Feature / Morgan Salter

Dear Brett Easton Ellis

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On August 24th, 2014, Brett Easton Ellis wrote a piece in Vanity Fair describing millennials and those in their 20’s – the children of the late boomers and early gen Xers – as “Generation Wuss.”

When I read “Generation Wuss,” by Ellis I was overwhelmed with frustration to the point where typing seemed incredibly slow. There should be some telepathic electronic device where my thoughts just show up on the screen; I was being held back by my fingers. I had to go back several times to fix my spelling errors because my fingers were hitting all sorts of buttons so that “a simplee sentence ,looks ike thise”.

Ellis brings up an argument with his partner about a suicide. Tyler Clementi committed suicide in 2010 after his roommate filmed him hooking up with another guy. Easton Ellis believes the kid who killed himself overreacted to “a pretty harmless—in my mind—freshman dorm-room prank.” Ellis believes there is no such thing as cyber-bullying and emotional abuse. He wrote, “Cyber-“bullying” versus imagined threats and genuine hands-on bullying.” He has bullying in quotation marks as if it is not actually bullying, he uses the word genuine when he talks about hands-on-bullying as if anything else is not harmful.

But emotional abuse can hurt more than physical abuse. Consider the phrases, “my friend stabbed me in the back,” or “she broke my heart.” Neither of these are literal, most of the time (with a few psychotic exceptions) friends do not stab their friends and lovers do not break each other’s hearts. It is simply a means to describe the emotional pain caused by the incident. Often physical pain is caused by emotional pain (chest pain, stress, heart attack, self harm). Ellis can’t see two inches in front of his face – he speaks unfairly because he does not know or understand the topic.

While in high school a girl in the grade below me committed suicide. Our community was shaken; she was loved by many. So why does a beautiful young girl, with family, with friends, take her own life? She was not physically beaten (although I’m sure she did get in a few scuffles); she was emotionally pummeled. Daily, people would ridicule her publicly, humiliate her, call her names and judge her and for what reason? I still don’t know.

Who did this to her? It was people from our school and other schools in the area. It was as if someone decided they didn’t like her and then reached out to their friends to create this surrounding wall of hate she couldn’t escape from. It was the same debilitating cruelty that thrives in adolescents all over. Easton Ellis proposes the idea to move on, don’t let it bother you. Okay, how? She was in therapy, she was active in sports, she tried moving on, but couldn’t. I wouldn’t consider it a “harmless prank” if it makes someone so uncomfortable in their own life that they end it.

I can understand how it could be frustrating for Easton Ellis when he mentions how people who kill themselves end up being victims and heroes. I remember that same feeling when this girl committed suicide.

I admit – partly with shame – that I was irritated with the amount of attention she got after she passed. Mainly because they should have paid more attention before, but also because I didn’t think she deserved it, or at least that kind of attention. Everyone was posting the same thing all over Facebook; she flooded my newsfeed for weeks. There were tons of pictures of her photo-shopped with wings with the caption “Heaven gained a beautiful angel today.” There were numerous sports games dedicated to her and bracelets made in her name, every sunset was her creation.

I understand this is part of grieving – I am not heartless.  She ended her own life, she killed herself. Yes; it was motivated by other issues in her life and the people who contributed should be punished for bullying, but in the end, it was her final decision. It annoyed me how people acted as if God took her from them when she was the one who left. They acted as if she was an angel before she died. When in all due respect, she did bully some people as well. My friend put it, “bullies get bullied.” She was neither an angel or – as Easton Ellis would have it – a “wuss.” She was human – horribly, tragically, human.

I get Easton Ellis’s point. I just don’t agree. Being publicly humiliated and constantly teased adds to more stress and hopelessness than some people can handle, even when someone is “just kidding”. When you are kidding you do it once, see that it hurts someone and stop. When you do it repeatedly, you’re bullying. For example if you joke about someone’s weight every time you see them and think it’s okay because you say you’re just kidding, they think if (s)he’s just kidding, why is that always the first thing that comes to his/her mind when (s)he sees me?

Easton Ellis writes;

“When Millennials are criticized for this content they seem to collapse into a shame spiral and the person criticizing them is automatically labeled a hater, a contrarian, a troll. And then you have to look at the generation that raised them, that coddled them in praise—gold medals for everyone, four stars for just showing up—and tried to shield them from the dark side of life, and in turn created a generation that appears to be super confident and positive about things but when the least bit of darkness enters into their realm they become paralyzed and unable to process it.”

If Millenials are too positive and confident, then allow me to shift the dynamic for Mr. Easton Ellis – though he’s probably too busy filming shit movies like The Canyons staring Lindsay Lohan and porn-star James Deen.

How’s this for paralysis: you’re a has-been. You hide behind your cruel irony, and have replaced trying to solve problems with cynicism. You’re bitter. You’re old. You’re trying to remain relevant when all your good novels are decades old. You think it’s okay to film some poor 18 year old on a webcam, undermine their personal, private life, and expect them to get over it – to not feel violated and assaulted. It’s not that you’re entirely wrong, Brett Easton Ellis, about who we are, or our challenges. Every generation has them – us too – and we struggle with the baggage of our upbringing. It’s not that you don’t make some valid points about us.

It’s just that you’re a dick.

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