Quarterlife: Angst 2.0


Sure, My So-Called Life was cheesy, but as a 14-year-old, I bought the sixteenth best cult show ever hook line and sinker. I swooned over dreamy Jordan Catalano. Rayanne “I Wear My Slip on the Outside” Graff was my grunge fashion inspiration. When Angela Chase observed, “My parents keep asking how school was. It’s like saying, ‘How was that drive-by shooting?’ You don’t care how it was, you’re lucky to get out alive,” I thought, How true.

So when I heard that the new web series Quarterlife was produced by MSCL masterminds Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick, I hoped it would be just like old times. The problem was, it is.

The premise of the show is familiar enough TV territory: Twentysomethings share house, drama, shenanigans (see Three’s Company, Friends, How I Met Your Mother, for starters). In each 8-minute episode, the gang does all the things that we’ve expected modern singles to do ever since, well, Singles: They flop onto their unmade beds. They leave empty beer bottles around their kitchens. They wonder whether to move in with their girlfriends and boyfriends.

The bummer is this:

Via snippets of her vlog (also called Quarterlife), we’re given a glimpse into the annoying inner life of protagonist Dylan, who, it seems, has it rough. She wants to be “living the life of a writer,” but instead is forced to work at a shallow women’s magazine. Her coworker steals her ideas. And to top it all off, her roommates are prettier and more charming than she. Dylan “often cries for no reason” and is the only one who Really Gets It. “It’s my curse that I can see what people are thinking,” she irritatingly muses. “And what good does that do me if nobody can see me?”

Angela Chase, is that you, trapped inside the body of a 25-year-old? To be fair, I’m not sure how old Dylan is supposed to be, but ostensibly she’s well beyond the throes of adolescence. On teenagers, wanna-be deep/painfully self-conscious is expected, and even charming. On adults, it’s insufferable. But the narcissism doesn’t stop there: When a roommate figures out that Dylan’s been vlogging about her, she gets pissed (“You put my face all over the frickin’ net!”). Dylan’s response? “Things just come out of me. I’m a writer!”

If all this cringeworthy earnestness weren’t bad enough on its own, the producers had the audacity to take it beyond the confines of the series itself. See, Quarterlife isn’t just a show. It’s also a web community for “artists, thinkers and doers.” There’s a social networking area, forums, and a regular advice column about “twenty- and thirty-something life.” From a recent column:

The quarterlife can be a confusing time of contradictions, in which you’re pulled in various directions. It can be:

a time of creativity because the world is your blank canvas, with infinite possibilities.
a time of paralysis because the world is your blank canvas, with an intimidating number of possibilities.

an age at which you’re expected to make important life decisions.
an age at which you feel like you haven’t lived enough to make important life decisions (kind of like the experience Catch-22: employers say they want someone with “experience,” but in order to get experience you have to get hired in the first place).

Ewww! It’s like the What’s Happening to My Body Book for Twentysomethings. And don’t even get me started on the cloying lack of capitalization.

Next time I want to indulge in My So-Called Life nostalgia, I’ll stick to my friend’s box set, thanks.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate