Is there such thing as a “Millenial aesthetic”?
A few days ago, the freelance creative director Samantha Jayne released Quarter Life Poetry, a collection of parodic poems. Jayne, who is only 25, started depicting the vicissitudes of her young adult life on Instagram, in the form of funny and nicely illustrated quatrains. She soon drew 90,000 followers and was offered a book deal.
Quarter Life Poetry is both a cool literary object and a remarkably marketed product that will certainly fly off the shelves of Urban Outfitters stores around the world. But there’s maybe more than that.
With her sharp and self-deprecating humor, Samantha Jayne could easily be considered as Lena Dunham’s or Amy Schumer’s little, bratty sister. American media have already portrayed her as the paragon of a Generation Y person. Hence, could her book be representative of a “Millennial aesthetic”?
If such an aesthetic actually existed, it would indeed look like her unique blend of classical and popular culture, anxiety and lightness, and of course childhood and adulthood.
Jayne is not the only one to build this “Millennial aesthetic”. Countless Instagram accounts such as Betches, Fuck Jerry, Girl with no job or BeigeCardigan, which amassed millions of followers and evolved into full-fledged media, seem to do so. They all duplicate and broacast the same kind of content ad libitum: screenshots, stills from series or movies and memes. Their favorite topics are pretty much the same as well: sexual freedom (still in progress), hating one’s job, being broke, the need to belong in a social group, the difficulty to leave one’s parents and a great, great lot of alcohol.
Identifying the cultural basics of a generation though the media it created is tempting. Nevertheless, one should avoid such a leap. Firstly, the aesthetic contained in the aforementioned Instagram accounts remains western-centered. Moreover, it is intentionally grotesque, which actually strengthens clichés about a generation often depicted as unstable and full of paradoxes, both rebellious and conservative –and above all totally lost. Finally, such stereotypes often concern women, who appear as frivolous creatures always fighting with each other when they’re not sipping strong cocktails.
However, what is interesting here is that failure and vice are more valued than success and wellbeing, which is completely different from the all-too-perfect images usually displayed on social media.
Eventually, one thing is for sure: if both Gen Y does exist, its aesthetic should be all about collage, appropriation and sharing. Just like a mise en abyme of an interconnected, chaotic and ever-changing world.