it: “When I teach the book now, students are very sentimental towards the being. But he is a mass murderer.” Sentimental students? This was too good to be true. Everyone knows that the worst species of snowflake millennial is university students, with their bleeding hearts and sincere belief that they can change the world, and their protests and their no-platforming and their inappropriate-for-the-weather footwear.

The internet of students and former students and would-be students and could-be students leapt on The Sun, deriding it for fundamentally misunderstanding the novel. Which it kind of did, but then again it was written by 19-year-old Mary Shelley, the original whiny youngster.

But this wasn’t about The Sun’s literary comprehension skills. It’s about the fact that we seem to send Sun-types into a total meltdown every time we feel sorry for anyone or anything. To feel sorrow or empathy is seen as proof of some kind of character deficiency.

The Frankenstein furore illustrates a larger truth about the agenda behind tabloid millennial-bashing.

We empathise with immigrants, for example, when The Sun says they’re monsters. Best to write us off as small, stupid snowflakes before our truth can threaten theirs.

The western world created the migrant crisis with a long history of dubious foreign-policy, and now when it threatens to bite us back we are closing our doors, washing our hands, painting them as monstrous sub-humans, swarming into our countries to threaten our well-being.

Frankenstein is the story of how monsters are not born, but made. It makes sense for The Sun to deride students for interrogating who is responsible for Frankenstein’s monster’s actions, because The Sun is part of the machine that creates ‘monsters’ and then dismisses empathy as emotional incontinence. There are many reasons to make fun of millennials — it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. But if kindness is one of them — what does that say about you?

Last week, in news we kind of knew already, research was published which showed that parents whose adult children move back into the family home see a decline in their quality of life and well-being.

Quality of life was measured by “feelings of control, autonomy, pleasure and self-realisation in everyday life”. Self-realisation? PLEASURE? Forgive me, but does this sound a bit like millennial nonsense to anyone else? Since when is life about having a nice time? Everyone knows ‘happiness’ is claptrap invented by sensitive snowflakes to peddle their blogs.

While the finding was widely reported across Europe, the less-publicised fact from the research was that, “in contexts where family orientations and welfare institutions foster individuals’ independence, returns home by adult children have negative implications for parents’ well-being. Across Europe, this effect is greater in Protestant than in Catholic countries”.

But of course. We’ve always suspected that Catholicism is responsible for our stunted man-children, but now science has proved it. There’s nothing Catholic at all about ‘marital relationships improving’ and ‘finding new hobbies and activities’ in later life, so it makes sense that boomerang kids don’t upset their parents too much here in Ireland.

Mammy knows that washing young Jimmy’s socks and jocks until the day she dies is the least she deserves for all that original sin and sausages on Fridays. Amen to that.

Sunday Independent

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