It Was the Best of Teens, It Was the Worst of Teens
It was 4:20 and the teens felt great, man, but they also had impaired cognitive abilities. It was the post-9/11 era, the effects of which were being felt in increasingly tragic and bizarre ways. It was the season of light beer, the season of darkness, the season of hope. Teens were on Cloud 9, teens were going to Heaven, and the two things may have been related becauseCloud 9 was a synthetic drug sending Michigan’s youth to the hospital. History was changing, literally. In Colorado, AP US history students protested a conservative school board’s plan to emphasize “topics that promote citizenship, patriotism, and respect for authority.” It was a time a lot like the past; there was a new Bill & Ted’s movie planned and another sequel to Dumb and Dumber, featuring original stars Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels.
Does technology shape the culture, or does the culture shape technology? The answer to most questions is, “It’s complicated.” Yik Yak didn’t help us write this column and it was unclear if teenagers, “less concerned about privacy and data security than others,” would take tonewly-launched anti-Facebook social network Ello. Internet consumption was still high, though, as was consumption of the “rave drug Molly.” That’s why a father shared a photo of his daughter on life support, following her attendance at a Denver rave. “This could be your child. Mine was responsible and did well in school. These raves are death peddlers.” Snapchat remained a popular way for teenagers to run afoul of the law. A Wyoming high school student took a selfie whilst giving a boy oral sex and now persons who shared the image could be charged for having child pornography. Two girls were kidnapped at knifepoint after sneaking out of a slumber party. Depending on how you look at things, cell phones either helped them to safety or allowed thousands of people to listen to their harrowing post-escape 911 call.
Teenagers Aren’t Any Crazier Than They Used to Be
As someone who writes a weekly column dedicated to Americans between the ages of 13 and 19, a lot of people think I consider myself some sort of teen expert. I don’t. I’m just a man who believes that our awkward youth warrant attention. After all, teens are what keep culture moving forward. Mostly, though, my feelings about them roughly echo those novelist Teju Cole expresses about American sentimentality in his unforgettable series of tweets on the White Savior Industrial Complex: I deeply respect teens, the way one respects a wounded hippo. You must keep an eye on them, for you know they are deadly.
VICE: I write a weekly column about teenagers, but I’m really just an amateur scholar. You’re billed as a teen expert. What does that entail, exactly?
Dr. Melissa Deuter: I’ve been a psychiatrist for ten years. I primarily treat teenagers and I write a blog. A lot of what I do is for parents, because the parents are the ones seeking information about how they can improve things in the family.
One common sentiment is that today’s kids are so much worse than generations past. Have you noticed a decline in behavior among teens, both in the ten years that you’ve been practicing and also in comparison with your own youth?
No, I don’t think kids these days are any different than kids when I was a teenager. I think parents are different, and cultural expectations are different, and the way we teach kids and supervise is different. For example, teenagers now have been supervised more heavily. When I was a kid, I’m not going to say I walked up the hill both ways in the snow, but I walked a mile to school with my siblings, unsupervised. That was common and people weren’t scared about doing that. Now most kids spend most of their time directly in contact with adults who supervise them. That changes how they behave and how they relate to adults but I don’t think kids themselves are inherently different. It’s just that when you change the soil, the plant looks a little different.
In your mind, there are more restrictions on kids now?
There’s more supervision; I don’t know if it’s restrictive. When I was a kid, there was a lot more time that kids played with other kids and adults weren’t overseeing them. Maybe the parents now are overseeing kids and really letting them do a lot of things, but the parents are there. That wasn’t the case a generation ago.
So there’s less independence.
You have a lot less independence. They talk about entitlements. 20-year-olds are now going into the work place, being difficult or wanting their hand held. A lot of those differences come directly out of always being supervised.
Florida Teenagers Got Caught in a Snapchat-Fueled Robbery – This Week in Teens
Summer break sounds amazing in June, but by August the teens have grown restless. They’re broke, they’ve got all these hormones that they can’t properly act on, and Mom’s at work. Today’s teens are left at home with little more than technology and other teens to keep them company. It’s with this sense of boredom and the possibility of danger in mind that we turn to our top story This Week in Teens.
