Young Adult Dystopia
“Superheroes are part of your brainless desire to replace true experience with simulation...Every meaningful experience must be packaged and delivered to you to watch at a distance so that you can remain ever-sheltered, ever ravenous consumers…”
– Screen Slaver, The Incredibles 2 (2018)
Walking through downtown Vancouver is a striking spectacle, a study in contrasts. Teenage and young adult shoppers browse Brandy Melville, Sephora, and for the edgier consumer, Urban Outfitters, while homeless vagrants sleep through the day on sun-baked sidewalks. The perma-tanned, thin-wristed stars of CW teen shows are filmed on Snapchat idling at traffic lights as visibly disturbed veterans, dazed under the glare of the midday sun, stumble from car to car murmuring about change. Alleys where heroin addicts sit with their small children and shoot up are painted pastel pink in order to give the city a veneer of uniform corporate colour.
The city is a quagmire, one of whose defining characteristic is being recreated across the entirety of the Western world: an urban centre whose inhabitants are stuck in perpetual childhood, relying on the grown-ups to run things.
Politicians, cops, city officials, bankers, and businessmen are given free reign by a city whose twenty and thirty-somethings are busy packing out the opening nights of superhero movies.
These lost children are the actual, capital M millennials referred to by so many histrionic NYT opinion pieces, the generation unable to corral together in their own interests but rather floundering in search of some imaginary comforting authority they can defer to.
To these twenty and thirty-somethings (and in some particularly galling cases, forty-to-sixty somethings), the so-called Good Leader is epitomized in Obama, Trudeau, even Emmanuel Macron - Moderately well-spoken, uniformly well-dressed, relatively young and impressively bland, anodyne people, who hold onto some childish pedigree while embodying the trapping of “grown-up” life. Obama never missed an episode of Entourage as his administration ordered triple tap drone strikes on a demolished Syria and a starving Yemen; Trudeau wears Star Wars socks and apologizes for bumping into parliamentary buddies as his government brokers record-huge arms deals with the wahhabist theocrats running Saudi Arabia.
These adults hit thirty and don't recognise their parents in themselves, but see instead an overgrown perma-child, forced kicking and screaming and self-pitying into adulthood.
It's not just understandable but outright tragic: the image they were sold since birth was one of preserving the inner child through inaction, of solidifying a precious idea of youth by trapping oneself in the amber of stasis. They wait for Trump to be impeached, for the FBI or CIA to come to their rescue; they trust Google, Facebook, and every tech goliath with their personal information because they have nothing worth hiding; no dissenting opinions, no subversive principles.
When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose.