+
upworthy
Culture

Bo Burnham's groundbreaking Netflix special "Inside" exposes the flaws in millennial culture

Bo Burnham's groundbreaking Netflix special "Inside" exposes the flaws in millennial culture

Bo Burnham's "Inside" is a painfully accurate reflection of what it feels like to be not young, not old and not well.

I say painful because I turned 30 during the pandemic, and watching Burnham "celebrate" the minute he turned 30 during the pandemic with a meager "Yay" and a song about no longer being the youngest person in the room—it hit hard. Even the bits that didn't resonate with me still provoked a feeling of millennial familiarity, and nailed how easy it is to see the problems with ourselves, yet how complex it is to fix them.




Welcome to the Internet - Bo Burnham (from "Inside" -- ALBUM OUT NOW)www.youtube.com


"Inside" takes place over the course of a year. Burnham films and directs the special in his guesthouse and strings together pieces of the pandemic through songs, monologues, parodies of popular YouTube conventions and the occasional clip of equipment falling to the ground. Subjects range from systemic oppression, to FaceTiming your mom, also known as the average day in the COVID-19 age. One key difference is though my feelings and fears matched Burnham's to a T, his were voiced from an auxiliary home, surrounded by thousands of dollars of equipment, earning him a Netflix payday.

Despite the obvious income disparity, many other sentiments in Burnham's latest special hold up a vanity mirror to what millennials have been feeling all too well. At the end of the aforementioned "30," Burnham sings "It's 2020, and I'm t30, I'll do another 10/2030, I'll be 40 and kill myself then." This is immediately followed by a new, transition-less scene where Burnham sits on a stool, looks in a mirror with a mic assuring us he doesn't actually want to kill himself and a satirical half-hearted plea for others not to kill themselves either. The segment ends with Burnham saying "but if I could kill myself for a year, I'd do it today."

I'd never heard my feeling about an entire year summed up so perfectly in one sentence.

Millennials first met Burnham in 2006 on YouTube. In a sea of Fall Out Boy lyric videos and clips of your next door neighbor falling down stairs, Burnham was a nerdy white guy who played instruments in his bedroom and sang cleverly irreverent songs. In 2006, there was nothing cooler. High schoolers like me ate up his charm, his wordplay and his casual racism because that was state-of-the-art. In his 2008 video "New Math," 18-year-old Burnham sings "And if 10% of men are gay/20% of men are Chinese/What are the odds that a man chosen at random/Spends his free time and mealtime while on his knees?" This was my MySpace song during that year, and I never gave it a second thought. Now, my peers and I cringe and regret.

After recognition from older, more established stand-ups and creating a beautifully poignant coming-of-age film "Eighth Grade," it's clear that Burnham has grown. But, like many his age, the pandemic dictated a regression. While I chose to play New Found Glory and My Chemical Romance, Burnham returned to the genesis of his fame and realization of his creativity: alone in a room with a keyboard.


All Eyes On Me -- Bo Burnham (from "Inside" - album out now)www.youtube.com


While some of us deleted old tweets from when we were teens for fear they might be construed as mildly offensive if a hiring manager found them, Burnham has been forced to reckon with the idea that his version of cringey tweets are what made him famous. He can't simply delete his past, nor does he want to as evidenced by his 15-year-old YouTube videos still being online. In the song "Problematic," Burnham works himself into a sweat that drips from his pandemic-grown beard. He sings that growing up in white suburbs was what led him to say offensive things, but then flips, saying he shouldn't blame his behavior on his upbringing—perhaps a dance some of us have done over these past few years.

"Problematic" is still very much a Burnham song, complete with the funny asides that made us like him in the first place, like when he slips in "When I was seventeen, on Halloween/I dressed up as Aladdin/I did not darken my skin, but still, it feels weird in hindsight." The reason why we can forgive Burnham for being "problematic" is because it's a level of controversy we can imagine ourselves in. It made me wonder if there had been some cancellation buzz around Burnham if we'd be so quick to forgive. Or, if seeing Burnham forgive himself, we simply used it as an excuse to forgive ourselves, too.

"Inside" is saturated with self-awareness, while questioning the value of that quality. The special stretches from concert to internet variety show. One segment shows Burnham singing a song about unpaid interns, then zooms out to introduce Burnham once again, only sitting in front of the computer watching himself and about to do a live commentary on the video. This keeps zooming out in a Russian Doll level of commentary, during which he refers to a portion of himself in the video saying "Here, I'm so worried critics will levy against me, that I levy it against myself. If I'm self-aware about being a douchebag, it somehow makes me less of a douchebag—but it doesn't. Self-awareness does not absolve anyone of anything."

If we take anything away from this special, it's that saying we did something wrong is hollow unless it's backed up with the action to do better.

