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.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Wil Wheaton speaking to an audience at 2019 Wondercon.

In an era of debates over cancel culture and increased accountability for people with horrendous views and behaviors, the question of art vs. artist is a tricky one. When you find out an actor whose work you enjoy is blatantly racist and anti-semitic in real life, does that realization ruin every movie they've been a part of? What about an author who has expressed harmful opinions about a marginalized group? What about a smart, witty comedian who turns out to be a serial sexual assaulter? Where do you draw the line between a creator and their creation?

As someone with his feet in both worlds, actor Wil Wheaton weighed in on that question and offered a refreshingly reasonable perspective.

A reader who goes by @avinlander asked Wheaton on Tumblr:

"Question: I have more of an opinion question for you. When fans of things hear about misconduct happening on sets/behind-the-scenes are they allowed to still enjoy the thing? Or should it be boycotted completely? Example: I've been a major fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer since I was a teenager and it was currently airing. I really nerded out on it and when I lost my Dad at age 16 'The Body' episode had me in such cathartic tears. Now we know about Joss Whedon. I haven't rewatched a single episode since his behavior came to light. As a fan, do I respectfully have to just box that away? Is it disrespectful of the actors that went through it to knowingly keep watching?"

And Wheaton offered this response, which he shared on Facebook:

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Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Chris Evans is playing the lead role in the upcoming Pixar film "Lightyear."

Chris Evans was already skilled at squeezing hearts on social media, cavalierly sharing sweet pics of his adorable dog and piano-playing videos on Instagram, as if we could just casually watch him be a near-perfect man without swooning. And now he's being even more delightful with his gushing giddiness over getting to play his dream role.

The guy is already best known as the studly Marvel superhero Captain America, so what could possibly top that? Pixar, apparently. Evans' ultimate acting dream is being in a Pixar movie. And now that dream is coming true, the most eligible of the Chrises could not be cuter in his expressions of joy.

Sharing the new trailer for "Lightyear"—Pixar's origin story about the astronaut the Buzz Lightyear toy was based on in the "Toy Story" universe—Evans wrote on Twitter:

"I'm covered in goosebumps. And will be every time I watch this trailer. Or hear a Bowie song. Or have any thought whatsoever between now and July cause nothing has ever made me feel more joy and gratitude than knowing I'm a part of this and it's basically always on my mind."

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Cipolla's graph with the benefits and losses that an individual causes to him or herself and causes to others.

Have you ever known someone who was educated, well-spoken and curious, but had a real knack for making terrible decisions and bringing others down with them? These people are perplexing because we're trained to see them as intelligent, but their lives are a total mess.

On the other hand, have you ever met someone who may not have a formal education or be the best with words, but they live wisely and their actions uplift themselves and others?

In 1976, Italian economist Carlo Cipolla wrote a tongue-in-cheek essay called "The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity" that provides a great framework for judging someone's real intelligence. Now, the term "stupid" isn't the most artful way of describing someone who lives unwisely, but in his essay Cipolla uses it in a lighthearted way.

Cipolla explains his theory of intelligence through five basic laws and a matrix that he believes applies to everyone.

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