Last night, I finished the latest season of Euphoria, which has been called the ‘TV Show Of A Generation’ by at least one of my friends and/or half of Reddit. For my money, it’s merely the latest in a long line of borderline incoherent trauma porn written by white dudes on drugs, only with a younger and more diverse cast and a strong secondary market as PornHub clips. But my money is in Tezos, so take it as you will.
I could fill a dissertation with my armchair psych eval of Sam Levinson, but we’re a culture publication, and culture is one thing Euphoria is decidedly not. So, have no fear. No spoilers here but the obvious: like every other episode of the show, the finale is a string of non-linear, broadly written vignettes with no thematic throughline other than being uniformly clinically depressing. Of course, that doesn’t stop me from tuning in every week, and I know I’m not alone. So, I wondered, if this show’s nothing but a distilled audiovisual panic attack, how is it also the Show Of A Generation?
To be fair, there’s always been a market for trauma porn, long before the term was coined back in 2014. But it seems now more than ever to capture the zeitgeist in a singular way. Look at A Little Life — basically a novel-length justification for a gay man’s suicide — which practically birthed ‘literary TikTok’ last year. Or Depression Twitter. Or Lana Del Rey. Or, like, the mainstream news media, for hell’s sake. By virtue of writing about the Internet and the future, I spend a lot of time thinking about our generation. What defines us? How will we be remembered? At last, answers emerge: by our poor taste in entertainment and SSRI dependencies.
Now, obviously, there are easy culprits to point to. Americans in my generation came of age right as our country was in Squid Game worthy debt, electing fascists, torturing prisoners of war, waving nukes around like jock straps, killing its own citizens for hanging air fresheners in their cars, denying the imminent millennium of natural disasters we’ve collectively caused. The rest of the world didn’t fare much better, from what I recall. At the same time, what’s new? We’ve feared Russia’s nukes for decades, weathered economic crashes for longer, known about the greenhouse effect since the early 1800s, and promoted genocide since the Mayflower. Why is it just now getting to us?
I’ll admit I don’t have an answer. I’m writing only my observations, not my judgement. To those of y’all who’ve been reading for a while, you know it gets to me, too. How could it not? Depression comes from every angle: our feed, our news, our streaming services, our music. And, as of last week, we’ve got a real event, unprecedented in our lifetimes in its proximity to our own lives, to tie our depression to: a European land war playing out on the Internet in real time. So, yes, I’m predisposed to hijack my own platform to air an existential crisis, as we’re all want to do.
But I will say, there’s a reason I find myself returning to write about web3 degens — the decentralized generation, not the depressed one — week after week. For all their right-click-saving, billion-dollar-ape-JPG-buying, DAO-funded-country-clubbing delusions, the prevailing emotion on the blockchain is optimism. Silly, blissful, unconsciously destructive optimism, to be sure. But is it worse than the web2 algo-incentivized shitposts and Marvel-ized super cuts of the Ukrainian invasion? The conscious destruction everywhere else? All I know is, it’s not worse for my mental health. And, to help the world, first, you’ve got to help yourself.
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