That all being said, "Inside" isn't entirely revelatory. Songs like "White Woman's Instagram" that name and demonstrate the cliche images we've all come to label as "basic" has the same snark as the teenager who dropped the line "You're a first time vegan and it's nice to meat ya" in 2008.


White Woman's Instagram -- Bo Burnham (from "Inside" -- ALBUM OUT NOW)www.youtube.com



It's also just as dated. In "Sexting" we hear all the awkwardness about the subject we've heard since Tinder became a thing. For being so hard-hitting at times, there's no shortage of pandering, though the music is always remarkably great.

Even the special itself might seem dated. "Inside" came out at the end of May 2021, a time when many people in America are fully vaccinated and venturing outside. Watching it gives flashbacks to a sore time far too recent that is nowhere near nostalgic. But, as Burnham ventures out of the guesthouse at the end of 80 minutes of "content" (as he derisively refers to his own special) he suddenly finds himself in the spotlight. A crowd starts uproariously laughing at him.

During 2020, I spent all this time self-reflecting, spiraling, and promising to do better, but once I go out and see how hard it is to perform in real life, will I just revert back? Will I just think back on this time as something I'm lucky to have escaped? As Burnham sings in "Problematic": Times are changing and I'm getting old / Are you gonna hold me accountable?" Burnham makes an art piece out of the white millennial pastime of apologizing and agonizing, and while that's the first step, it remains to be seen if this type of art creates change, or simply admits it needs to happen.


We all know that Americans pay more for healthcare than every other country in the world. But how much more?

According an American expatriate who shared the story of his ER visit in a Taiwanese hospital, Americans are being taken to the cleaners when we go to the doctor. We live in a country that claims to be the greatest in the world, but where an emergency trip to the hospital can easily bankrupt someone.

Kevin Bozeat had that fact in mind when he fell ill while living in Taiwan and needed to go to the hospital. He didn't have insurance and he had no idea how much it was going to cost him. He shared the experience in a now-viral Facebook post he called "The Horrors of Socialized Medicine: A first hand experience."

Keep ReadingShow less
With permission from Sarah Cooper.

Men and the feels.


Note: This an excerpt is from Sarah Cooper's book, How to Be Successful Without Hurting Men's Feelings.

In this fast-paced business world, female leaders need to make sure they're not perceived as pushy, aggressive, or competent.

One way to do that is to alter your leadership style to account for the fragile male ego.

Keep ReadingShow less
Family

10 things kids get in trouble for that adults get away with all the time

Why do we expect children to have more self-control than grown-ups?

Photo by Keren Fedida on Unsplash

Kids know when we're being hypocritical.

Raising kids is tough and no parent does it perfectly. Each child is different, each has their own personalities, strengths and challenges, and each of them requires something different from their parents in order to flourish.

But there's one thing that parents have long said, with their actions if not with their words, that justifiably drives kids bonkers: "Do as I say, not as I do."

To be fair, both moral and actual law dictate that there are things that adults can do that kids can't. Children can't drive or consume alcohol, for example, so it's not hypocritical for adults to do those things while telling kids they cannot. There are other things—movies, TV shows, books, etc.—that parents have to decide whether their kids are ready for or not based on their age and developmental stage, and that's also to be expected.

But there are some gaps between what adults do and what they expect kids to do that aren't so easy to reconcile.

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

Her boyfriend asked her to draw a comic about their relationship. Hilarity ensued.

The series combines humor and playful drawings with spot-on depictions of the intense familiarity that long-standing coupledom often brings.

All images by Catana Chetwynd


"It was all his idea."

An offhand suggestion from her boyfriend of two years coupled with her own lifelong love of comic strips like "Calvin and Hobbes" and "Get Fuzzy" gave 22-year-old Catana Chetwynd the push she needed to start drawing an illustrated series about long-term relationships.

Specifically, her own relationship.

Keep ReadingShow less
Identity

My wife surprised her coworkers when she came out as trans. Then they surprised her.

She was ready for one reaction but was greeted with a beautiful response.

All photos by Amanda Jette, used with permission.

Zoe comes out to her coworkers.


Society, pay attention. This is important.

My wife, Zoe, is transgender. She came out to us — the kids and me — last summer and then slowly spread her beautiful feminine wings with extended family, friends, and neighbors.

A little coming out here, a little coming out there — you know how it is.

Keep ReadingShow less


It started with a simple, sincere question from a mother of an 11-year-old boy.

An anonymous mother posted a question to Quora, a website where people can ask questions and other people can answer them. This mother wrote:

How do I tell my wonderful 11 year old son, (in a way that won't tear him down), that the way he has started talking to me (disrespectfully) makes me not want to be around him (I've already told him the bad attitude is unacceptable)?

It's a familiar scenario for those of us who have raised kids into the teen years. Our sweet, snuggly little kids turn into moody middle schoolers seemingly overnight, and sometimes we're left reeling trying to figure out how to handle their sensitive-yet-insensitive selves.


Keep ReadingShow less