17 September 2017

Review: Millennials and the Moments that Made Us

A new book, which is to be released in February 2018 and written by Shaun Scott, explains why millennials are the way they are and which events impacted on their lives. Firstly, for those who have heard the word but don’t really know what it means, Shaun Scott describes Millennials as Americans born between 1981 and 1997. Naturally, as the rest of the world usually does, the word has been adopted by every other western nation. This, in turn, means the word is generally anyone born between these years and not simply Americans. As Scott states, he uses ‘popular culture as a lens to explain a generational condition that began in the 1980s’. The book is divided into twelve chapters and four chronological parts. Each part includes the major events and the most prevalent pieces of popular culture that occurred during that period.
Part One begins with the childhood of millennials between 1982 and 1990. Although I label myself as a millennial as I was born in 1993, I wasn’t even born during the period Scott writes about in Part One. Naturally, the dates are the childhood of the writer, which is understandable. The first part discusses what it was like to grow up in 1980s America. Scott explains that this was a period of deindustrialisation, decreased government revenue, underemployment and declining social services. That’s not to mention the introduction of standardised tests and extra homework. The 80s sound great, don’t they?! In contrast, growing up in the 80s was in conjunction with the birth of hip-hop and the music of Prince, Bowie and George Michael. The childhood of millennials in America doesn’t seem to be so different to the childhoods of millennials in the UK. Perhaps then, this is why the word has been transposed by the UK to mean the same thing. 

In Part Two, Scott speaks of the ‘uncontested greatness’ that the USA celebrated after the fall of the Soviet Union. The likes of Michael Jordan epitomised this era of American success with him becoming one of, if not the, greatest sportsman on the planet. This unrivalled success had a dramatic impact on young millennials during the 1990s. But, at the same time, the greats of American sport were countered by glorified losers such as Kurt Cobain and Tupac. Moreover, bad role models such as Bart Simpson gave Americans a mixed bag of idols. Scott explains that non-millennials label us as entitled and spoilt. But Scott counters this argument by explaining that millennials earn the least, many have to work for free as interns and there is an influx of temporary jobs. Moreover, in the UK, millennials have a similar time with zero-hours contracts in warehouses, retail stores and offices. To label millennials as spoilt is very patronising who you consider this.

Scott begins Part Three by discussing the infamous website ‘Napster’. He explains that millennials used the music website to ‘push back against a highly commercialised industry’, and he’s completely right. As he states, millennials were and still are disaffected with capitalism. This trend has continued with online streaming sites for film and television, as well as illegally downloading music. In the mid-2000s, most millennials used the likes of Pirate Bay and LimeWire to illegally download music, which continued the trend that Napster started. This has continued today with millennials choosing illegal convenience over the strings of capitalism by using streaming services such as Kodi.

Millennials are often called the MTV generation as they grew up with the beloved music channel. MTV displayed radical music and programs, which influenced young millennials in the 1990s. With the birth and exhibition of hip-hop came hip-hop fashion. This could be seen most notably with MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice, as Scott explains. Scott also explains that with the birth of rap and the internet came a war of censorship against millennial’s past times and interests. 

In the early 2000s came war and major disasters in the US. 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina are two of the most notable events of this period and both have stuck with and influenced the lives on millennials. Scott explains that George Bush’s response to Hurricane Katrina was extremely poor. With both disasters happening during Bush’s administration, as well as the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, it’s obvious why millennials opt to vote for the Democrats over the Republicans. However, the neo-liberal politics of Obama and the candidacy of Hillary Clinton have disenfranchised millennials. That was, of course, until Bernie Sanders showed his hand. Sanders arrived in the adulthood of millennials. He showed that politics can be done differently. A socialist way. Who would’ve thought an American socialist would win 23 states in the Democratic primaries? The reason was quite simple – millennials. Perhaps, as Scott pointed out, this is because of the number of internships, temp jobs and work experience that millennials have had to take due to the complete lack of full-time and fulfilling jobs.

Although I originally thought Scott had just compiled a book of random events from the 80s, 90s and 00s, I soon realised that these events impacted greatly on the minds of millennials and moulded us into the group that we are now. At times, Scott seemed to jump back to the 80s when discussing a different era. Although I’m sure basketball is massive in the lives of Americans, for a Brit reading this, basketball didn’t impact our lives as much if not at all. Luckily for me, as someone who enjoyed basketball in my childhood, I made a connection with this. However, basketball really wasn’t that big for most Brits. That being said, Scott is an American and has written it for Americans as the subheading is ‘A Cultural History of the U.S. from 1982-Present’. I’m not so sure this book is suitable for Brits due to the focus on American popular culture unless, of course, Brits would like to read about America. All in all, Scott has written a well-rounded, well written and nicely separated book. Although the price tag is slightly hefty and some of the points could do with a tiny bit more analysis, it’s an important book. Moreover, Scott comes across as a competent and intelligent writer. ‘Millennials and the Moments that Made Us’ is out in February 2018 by Zero Books.

11 August 2017

Who and What Are You?

Describe yourself in five words. How many of those words are labels? It’s 2017 and we naturally have more adjectives than at any point in history. I have no evidence to back up that statement, but I reckon it’s true. Since the end of the Second World War and through the eras of sexual liberation, civil rights, drug exploration and the advancement in digital communication, we have explored new horizons and experimented in more ways than our ancestors could ever imagine. With that, we have had to create words to describe these newfound ways of being. These new words can only be described, as ironic as that is, as labels.

We now have words for 60 recognised genders and we have expanded the gay community to LGBTQQAAIP. Go back 70 years (when homosexuality was illegal) and imagine what labels you’d use to describe someone. After the colour of one’s skin, their nationality, their religion and their political leaning, you’d be hard pushed to think of anything else. Now, you can describe someone as a male born non-binary Jewish queer socialist Mexican Latino, and still have numerous labels left that could apply to them. 

As far as the 60-odd genders go, this is something that tends to divide opinion. A lot of people, who are mainly straight (if I may), have decided that there are only two genders - male and female. However, their ignorance is shown with this opinion because there is a difference between gender and sex. One’s sex is how you are defined at birth for having either a penis or a vagina. One’s gender is a personal perception of how one feels. Gender isn’t about physical attributes, and although we are yet to fully understand the human brain, it’s clear that many people do not feel male nor female. I believe the vast array of genders is a good thing. It’s good to be different. The world would be a much more boring place if everyone was the same. I don’t fully understand how someone can’t feel male nor female, but that doesn’t mean they’re lying. Simply because someone can’t comprehend something doesn’t mean it’s untrue. Moreover, it really shouldn’t bug people so much that there are now over 60 genders. That’s something I really don’t understand. Why do the people who are against the existence of the other genders get to annoyed about it?

Could it be that we have too many labels? Could it be that we are so obsessed with labelling each other that we are building divides and splitting into more groups? I think it’s probably a good thing that we are realising that genders aren’t simply male or female and that there are more sexualities than just gay or straight. I do think, however, that we like to assign labels to ourselves to give ourselves a meaning. But, with that, it means we categorise people are shoved them into pigeon holes. Once we define ourselves as one label, it’s hard to shake off and redefine yourself. If you call yourself a gay man and then one day you sleep with a woman on a drunken night out, does that then make you bisexual? He might not find women physically attractive, but he slept with a woman. This is why I believe it’s good to use umbrella terms such as ‘queer’ instead of choosing one of the other letters in LGBTQQAAIP.

Here’s the hippy part: let’s all just stop labelling each other and see everyone as simply ‘human’. No, don’t do that. We are all different. We are all our own person. Define yourself however you want and be proud of who and what you are. But, remember, you don’t have to let your label define you. Maybe the world would just be a better place if we stopped judging each other...

19 June 2017

My Favourite Films of the 90s

As a continuation of my previous post containing my favourite films on the 21st century, here is a list of my favourite films from the 1990s.

American Beauty (1999)

Pulp Fiction (1994)

The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996)

Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)

Jurassic Park (1993)

Space Jam (1996)

Se7en (1995)

Romeo + Juliet (1996)

Office Space (1999)

Trainspotting (1996)

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

The Sixth Sense (1999)

Titanic (1997)

Goldeneye (1995)

Fargo (1996)

The English Patient (1996)

The Big Lebowski (1998)

Léon (1994)

Notable Mentions: 
The Thomas Crown Affair (1999), Forrest Gump (1994) and The Green Mile (1993)

11 June 2017

My Favourite Films of the 21st Century

Sofia Coppola, Denis Villeneuve, Paul Feig and Antoine Fuqua have recently listed their favourite films of the 21st century. So, I thought I'd list mine too. Here are my favourite films of the 21st century. (In no order)

American Psycho (2000)

Love Actually (2004)

Django Unchained (2012)

Crazy Heart (2009)

John Wick (2014)

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Inglorious Basterds (2008)

The Damned United (2009)

Hot Fuzz (2007)

Downfall (2004)

No Country for Old Men (2007)

There Will Be Blood (2007)

Rush (2013)

Brokeback Mountain (2004)

Catch Me If You Can (2002)

Scary Movie 2 (2001)

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Frost/Nixon (2008)

The Hateful Eight (2015)

Good Bye Lenin! (2003)

Notable mentions: 500 Days of Summer (2009), Taken (2008), Burn After Reading (2008), Limitless (2011) & Rogue One (2016)

Young People Voted!

Estimated figures suggest that 72 per cent of young people voted in the 2017 general election! That’s almost 30 per cent higher than in 2010 and eight per cent higher than the 2016 EU referendum! More young people voted for a political party than when the choice was as binary as yes or no!

In 2016, I published ‘Why Young People Don’t Vote’. One the main reasons I thought young people didn't vote was because of the complete lack of choice. I argued that young people (aged between 18 and 24) are much more likely to be leftwing. However, in 2010 and 2015, the only party that actually represented young people was the Green Party. There are two issues with this. Young people know full well that we have a first-past-the-post system and voting for the Green Party, outside of Brighton Pavilion, is like voting for the Monster Raving Looney Party. It’s utterly pointless because our electoral system ensures that they can’t win and that the vote is wasted. The other issue is that the Green Party doesn't get much publicity. So, for young people who don't really follow politics, they might never hear about the Green Party’s policies. Moreover, even if they did, we revert back to issue number one where the Greens simply can’t win. After pointing this out, I then argued: ‘if the party furthest to the left was capable of winning the election, more young people would turnout.’ What we had this year was Jeremy Corbyn and his leftwing manifesto. We had a Labour Party that was true to its socialist roots and a manifesto that really spoke to and represented young people. Low and behold, youth turnout increased by almost 30 per cent!

The final chapter of ‘Why Young People Don’t Vote’ gives some ways of solving the appalling youth turnout at previous elections. 

Here are some of the suggestions I had back in 2015, which was also a factor for the record youth turnout in 2017.

This year and the EU referendum saw politics take hold of social media. Most notably, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat. As the majority of young people use social media platforms, it’s a great way of targeting young people.

Bite the Ballot
Bite the Ballot is a great organisation that attempts to get young people to register to vote and then, eventually, get out and vote. I believe Bite the Ballot has made a huge impact in recent years and their efforts shouldn't be overlooked.

TV Debates
The televised debates were missing one crucial person this year: the Prime Minister. Unfortunately for her, she missed out on an opportunity to connect to the wider public. However, saying that, I don’t think she would've been a match against Jeremy Corbyn as she struggles with answering questions from the weakest of interviewers. The TV debates are an important part of democracy as it gives us an opportunity to hear from politicians without a coating of media bias. 

This year saw the likes of Stormzy and JME endorse Jeremy Corbyn. In fact, it saw most of the UK grime scene endorse the Labour leader. Moreover, it seemed like the entire celebrity universe was endorsing Corbyn. Celebrities have massive power. They can influence and change peoples’ minds. This worked in conjunction with the use of social media as young people were able to see celebrities endorse Corbyn. It also showed young people that not all politicians are the same. Musical genres such as rap and grime are very political. Usually they spread the word of disenfranchisement. What we saw was a genre endorsing a candidate because he wasn't like the rest. 

Charismatic Candidates
I suggested back in 2015 that having charismatic candidates would encourage youth turnout. But, I must say this helps if the candidate represents young people. One of the main reasons why so many young people voted for Jeremy Corbyn was because of his personality. He’s an anti-establishment politician who stands up for the many. He’s not a typical politician who is in the back pockets of the wealthy and is only out for personal political gain. Young people saw this in Corbyn and it encouraged them to become engaged with the election. This also happened in the States with Bernie Sanders.

Diverse Representation
I was encouraged to learn that the House of Commons now has over 200 female MPs, the first turbaned Sikh MP, the first female Sikh MP, the first Palestinian MP and 45 LGBT MPs. Diverse representation is only a good thing and as more young people see candidates that are more representatives of themselves, the more likely they are to vote for them.

There are still things we can do to encourage even more young people to vote and to maintain this incredible number of young voters. Things like electoral reform, abolishment of voting registration and online voting. All of which will take legislation to implement, but all can be achieved and aren't silly ideas.

‘Why Young People Don’t Vote’ is still available to purchase on Amazon.