If 'genius' behind dull TV show is voice of millennials, can I quit

If the ‘genius’ behind TV’s achingly dull Conversations With Friends is the voice of millennials, can I join another generation, writes EMILY HILL

  • The work of Sally Rooney is back on our screensand we’re not better off for it
  • She is dubbed a genius and the voice of a generationif only it couldn’t be mine
  • To claim she’s the voice of millennials is a disservice to millennials like me
  • While fans gush about her writing on Instagram, I find it all vacuous and dull
  • The adaptation of her book Normal People was the TV hit of the pandemic. The story of an on-off romance between two Irish school friends, complete with authentically lusty sex scenes, captivated millions during 폐쇄 and made the careers of its two lead actors.

    지금, the work of Sally Rooney is back on our screens with the BBC adaptation of her first novel, Conversations With Friends, the story of Irish student Frances, who meets a glamorous married couple, Nick and Melissa, and begins an affair with Nick.

    It comes as no surprise that fans were queuing up to watch it when it came onto iPlayer on Sunday night. 아무튼, 31-year-old Rooney is one of the most-hyped authors of the moment, dubbed a genius and 그 목소리 of a generation.

    I just wish to God it wasn’t mine.

    Sally Rooney (사진) has become the voice of a generation - I just wish it wasn't mine

    Sally Rooney (사진) has become the voice of a generationI just wish it wasn’t mine

    솔직히, to claim she’s the voice of millennials is a disservice to millennials — and if she is, I hereby apply to join another generation.

    While her (incredibly large) fan club gushes on Instagram that her writing is profound, crystallising the experiences of young people, I find it vacuous and dull, not to mention troublingly narcissistic.

    Don’t believe me? 잘, sit through a few episodes of Conversations With Friends and you’ll likely change your mind.

    Having forced my way almost to the end of the 12-episode series, I can categorically say that it’s achingly tedious and self-indulgent. And though I disliked Normal People for the same reasons, at least that series had a love story that reminded us all of teenage lust, as opposed to an ugly extra-marital affair. 또한, it featured Paul Mescal clad in nothing but a gold neck chain.

    대조적으로, the sexiest character in Conversations With Friends is not a person but Nick and Melissa’s house, which is straight out of a Farrow & Ball catalogue. Even that doesn’t make up for the fact we have to wait until episode three before there is any heat between the lovers — and the scene consists of Nick holding a beer to Frances’s face to cool her down.

    I’m sure it tells you all you need to know if I explain that I was more swept up in Frances’s spoken-word poetry and her endometriosis diagnosis than any of the sex scenes. The two leads have zero sexual chemistry.

    Conversations with Friends is simply dull and lifeless despite all the hype

    Conversations with Friends is simply dull and lifeless despite all the hype

    That’s not to say I enjoyed the sex scenes in Normal People. 솔직히, Rooney’s portrayal of sex is part of the reason I find her so problematic.

    Just look at Marianne, Normal People’s female protagonist, a privileged white woman who appears to have an eating disorder, is clearly depressed, and who asks to be used by men in horrible ways. During one sex session with Connell, she asks him to hit her. He refuses, although this marks him out as special, the message — at least in the TV series — apparently being that most men would hit a woman if asked.

    Rooney fans may argue that the author is just shining a light on the ways that today’s young women suffer amid a climate of confusing sexual politics. But Marianne is a consummate victim — and many of us don’t want to think of ourselves that way.

    물론이야, not all female characters have to be as empowered as Jane Eyre, but Marianne’s need to be rescued by Connell means Rooney ends up disempowering women. 아이러니하게도, as the so-called voice of the #MeToo generation, all she does is give credence to the idea that all women are oppressed by the patriarchy and incapable of doing anything about it.

    It doesn’t help that all of the dialogue in the book is so stilted.

    Take the most memorable love scene in Normal People — when Marianne and Connell finally realise the extent of their feelings for each other. 여기있어, verbatim:

    I want this so much, 그녀는 말한다. [Connell replies:] It’s really nice to hear you say that. I’m going to switch the TV off, if that’s okay.

    Since Marianne and Connell were still in secondary school when the book started, they can be forgiven for being incapable of communicating.

    But in Conversations With Friends, Nick is a 30-something actor who is married to Ireland’s hottest literary talent. So when he tells Frances he needs to go home and write her an email in order to express his feelings — ‘I really liked it . . . I liked it. I think it would have been better if I’d said nothing’ — there really is no excuse.

    For while Rooney — and her adoring fans — may think she’s providing ground-breaking cultural insights when she writes of working-class Connell finding love with upper middle-class Marianne; or student Frances being wooed by an older, arty couple, in truth her books are just yet another tale of middle-class white people, written for middle-class white people by a middle-class white person.

    Which is what Rooney is, despite describing herself as a lifelong Marxist. 아이러니하게도, her popularity is thanks to capitalism, as books like hers have become essential luxury items to be put on display beside the Diptyque candles.

    따라서, it comes as no surprise to me that my working-class relatives would much rather watch the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial on YouTube than waste a second of their time watching Conversations With Friends. Unlike the intelligentsia, they’re not gagging to watch yet another tale of a Sally Rooney-esque figure — because all her female protagonists strongly resemble Rooney herself — reading poetry while seducing Nick, who is played by British actor Joe Alwyn (Taylor Swift’s boyfriend).

    There’s more navel-gazing in Rooney’s work than anyone without a narcissistic personality disorder could handle.

    Yet such is the cult of Sally Rooney that many people my age — indeed of all ages — still feel obliged to read and watch her work, whether we like it or not. Because admitting you don’t like it is seen as social suicide, a sign that you’re likely of sub-par intellect, given your failure to recognise her supposed genius.

    Rooney’s popularity is a classic case of woke indoctrination. As one commentator put it: ‘It is now aspirational to be the kind of person who has read Sally Rooney. She is a signifier of a certain kind of literary chic: if you read Sally Rooney . . . you’re smart, but you’re also fun — and you’re also cool enough to be suspicious of both “smart” and “fun” as concepts.’

    Some of my favourite books —brilliant works such as American Psycho, Lolita, Decline And Fall — could not be published in the current climate without a fatwa being issued against their authors due to glorification of paedophilia and violence against women.

    So instead, we’re left with Rooney and her exercises in woke bingo — as Nick is dubbed a ‘cis-man’ (meaning his gender identity is the same as the sex he was assigned at birth, as opposed to being transgender), 과 (lest we were panicking) the revelation that ‘Frances is a Communist’.

    Then there are such exchanges as: ‘There are a lot of white people [Starkie는 미국에서 버지니아 주프레(Virginia Giuffre)가 제기한 성폭행 소송에서 앤드류에 대해 말해야 한다고 말했다.]’; ‘I feel it’s a bit better than it used to be.’

    According to the BBC, Normal People was viewed 62.7 백만 번. But that was during lockdown — a time when going within two metres of a member of the opposite sex was banned, and it proved a key outlet for millennials’ sexual frustrations.

    Now things are largely back to normal, I hope those watching Conversations With Friends will finally see the hype around Rooney for what it is: a classic case of The Emperor’s New Clothes.