A 15-year-old boy in Florida got a Snapchat of his cousin holding a stack of cash, so he and four of his friends decided to rob his cousin’s house. They would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for his cousin’s pesky dogs, and the fact that the rest of his family was home. The teens ran from the house, taking a laptop with them, but were caught by police—because that’s what happens when your aunt sees you robbing her house. This story is truly a perfect encapsulation of the way teens live now. The traditional teen traits of confusion-fueled idiocy and responding to the pressures of capitalism with petty crime are compounded by technology. Snapchat, an app that’s wildly popular among young people, is being valued at around $10 billion. Teens are an instrumental part of the app’s success, so there’s a certain poetry in the idea that the app is inspiring them to commit crimes for cash.
Check out the rest of This Week in Teens
This Week in Teens: Michael Brown Is Dead and Now We Know Who Killed Him
Have you read Nietzsche? Teens love the guy. I’m not super well versed in the German philosopher’s books, but I have read a few graphic tees with his picture on them, and from what I’ve picked up, the gist is that everything is inherently meaningless. So it goes with This Week in Teens, in which our only respite from the constant suffering around us is the comforting knowledge that life doesn’t have a purpose.
–America invented teenagers and apparently reserves the right to kill them, too. The biggest news this week—teen or otherwise—has been the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed, black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri. Police were quick to defend the act, while witnesses say that Brown didn’t do anything to provoke police, and was shot multiple times “until he just dropped down to the ground and his face just smacks the concrete.” Protests over the killing were countered by a militarized police force, complete with SWAT gear and armored vehicles. The incident has been covered from every angle: how Ferguson is America’s latest racial hotspot; how this represents a sort of Chekhov’s (military-grade machine) gun and the inevitable conclusion of post-9/11 defense spending; how eight unarmed teens are still at large; and how white people in suburban St. Louis don’t give a shit.
It took a bunch of protests for Ferguson police to name Darren Wilson as the officer who killed Michael Brown, which they finally did Friday morning. Police also released a report saying that Brown was a suspect in a “strong-arm robbery” of a box of Swisher Sweets cigars, and that Wilson was responding to the crime when Brown was killed. Whether Brown actually shoplifted is unknown at this point, not that it would in any way justify his death. All that’s clear is that we’re in a pretty terrible place right now, and there is no obvious path for things to get much better.
This Week in Teens: Are America’s Teenagers Setting Themselves on Fire?
Teens are America’s greatest natural resource. They’re full of new ideas, smarter than ever, and not yet racked with cynicism and guilt. Some of the best things we’ve got—rock ‘n’ roll, energy drinks, hickeys—wouldn’t exist today were it not for teen demand. Not to mention that teens are sustainable; left unchecked, they’ll create more teens just over a dozen years. And yet, to reference a perennial college freshman favorite, the teens they are a-changin’.
The global recession hit those on the low end of the socioeconomic spectrum the hardest. Part time employment and summer jobs are now harder to come by. Consequently, teen purchasing power is on the decline. Plus, teens are good at streaming things for free, and Macklemore made them think used clothes are funny, so they have less incentive to buy new things. At this point, it’s baby boomers who have the real discretionary income. As marketers catch up to this shift, the prized demographic will become those over 55. Our nation’s youth will be forced to adapt to their ever-evolving circumstances. Will teenage ingenuity emphasize their continued relevance? Or will our younger siblings collapse into a messy room of hormones, broken curfews, and not-yet-illegal drugs? It is with this background in mind that we launch a new column: This Week in Teens.
Talking heads are going nuts over the Fire Challenge. Photo via YouTube
-If there’s one thing teens love, it’s trends. And if there’s one thing local news stations love, it’s scaring people who think they might come into contact with teenagers (this is easy to do as teens are inherently terrifying). Combining these two passions is this week’s top news story: Teens are taking off their shirts, standing in the shower, pouring flammable liquids on their chests, and lighting themselves on fire. Sometimes the teens start flapping around—because of the fire, remember—before they can turn on the shower, and then the flames spread to their shorts or the shower curtain and they end up in the hospital with severe burns. It’s called the Fire Challenge mom, and it’s all done in the name of internet fame.
