We are all zombies, in colorful chenille jumpsuits and baggy pants, like the parade in the mud with which Balenciaga made waves in this year’s Paris Fashion Week. Or maybe we are all ready to fight, like Kanye West, who targets those who accuse his latest collection of racism: “When I said war I meant war.” Yet we Millennials, stuck in the quicksand of social hedonism, should have noticed this long ago. Ever since the chromatic juxtaposition of Oliviero Toscani’s bodies would have reached nemesis with the awareness of the naked body of an anorexic model. It was the 2000s, and in that underground place that has always been the Italian province, Fabri Fibra rapped, “Stasera escort, anagramma di sterco” (“Tonight escort, anagram of dung”). But we didn’t notice.
How could we have known, with that boy band innocence? When our mantra was cioè (that is), a word so generational that it became the title of a magazine to rattle off at school? Grown-ups taught us to always ask “why” as if, by addition over things, we could touch the summit of a common truth: “If there’s a crisis, we’ll turn it away, because your problems are my problems,” Ambra Angiolini sang from T’appartengo, the soundtrack of the Italian TV show Non è la Rai and a symbol of the 90’s generation.
But then that peak fell, we watched it curl and collapse at the gates of puberty on Sept. 11, 2001–the beginning of a meltdown that was all ours, before the Lehman Brothers crisis, before we were fully teenagers. What remains of yesterday screams at us from the new generations today, for whom hoarding thoughts and assurances is perhaps beautiful, but as vintage as the set of Stranger Things. For the nostalgia we breathe is nothing more than a Tesla programmed to reverse.
Yet all of this was already underway. The success of Britney Spears’s “One More Time” wasn’t the essence of the hedonism we thought we were looking for, no! Britney sang, “My loneliness is killing me, I must confess,” and we didn’t listen to her. We preferred to hear that of Confessions on a Dance Floor, of a Madonna who flaunted her virginity so much that it crystallized in a niche–certainly profane–more than Mary herself.
We should have known it when we saw Britney bald and tattooed with the number of the beast: these were the years when the United States tracked down its own beast in remote Pakistan, when all it took was a consonant to reduce the place of one’s destiny to its essentials: Obama or Osama? Before long, even a little number like “the spread” (the difference between Italian and German government bonds) would determine our unpaid future or a job we never fully achieved.
Confessions on a Dance Floor, Madonna
We thought that huddling on a couch like they do in Friends was enough to make us feel like we were part of a family, an impregnable home like Kevin McCallister’s or one with sliding doors like in The Nanny. Because, deep down, we understood that our evil was loneliness, the kind made dramatically plastic by the man falling from the Twin Towers. We buried it in Varieties and MTV Awards, in World Youth Days and Live8. But solitude crouched there, as impassive and leathery as Lady Diana’s body carried in procession through London, the first of so many deaths that were all voices of the noun “loneliness”.
Ten years later, with his bestseller Call Me By Your Name, André Aciman chose a melodic song to be the soundtrack to a homosexual relationship at sunset, “Fenesta ca lucive”: that window once lit, then extinguished by death, was the same one that Eiffel 65 sung about with their eyes that saw the whole world as blue. A window, the house, themselves: “And all day and all night and everything he sees is just blue. Like him inside and outside.” We didn’t realize it. It took Billie Eilish’s oil tears in the music video for “when the party’s over” to remind us that that blue was everything and nothing.
Today there is a generation that has no problem severing something of itself, a lock to fight against abuses, as opposed to us who have accumulated a whole life to be abused by consumerism and aesthetics as an end in itself: “Life in plastic: it’s fantastic!” Now, if Disney is also conveying new messages and Velma from Scooby-Doo is finally coming out, it is a sign that we should have woken up earlier. We woke up late, or maybe we were already exhausted from other people’s dreams. Maybe we thought we could only live in the world by becoming ourselves an object in an increasingly unstable planet. “You can touch, you can play. If you say, I am always yours,” sang Aqua. We should have realized that that was never our dream. And that today, if we persist in our mistake, we will only end up living someone else’s dream: per The Cranberries, “We were living for the love we had, living not for reality. Just my imagination.”