Friday, May 03, 2013

The unknowable future and Girls

Like the author of One Good Thing, whose blog post inspired this one, I like Girls. For those not familiar with the show, it is:
created, written, and directed by New Yorks’s current wunderkind, Lena Dunham [...] Touted on release as the new Sex and the City, Girls observes the lives of four tightly-involved 20-something-year-old women carving out their existences post-college in Brooklyn, New York. I should point out that any similarities drawn between SATC and Girls were obviously made by reviewers who had either not seen the former or the latter show, because they are nothing alike whatsoever. Both shows include four female friends in New York City. Same same different. The end.
One of the most interesting things about Girls is that it demonstrates the polarizing nature of the shift into the world the show's characters are fumbling through, learning to live in. When I say that I love Girls I've received exasperated looks accompanied by demands for an explanation of my tastes and I've received expressions of affinity so enthusiastic they seem cathartic.

A lot of the show's appeal lies in the viewer's ability to relate viscerally to its characters, but the concerns it raises are more broadly based. It's aimed at a generation for whom the world has changed so dramatically that we can't look to our parents to see what to do next. This has made our parents (and a lot of us) apprehensive about the future: 
As Dunham explains in Yen magazine (Issue 61): ‘We are the first generation that has been totally raised on the internet and social media, IM-ing and Twitter and communication like that — trying to learn email manners, that kind of communication, plus the torture of waiting for a text message, and I think that also my generation all graduated from college — or not — during a recession, so, as my dad once said, which made me sad but felt true, “This is the first time in America that you can see that my kids are not going to do as well as I did.”‘
Unlike Dunham, I don't think we're going to be worse off than our parents, but we will have to build and discover a future that we don't totally understand yet. It's new and it's different and it's scary to people who grew up believing (and raising us to believe) that you go to school, you graduate from university, you get a job (with a pension!) and then you're basically set. Many of us are so nostalgic for the knowable past that we ignore its flaws, hoping for a future we feel we can foresee. And it's no wonder when we're so often told that the absence of the opportunities of the past is the same as the absence of opportunity.

There are plenty of opportunities, but they are new, less planned and many of them are still unknown. To conclude that because our generation faces such a rapidly changing future we will be worse off than our parents requires forgetting to see that the processes and outcomes of human interaction are astonishing. There's destruction of old ways because room is being made for creation. Perhaps this is why second-wave libertarianism is such an overwhelmingly optimistic movement: we haven't forgotten to wonder at the potential of human interaction. In the uncertainty around us we see not danger, but opportunity. In certainty we see stagnation.

We cannot look to previous generations - and especially not to politicians, who are incentivised to enforce the status-quo - to make our futures all they can be. Our changing world is sometimes scary, but it's an amazing, amazing time to be alive. That's worth the rest of it.

1 comment:

Sebastian Daniels said...

I was a fan of Girls. The end of the second season kind of soured me. I agree that what makes life difficult for us is growing up in this new age of communication and I would say the new age of prescription medications. A lot of people I know people who have problems with anxiety because of the communication issues associated with email and texting. I also noticed that some young people can't really hold a conversation anymore in person. It is sad.

Great post.