Millennials can be a hard bunch to impress, and Vox writer, Constance Grady, is not going to be impressed by much acclaimed and occasionally maligned author Bret Easton Ellis. When Ellis asserts in his book that Millennials often display an inability to view things in their context, he hadn’t accounted for Constance Grady, who last summer wrote a piece for Vox using the movie Sixteen Candles to provide “important context for the Brett Kavanaugh accusations.” When Grady is looking for some background on eighties rape culture, she knows to go straight to the source for everything eighties: John Hughes movies.
White, according to Vox’s rating system, receives only one V out of a possible five. Expressed as Roman numerals that would be I/V Vs. I guess if you hit a home run with the Vox crew, you score a V/V Vs. That Vox is a sort of Millenial Home Companion, the low rating is not surprising as this book is highly critical of the demographic group. True to Millennial form, Grady has to get the obligatory “racist” and “misogynist” accusations out of the way before the review even begins.
White is not a book about politics. Ellis expresses few political views in the book beyond stating that he didn’t vote for Trump or Clinton. It is a book that contrasts the American culture the author grew up in with our current one. Ellis bemoans the reality that our current culture is so obsessed with politics, at least among the entertainment and media elites on the coasts, and Ellis takes dead aim at the anti-Trump hysteria gripping much of the nation.
In the second paragraph of her review, Grady highlights an Ellis exchange in a New Yorker interview by Isaac Chotiner as a ‘gotcha moment’. It doesn’t need to be quoted here. The whole interview is an embarrassment… for Chotiner. Outrage cranked up to eleven, Chotiner drops all pretense of professionalism and runs down the list of Trump’s most deplorable moments, trying to get Ellis to admit that Trump is the worst scoundrel history has ever manufactured, but fails to get Ellis’s outrage to register above a three. The behavior of the interviewer only serves to illustrate Ellis’s point that many on the left lose all rationality when it comes to talking about Trump.
Grady admonishes Ellis for writing a book about politics when he claims to find politics ridiculous. Curiously, however, several paragraphs later, she claims as a fact “that there is no such thing as non-political art”. According to this line of reasoning, the simple act of a writer putting pen to paper is political. In Grady’s world, how can Ellis write anything that isn’t political?
Ellis’s complaint is that he can’t go out for dinner or drinks without his companions bringing up how Trump stole the election or that he’s a stooge of the Russians; and even in Ellis’s own home, his Millennial partner, distraught over a Trump presidency, has shut himself in, relapsed into addiction and essentially put his life on hold. Ellis’s lament is not political, it’s an argument against permitting politics to rule one’s life and sap all the enjoyment out of it. It is a call to take a deep breath, calm the fuck down, and preserve your sanity. Predictably, Grady’s comeback is to hit the outrage switch by reminding everyone of the “children who are being kept in cages”. This is the inevitable retort whenever anyone calls for rationality, or a more restrained response to Trump’s provocations. Why do Grady and Chotiner think that the appropriate response to Ellis’s criticism of years of anxious liberal hand-wringing over Trump is to try to elicit more of it by rehashing all the outrage inducing talking points? Have they ever considered that maybe Trump is playing them, or that maybe it gives his supporters a boner to watch the so-called liberal elites lose their shit?
Ultimately, Grady concludes that White is simply boring. The Millennial Grady is not impressed with stories of what it’s like to become a famous, best-selling novelist at the age of 23, shortly after graduating college. Stories of cocaine snorting and running with celebrities dull her to death, and she can’t engage with the author’s thoughts on movies or life growing up in the seventies. In other words, she can’t empathize with the experiences of a white, gay middle-aged man. Big surprise.
Millennials like Grady think they’re inventing civilization after generations of human struggle through a primitive dark ages. In her Sixteen Candles piece, she asserts, “In the 1980s, “rape” meant an attack from a stranger in a dark alley, not something that acquaintances did to each other at house parties where everyone knows each other.” This statement is absurd, untrue and reveals an appalling ignorance of the culture she’s attempting to write about, leaving little wonder why she can’t engage with a writer like Ellis. But that’s okay. If you’re ignorant and incurious, just make shit up. Vox will print it anyway.