Saturday 19 October 2019

Millennial diary: Ciara O'Connor

Jesy Nelson. Photo: PA
Jesy Nelson. Photo: PA

Ciara O'Connor

The response to Greta Thunberg by my favourite demographic - white middle-aged middle-class middling men - has been truly heartwarming: guys, they really, really care. They are so concerned about little Greta Thunberg.

That's all they're saying, when they say she should sit down and shut up and maybe even have a "freak yachting accident". White middle-aged men love Greta Thunberg, and that's why they pretend to hate her.

I'm glad I know this now, because otherwise I'd have been really disappointed to hear Ryan Tubridy suggest that, of her speech last week, "the words were so impassioned and so mature and so adult and so accusatory that I tend to agree that it didn't feel like it could have come from her own pen".

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But, actually he expressed a concern for her "health and wellbeing" - because, presumably, "her face [being] contorted in pain, in agony and in anxiety" as the Amazon burns and poor Bangladeshis die in floods, is indicative of some class of illness.

Perhaps a wandering womb? Or an over-abundance of yellow bile in her blood leading to a choleric humour? Perhaps some leeches might help.

Tubridy, who must know a thing or two about addressing world leaders at the United Nations to influence global policy, noted that "no one likes being addressed that way", of her speech in which she dressed down the assembled (middle-aged men) at the opening of the World Climate Summit last week, telling them sternly, "How dare you?"

Says Tubridy, perhaps going home and watching a movie and going for a walk would help.

Tubridy's meditation on Greta's autism, age, mental health, suspected ghostwriter, lifestyle and ambitions was prefaced with assertion that, "A 16 year old shouldn't be up for grabs".

If you're a middle-aged man who finds the mere sight of Greta so profoundly upsetting, you clearly have a wonderful capacity for empathy and concern: you should see the state of the ice caps. You're exactly the kind of big-hearted allies climate justice needs!


Jesy Nelson's documentary Odd One Out has broken BBC records after 3.3m people tuned-in to watch, making it the most viewed programme on BBC Three since the channel moved online. The Little Mix star was the victim of horrific online bullying and trolling about her weight and appearance; eventually, she attempted to take her own life. The programme documents the abuse, and the lasting effects it's had on her self-image - she won't be seen without full, dramatic make-up, which makes her almost unrecognisable from the teenage photos her mum lays out.

The conclusion of the documentary was certainly that we need to be mindful of our words, but it was also that maybe we all just need a kind, older Irish lady to tell us we're lovely. The denouement of the doc sees Jesy having a breakthrough with Irish body-image specialist Liz Ritchie, as they watch footage from Jesy's time on The X-Factor when the abuse started. Jesy weeps and says she wants to reconnect with that 'old' Jesy who gave her so much, and who she hasn't even been able to look at since. She hugs Liz.

We're not given a gleaming, recovered, finished product at the end of the documentary, and that's probably why people have responded to it so powerfully. Jesy sees the trolling for what it was: senseless and cruel, while simultaneously continuing to believe their message that she is ugly, and unworthy. She cannot take a compliment. We're probably all a little bit Jesy.


It was a sad week for Irish huns everywhere, as Xpose finally kicked the bucket: the once daily show was scaled back to three days a week in January, and then one night a week in March of this year - but even that was too much.

Social media has a lot to answer for in 2019: anxiety, poor body image, insomnia, depression and now Xpose's cancellation. The comment from Virgin Media's managing director Pat Kiely came, "Xpose set the standard for entertainment reporting in an era before the proliferation of social media and leaves behind a genuine legacy in Irish entertainment journalism".

The message was clear: Xpose was of a different time, it's a historical document now. They gave us millennials what we wanted in those heady days of 2007, but it wasn't enough: we wanted more. We wanted Xpose, but 24 hours a day; we wanted Instagram.

It's true that with YouTube offering millions of immediate and comprehensive 20-minute shopping 'haul' videos by aggressively on-the-pulse teenagers, and mid-level models with constant comfortingly mundane Instagram dispatches about their favourite lipsticks and ways to style a bandana, the show may have become a bit redundant.

But, as with anything, what I wanted to know was this: what do middle-aged men think? Louis Walsh, ironically, didn't realise that it was still going, "and I don't want to see people putting on makeup and doing their hair and nails, I want backstage stories about music and movies".

My petition to have Louis and Tubridy take the helm and rescue Xpose from silly young women and irrelevancy goes live today: I'm not ready to say goodbye to its sweet, rambling, interviews and the most dedicated steady cam work of the age.


In news that had half the country aghast and the other half nodding smugly and saying, "Didn't I tell you now that it would all end in tears?" it turns out that 90pc of Irish sushi businesses did not meet safety requirements "in place to safeguard human health". The FSAI audit was prompted by the surge in sushi vendors here - an 80pc hike since 2018. This is because the appetite for sushi places is bottomless, thanks to millennials' favourite refrain, "It's not that you DON'T LIKE sushi, you just haven't eaten it at the right place yet." Millennials, god bless us, will keep trying to find the right place until the day we die, from salmonella probably. We'll go to every sushi place, desperately chasing that first high from the sashimi we had on our J1. "Honestly," we tell our parents, "it's just like smoked salmon, except it doesn't taste like anything at all! That's what the soy sauce and wasabi is for! Careful, it'll blow your head off."

When you think about it, which millennials don't, the unholy union of rice and raw fish is asking for trouble, bacteria-wise. The watchdog's chief executive Pamela Byrne showed exemplary patience in explaining that raw fish does need to be kept in a very cold freezer and not defrosted at room temperature - "The poor standards overall are worrying and suggests a lack of awareness by the sector as a whole of the serious food safety risks that sushi can pose."

This is natural selection, millennial style.

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