Sunday Rant: all the world's an episode of Big Brother

Oh wow, another article about entitlement! This one from the Sunday Times Style Magazine, so I can't link to it. I can tell you what it looks like, though. I studied it pretty closely over poussin and an elderflower pressé at my local. A young model-type in a pleated skirt and too-big saddle shoes stands looking confident next to the headline: "Because I'm worth it". "Celebrity culture, parenting, easy credit and technology have combined to produce a generation that expects it all - on a plate," we learn. "Kate Spicer investigates the new entitlement." Well, thank goodness! It's about bloody time somebody investigated! Because, you know, I've been sitting here on the edge of my seat, thinking, gee whiz, it's been, like, TWO DAYS since someone last wrote an article slamming my generation, and, well, who knows what sort of amazing new insight we're gonna get this time.

Sadly the piece doesn't quite deliver. It opens with a description of "Entitlement Top Trumps", a game editors apparently invented at fashion week to amuse themselves when the outfits didn't sufficiently scratch their itch for the outrageous, and never really goes any deeper.

An example: the girl who shows up late to her first day of work in hot pants and a rude t-shirt and promptly insults the company she's working for. Later her father calls in to apologise on her behalf (overly-involved parents are often cited as a major flaw of my generation) and the girl keeps her job.

Why? It's not like, "in an era when university students are no longer guaranteed a job on graduation, and 2.5 million are unemployed," there's no one else out there to hire.

But it comes down to this: we all know what makes good (trainwreck) television - shock, horror, drama, immaturity, stunts. Bad behaviour is rewarded, good behaviour is just boring. And it strikes me that these things are now as valued in the workplace (and in print media) as they are on screen. Employers and reporters alike get off on being able to gripe to each other about the disgraceful antics of their twentysomething employees and counterparts (I'm just guessing here, it's not like I've ever seen this happen, but if "Entitlement Top Trumps" is anything to go by, I'm not necessarily wrong). And they won't fire hot-pant-meddling-parents girl because she's much more interesting to gripe about than a hard(ish) working kid who mostly does what he's told. "OMG SHE LIT UP A JOINT AND TOOK HER TOP OFF AND SHOOK HER TITS AT ME AND THEN HER DADDY CAME IN AND TOLD US ALL TO STOP BEING SO HARD ON HIS PRINCESS" is way more fun (in the sense that watching Big Brother or X-Factor is "fun") than, "uh, yeah, my intern looked really tired today but then he had a pretty good idea in the meeting."

Of course, what makes good TV, by extension, makes "good" journalism, too. The same story is told over and over again, from the same angle. Wow, we find ourselves thinking. This generation sure is full of crazies. And we're not entirely wrong to think this: Spicer references a 2007 study by Jean Twenge which concluded that "college students today are more narcissistic and self-centered than a generation ago," and I'd be lying if I told you that I didn't think my generation had been royally but unintentionally fucked by all the preschool teachers and therapists and family friends and graduation speakers who told us, unequivocally, that we could be anything we wanted when we grew up. I'd also be lying if I told you I didn't honestly expect, when I earned my first degree, and then my second, that it would be a hell of a lot easier than it's turned out to be.

There is truth in these accusations of entitlement. But there is also insincerity - and inconsistency - in the way they are presented. Part of what concerns me is the seemingly schizophrenic attitude towards twentysomethings - "fired up with a new spirit of entrepreneurship"! but also “the most obnoxious, self-entitled, lazy and willfully ignorant generation ever to pollute the surface of the earth" - that the mainstream media seems to have.

That entrepreneurial spirit is fuelled by our narcissism and sense of entitlement. And that narcissism and sense of entitlement is only reinforced by the attention we get for being so attention-seeking. And for as long as attention-seeking is what we want to watch, it's what we're going to get.