The Story of Colorado’s DIY Skater Tattoo Parlor
No Class is a DIY tattoo parlor run by skater Jesse Brocato from his living room in Fairplay, Colorado. Every tattoo from No Class is free, provided you’re at least halfway tanked when you start laying the ink on yourself. Which I think explains why the place is starting to pick up some steam among the skating community.
On a recent skate trip to Colorado, I visited No Class and had a chat with Brocato.
VICE: How did you guys get started?
Jesse Brocato: It all started one night when we found out that our friend Shane had a tattoo gun. We told him to bring it over, and he thought he was going to tattoo us, but we were like, “Fuck, give us that,” and we started tattooing ourselves.
That night I fell in love. I was like, “I’m never paying for a tattoo again.” Everyone pays thousands of bucks to get these fancy tattoos. The idea behind No Class is, why would you want a fancy tattoo when you could have a shitty ghetto tattoo?
And it took off from there?
Well, I used to make moonshine, so we’d get drunk on moonshine and then just start tattooing ourselves. Then we started buying more equipment online. Now we have three set-ups. People see our work, and they want a shitty tattoo too. I tell them they have to do it themselves. That’s what No Class is all about.
Is it hard to get the hang of it?
It took us a little while. In the beginning, we’d have the needle set way too far out, like a quarter inch, and I was going so deep it stopped the machine like a lawnmower in thick grass. It just destroyed the bone and took forever to heal. You start digging and it ends up looking like hamburger meat. You lay in all that ink, and then it heals up scarred and white.
Anything else you had to learn?
Pick the cat hair off the needle.
Does that “sterilize” it?
I mean, maybe I would have to read a little on bacteria and all that, but whatever, what we do is just hook it up and do it. We don’t share needles or anything like that. I mean, it’s happened, but you really shouldn’t do that. You think you’re clean, but you never know what you have. Somebody that actually tattoos would probably freak out if they came up here, but that’s part of it, part of the “fuck it” attitude of No Class. None of us has swelled up yet.
The Sad Demise of Nancy Lee, One of Britain’s Young Ketamine Casualties
Ketamine is that crazy wobbly-leg drug. The wacky-student drug, the post-club chill-out aid, the new-gen LSD that gives users the power to become—according to 1970s K-hole explorer and dolphin whisperer John C. Lilly—“peeping toms at the keyhole of eternity.” But its reputation as a popular recreational drug, since filtering into the mainstream via the gay-clubbing and free-party scenes in the 2000s, does not tell the whole story of what’s going on in modern British K-land.
Apart from a brief paragraph in the Brighton Argus’s obituary column, Nancy Lee’s drug death went unreported. There was no shock factor: She hadn’t collapsed in public from a toxic reaction to a pill or a line of powder in a club. Instead, at the age of 23, Nancy had died slowly over seven years, her body trashed by a steady diet of ketamine.
Nancy started using ketamine at age 16 when she made new friends. Most teenagers getting high in the local Brighton park were necking cider and smoking skunk, but Nancy and her group of indie-kid outsiders used the open spaces to take ketamine. It was cheap, at 12 grams for about $150, and, important for Nancy, it transported her away from real life.
“She was sensitive and very caring, but Nancy was a misfit,” her father Jim, a college lecturer, told me. “She was bullied at school because of a bad squint and for being a tomboy. She had a victim mentality, a feeling that the world was against her.” It’s just that Nancy ended up finding solace in ketamine. “If someone were to design the perfect drug for a teenager who is depressed and doesn’t have much money, this would be it,” Jim said.
In Defense of Taking Selfies at Auschwitz and Other Depressing Places
A teenager from Alabama took a photo in front of a concentration camp where an estimated 1,000,000 people were killed. She did so while smiling. As you might have guessed, that did not sit well with the internet. In a New York Post article on the now-infamous Breanna Mitchell Auschwitz selfie, the writer quotes a particularly vitriolic response that simply said, “Did you manage to take any of you laughing inside a gas chamber or maybe one with your head stuck in a cremator?” A fair question which I don’t believe she took the time to answer.
