It’s cliché, at this point, to note that (1) every generation loves talking about the shortcomings of “kids these days”; and that (2) when you combine this eternal human tendency with a technological revolution that a lot of older (and not-so-older) folks are still struggling to gain a handle on, you get a lot of excruciatingly bad writing and “analysis.” Still, it’s worth occasionally dipping into the world of stupid anti-millennial trend pieces to understand how easy (and, apparently, profitable!) it is to misrepresent an entire generation and stoke ancient sorts of youth panic.
Today’s specimen comes from The Hollywood Reporter, which earlier today published an extremely silly story story by Seth Abramovitch about how, when it comes to being Hollywood assistants, millennials are far inferior to their predecessors. Why are they inferior, you ask? Because technology! And independence! And coddling parents!
Let’s dive right in:
Horror stories are traded among the bemused: Have you heard about the assistant’s mother who called a power agent to complain about how she was treating her daughter? Or the assistant at a boutique agency who froze when his boss asked him to print a script? (He’d only ever seen them in PDF format.)
That assistant’s mother sounds terrible. Those damn overbearing Gen X-ers! As for the assistant who had never seen a printer (?), maybe you shouldn’t hire someone who lacks the technical expertise of a moderately intelligent toddler?
Naturally, the story then broadens out into an examination of how kids “just don’t get it”:
“They don’t get the whole ‘I’m here to take care of your every need’ mentality,” says Josh Green, vp business affairs at Sony Music, of the current crop of assistants. “They gossip, play on Twitter and Facebook and IM all day. They’ll do what’s asked but never anticipate their bosses’ needs.”
So … fire them? The job market is horrible. I promise, promise, promise there are millennials out there who will eagerly exhibit every bit of the obsequiousness terrible people in Hollywood demand — somehow, despite our alleged inability to do any work without “play[ing] on Twitter and Facebook and IM all day,” we seem to be breaking into the ranks of law and medicine and journalism and quantum-mechanical research just fine. I have a feeling that if you look hard enough, you can find someone willing to tear themselves away from Instagram long enough to find you a soy latte. Don’t blame the generation if you don’t know how to hire a competent human being.
Then there’s this towering monument to incoherence:
A common complaint is that millennials expect too much, too soon. Having been raised on a steady diet of YouTube, Netflix and other forms of instant gratification, they frequently are shell-shocked by the grueling hours and low pay that awaits them in Hollywood. When Syracuse University grad Yoni Liebling moved to L.A. in 2010 to take a job in CAA’s storied mailroom, he admits his expectations were slightly out of whack. “I had that millennial mentality,” says Liebling, 27, of those itchy early years. “I thought, ‘I’m going to work for it, I want it, thus I should get it.’ ” It didn’t take long for Liebling to realize that Hollywood is the type of place where few low-level people advance “unless you bust your butt.” He then proceeded to roll up his sleeves and get to work.
Let’s break this down into its gloriously nonsensical constituent parts:
Having been raised on a steady diet of YouTube, Netflix and other forms of instant gratification, they frequently are shell-shocked by the grueling hours and low pay that awaits them in Hollywood.
“I can watch whatever I want on YouTube; therefore, I don’t see why I should have to work hard,” said no actual person ever, because this doesn’t make any sense.
I had that millennial mentality,” says Liebling, 27, of those itchy early years. “I thought, ‘I’m going to work for it, I want it, thus I should get it.’ ” It didn’t take long for Liebling to realize that Hollywood is the type of place where few low-level people advance “unless you bust your butt.” He then proceeded to roll up his sleeves and get to work.
Abramovitch’s argument is that millennials don’t understand how important hard work is (because YouTube). As evidence to support this fact, he quotes … a millennial who says he had “that millennial mentality” that hard work is important, and subsequently worked really hard (Liebling, Abramovitch reports, is now assisting a famous producer). Checkmate!
And don’t worry, there are more mentions of technology, because technology is a thing that exists and changes stuff and things:
[S]avvy assistants — many of whom tend to mimic their bosses’ habit of microscheduling everything — make sure to get in a good Googling ahead of time. The more they can glean from Facebook profiles and Twitter feeds, the easier to tell if this drinks date is a potential colleague, competitor or even a casual fling.
Yes, millennials invented the concept of researching who someone is before hanging out with them. You’re welcome, world.
The rise of Facebook and Instagram has added yet another layer of complexity. Jittery agencies have scrambled to revise social media policies in a bid to ensure that snap-happy assistants are staying on brand, noncontroversial and respectful of their high-powered clients’ privacy.
Again, what does this have to do with millennials? For thousands of years, humans have been remarkably creative when it comes to finding ways to suck at their jobs. Obviously a given moment’s most popular methods of sucking are dependent on things like technology. Why is it that non-millennials have so much difficulty understanding that sometimes people need to be fired, disciplined, or otherwise corrected, and that this perennial truth tells us exactly nothing about their generation writ large?
Anyway, I could go on and on, and I’m not meaning to beat up on just one example of a flourishing subgenre (well, I am a little). But these stories get tiresome after a while. There are, of course, rigorous ways to look at generational differences, to figure out how technology is affecting us (it would be silly to assume it isn’t), and so on. But where we could have a substantive discussion, instead we get mostly anecdata-driven incoherent nonsense. I’m so mad about this I’m going to tweet my Instagram Facebook Snapchat, and then call my parents and have them call Abramowitz’s editor.