The June issue of North & South featured a cover story as old as time: ‘what the hell is wrong with millennials’? Two millennials had a read and What They Found Inside Will Shock You.
First published June 16, 2016.
The latest issue of North & South has done the unthinkable, and found a non-millennial to shine a selfie-camera spotlight on millennials. Its cover story, ‘The Narcissism Epidemic’, poses the most important question facing modern New Zealand: “Are we raising a generation of self-obsessed brats?”, under the teaser headline “Me! Me! Me!” Because god knows we need this story, again:
We’ve taken so many photos of ourselves we don’t know who we are anymore. Plus we’re all too busy snapchatting our Fitbit as we run to find our Uber to meet our Tinder date at the restaurant we found on Yelp where will we eat piping hot hashtags, pay with bitcoins, and then Tumblr into bed to livestream our entire sleep cycle on Periscope to do it ourselves.
The article – written by the usually great feature writer Mike White – is mostly a collection of rheumy-eyed reminiscings for an imaginary bygone age, where men were men, women were nowhere, and every incredible achievement was met with a gruff snort or a brief nod. Back then people suffered silently through life before stoically dying of smallpox. But now, this flimsily-sourced piece of fogey nostalgia alleges, everyone wants to waltz around with their Facebooks and their iComputers, doing unconscionable things like taking pictures of themselves.
It’s reasonably insufferable, but the most striking thing is its attempt to break the Guinness world record for Biggest Sausage Fest. The article mentions men’s names 107 times, and women’s names three times – the same number of times as it uses the word ‘bloke’. All its paragons of New Zealand’s golden, narcissism-free era are (sports)men. Ed Hillary. Richie McCaw (who is still young, but because he is humble, is named as a throwback to an earlier age), John Wright, moustachioed former All Black Graham Mourie. All the interview subjects are men – the most-quoted being a grouchy Gordon McLauchlan. Who, at 85, is well-placed to judge young people.
If there’s room for women, it’s in the implied criticisms of the so-called iGeneration. The cover of the magazine features a young woman taking a selfie, and the header photo on the article is of a young woman wearing a see-through mesh top. Every other photo in the article is of a man.
Call the police, the world is now being run by bra-less brats, all plastic crowns and bloody sparkly high heels. And look at her evil exposed breasts! The world is going to the dogs. Bring back the good old days when the only nipples our country stood for were the modest, number eight wire, Watties bloke nipples.
Could it be that the story’s problem with the “narcissistic” tendencies of the “iGeneration” may actually be a little bit related to “young women” being able to “do things” in “public” these days? Can you blame young girls for wanting to take back control of their image in a world that wants to whip off their bra and dress them up like evil millennial sex queens?
To be fair to White, he’s probably been betrayed a little by his headline writer, who seemingly hates young people, while the story itself just hates everything that’s happened since Al Gore invented the internet. And towards the end of the feature come interviews with several experts who tend to contradict many of the assertions made in the prior 3000 words.
But it’s still hard to forgive. Here’s a selection of quotes from the story in the print-only publication – a frightening snapshot of what your parents really think about you:
“Of course, there’s no photo of Hillary on Everest’s peak… Can you imagine that today? Someone achieving something so momentous, but shrugging off the chance to immortalise it, not even turning the camera on himself to snap something of the occasion”
To be fair, Sir Ed might have been more willing to take a picture if he had a smartphone on hand, rather than a 14kg hand-wound nightmare box. And let’s not forget, he did later approve his picture being used on the $5 note, AKA the Ultimate Selfie. Note: this story opens with at least 14,000 words on how Edmund Hillary was good.
“Hillary distilled characteristics New Zealanders held dear – hard work and humility… ‘I was just an average bloke’”
This whole section feels like it’s making big conclusions from quite a small sample size.
“When he climbed Everest, there was no hollering, ‘I’m the king of the world’ – just a prosaic ‘we knocked the bastard off’”
Yes, congratulations Sir Ed for refraining from using a movie quote that would famously be uttered atop the Titanic in a mere 44 years time. Legend.
“We used to be down to earth, now we seem so far up own our arses”
Ridiculous. There’s terrible cellular signal up an arse.
“We surgically nip and tuck ourselves at ever higher rates, use cosmetics and Photoshop to reimagine ourselves… and have email sign-offs with “What I’m wearing/drinking/eating/listening to”
“Social media has allowed provided a portal to self-promotion, allowing us to preen and pout and put ourselves out there for a worldwide audience”
If there’s one thing we can all agree is bad, it’s putting yourself out there. WWSET? (What Would Sir Ed Think)
“[Richie McCaw] is a genuinely nice, old-style New Zealand bloke. He never talks about himself, unless he’s specifically asked. If you were introduced to him in the street he’d say, ‘Gidday mate, how’re you doing? What do you do for a crust’”
WHAT DO YOU DO FOR A CRUST?! Okay, Sir Ed’s humility proves New Zealand society was an ego-free paradise in 1953, while Richie McCaw’s humility also proves New Zealand society was an ego-free paradise in 1953. For what it’s worth, a member of Spinoff staff (Alex) once served Sir Richie McCaw at a cinema and he didn’t offer a “Gidday” nor a “what do you do for a crust?” He bought a ticket to see The Tourist, presumably because he was far too humble to reminisce or talk about his own travel stories, instead choosing to suffer silently through the Depp/Jolie monstrosity in the name of modesty. He also bought a double chocolate ice-cream, which the Spinoff staff member found extremely gratuitous and frankly narcissistic.
“McCollough’s 12-minute rumination was posted on Youtube – alongside all those selfie clips of Beyoncé and Justin Bieber wannabes”
Ah yes, Justin Bieber wannabes. Do you recall New Zealander Parris Goebel, creator of the ‘Sorry’ video that now has over a billion views? Or has she taken too many selfies to join the Ed Hillary hall of reluctant blokes? Or is it that she’s not a bloke at all?
White probably doesn’t know Goebel, because she’s an actual young person, rather than the terrifying hallucinatory vision of a selfie-stick wielding uber-youth tormenting his dreams. This supposed exposé of the degradation of modern society, and young people in particular, is weirdly absent of actual young people. Instead we get Tony Veitch, a 43-year-old domestic abuser, who is criticised for talking about himself too much in his most recent non-apology. Mark Weldon, a 48-year-old former media company CEO and champion swearer, is also evidence of the youth’s plunge into rank narcissism, after reportedly telling his staff that he’s the “smartest guy in the room”.
Neither of those examples – nor the story itself – prove millennials are narcissistic, but they’re definitely a damning indictment of middle-aged men.
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.