In an instant, Breanna became as close to the Devil as you can get without being Donald Sterling. Business Insider collected some of the more amusing insults and reactionsfrom Twitter, which amounted to “fuck you” and little else. Despite this concerted effort to make her feel bad about herself, Breanna has continued to publicly defend her actions. It’s almost like she has so much self-esteem and so little self-awareness that she’d have to be the only kind of person who would be dumb enough to take a selfie at a concentration camp.
By being completely ignorant of how some would interpret her vague digital communication (the only thing that’s obvious from her photo is that she’s happy and she’s at Auschwitz. The rest is not clear), she’s influenced a global conversation on the limits of self-involvement. Some have come to her defense, reminding us all that she’s just a kid with a dead dad who shared her love of history. Others are plenty happy to keep fucking with her, which has pushed Breanna to make her Twitter page private. The internet is paying attention, and forming strong opinions about a picture she took over a month ago. Isn’t that something to be proud of? She’s already proud of herself for going to Auschwitz. Why not be proud of this too?
You Know That DashCon, the Tumblr Convention That Went to Shit? It Wasn’t That Bad
Why Do So Many Soft Drinks Taste Like Teletubby Blood?
I don’t drink soda very often. It’s not that I don’t like it; it’s just that after age 12 I never felt like having more than a shot of it every now and then. Soft drinks are designed for children with tiny, discerning pallets, unimpressed with the flavors provided by actual food. That said, some of the tastes in these beverages exist only inside of their cans and cannot be found anywhere else in the whole world. It’s like a Willy Wonka land of weird water, and who would be such a fool as to not sometimes dunk their tongue in the chemical concoctions and see what’s good?
I decided to veer away from the recognizable labels and see what life is like on the wild side of the soda pop biz.
15 calories per 12 fl oz/12 g sugar
Kill Cliff calls itself a “Recovery Drink,” or, rather, “THE Recovery Drink,” being conceptually healthy in that it is “naturally sweetened” and only 15 calories a can. I found it over with the Boar’s Head meats and cheeses, like maybe it’s strategically placed next to the high-end shit to make you think it’s good, a can of cola all on its own. The text on the side of the can claims that the drink was “developed by a former US Navy Seal” to “improve endurance and speed recovery.” It’s unclear who the Seal was, and why he thought “Kill Cliff” would be a good name for a revitalization beverage. They also employ the tagline “Test Positive for Awesome,” which is maybe closer to an AIDS joke than should be on a can of soda.
The first sip reminds me of if Sweet Tarts were a liquid and strained through a pair of men’s briefs after a short doubles’ tennis match in a domed arena. It’s all puckery and buzzing around the edges, and when it hits the back of the throat it immediately provides the feeling of having recently barfed. This post-barf expression kind of kneads its way back and forth across the tongue and palate like electricity. I take a second sip to cover up the first, and the buzzing strain appears again, redoubled. I kind of already have a headache.
As I get deeper into the can, my brain becomes warm. It feels like my head is flooding with acid, and I can only tolerate the sensation by drinking so fast I can’t taste anything. When I stop my head is spinning, and I feel full of gasoline.
I might recommend Kill Cliff to remove paint or to dissolve the bars on a prison cell, but as far as liquid designed to go inside my body is concerned, no.
Marley’s Mellow Mood (Berry Flavor)
165 calories per 12 fl oz/29 g sugar
Sniffing the edge of the can’s mouth before I take a swig, I get the full bouquet of chemical fruit fun, suggesting what I’m about to drink is again going to come from the “Sick Fake Candy” food group. So I’m shocked when the liquid hits my lips and the first thing I think is actually, Hey, this IS smooth! Maybe it’s the dead rock icon on the can with the marijuana colors that brainwashed me into this feeling, though more likely it’s how, compared to Kill Cliff, this shit is like white sturgeon caviar. More watered-down Hawaiian Punch than actual soda, there is also a delicate flavor similar to the air in a bong shop lurking just behind the first curve of berry. The mixture is confusing, hairy, seemingly as unsure of itself as I am of it, but at least I don’t want to do an immediate spit-take.