By Diana Metzger
As an almost-30 lady (November 1st and just as psyched as Olivia Wilde about it) and a personal essayist, I admire Elizabeth Wurtzel and her powerful memoir Prozac Nation. At 26 years old, Wurtzel took a swing at the people in her life and exposed the emotional wound of her struggles with drugs and depression in her writing. The memoir spoke to and for a generation X of educated, creative, and complicated women. I’m drawn to Wurtzel’s unapologetic take on her life and society in her essays, but yesterday she published a piece that made me wish she’d apologize to young literary women, like myself, that look up to her.
The article attempts to dismiss the creative output of female artists of the millennial generation. She sites Lena Dunham as an example and that’s it. But more than being dismissive, this article is borderline incoherent. At least my generation was taught that if you write an essay you gotta have a thesis statement. I’m hurt, but I also believe that Wurtzel should be better than this piece if she’s going to gnaw on the artfully manicured hands of the millennials that still feed her book sales.
Let me break the confusion down a bit. It starts with the title: “From Led Zeppelin to Breaking Bad: The Lamest Generation.” She only refers to Zep in the article when commenting on their youth when they were in their prime. Bringing up Breaking Bad seems like some odd, sad attempt to jump on a culturally relevant train. Wow, she’s watching what the rest of the world is watching—even my grandmother doesn’t think that’s cool.
What she uses Breaking for is laughable; she brings up that a popular figure on television is a man in his 40s as opposed to someone in their 20s. This is her cockeyed statement that leads her to believe that 20-somethings aren’t producing great art that represents them. My high school English teacher would be pissed: not only did Wurtzel not give a clear thesis statement, she didn’t do her research either. F+ (the plus is for effort). If she actually watched Breaking Bad or looked on IMDB, she’d know that Gennifer Hutchison, one of the writers, is a young 36 and has been writing for the show since 2010. Before that, Hutchison was paying her dues on another of Wurtzel’s favorites: Mad Men.
If Wurtzel doesn’t see that millennials are represented on Breaking, then she’s insulting the character of Jesse, played by the ferociously talented 34-year-old Aaron Paul. Oh, and about Mad Men, what about Erin Levy, the Mad Men writer who started as Matt Weiner’s assistant and then joined the writing staff, winning an Emmy at the enviably young age of 26. Maybe the characters on Mad Men aren’t living in the current decade, but Levy stated that she draws parallels from herself to working young women in the 50s and 60s like Peggy Olsen. There are so many young women of my age group and younger putting amazing art out there representing their world that simultaneously makes me green with envy and spurs me forward: Liz Meriwether, Taylor Swift, Tavi Gevinson, Amy Herzog, Annie Baker, Brit Marling, Meg Mcinerney and Katie Cappielo, Alissa Nutting, Leigh Stein, Tracey Wigfield, and oh man I could go on forever. The one young woman Wurtzel deigns to acknowledge is Lena Dunham, and she compliments the show, yet ruins her praise by offensively, and apopos of nothing, referring to Dunham’s “inexcusable thighs.” Because I am a huge Dunham fan, I know that Lena is a SoulCycle devotee. That spinning shit is difficult. Girl has awesome thighs and those thighs come with really big talent and smarts too, by the way.
Wurtzel isn’t just going after women either. She also believes she has the authority to insult current rap and hip-hop. Her comment that rap went on a downhill slide from criminal content to wealth braggadocio is downright offensive and bigoted. She considers P.Diddy current, though he hasn’t released an album since 2009 and he’s also in Wurtzel’s age group. Someone should really hand Wurtzel one of those new-fangled iPods with a little Frank Ocean, Azealia Branks, Drake, and Kendrick Lamar on one of those bad boys.
Elizabeth Wurtzel is too busy humble bragging the hell out of this article (She’s 46 but everyone thinks she’s 26! She made the brave choice to be a law associate just like The Good Wife!) to see that she’s blaming the Internet for lack of young art—while her article is on the Daily Beast website. She should use those deadly interwebs to check out some of the awesome aforementioned young artists out there instead of going after a generation that she obviously is entirely out of touch.
By the way, I firmly believe that Arcade Fire will continue to rock out and speak for my generation when we’re all in the nursing home.