VICE: Why have you termed me and my contemporaries “Generation Wuss”?
Bret Easton Ellis: You have to understand that I’m coming to these things as a member of the most pessimistic and ironic generation that has ever roamed the earth. When I hear millennials getting hurt by “cyber bullying”, or it being a gateway to suicide, it’s difficult for me to process. A little less so for my boyfriend, who happens to be a millennial of that age, but even he somewhat agrees with the sensitivity of Generation Wuss. It’s very difficult for them to take criticism, and because of that a lot of the content produced is kind of shitty. And when someone is criticized for their content, they seem to collapse, or the person criticizing them is called a hater, a contrarian, a troll.
In a way it’s down to the generation that raised them, who cocooned them in praise—four stars for showing up, you know? But eventually everyone has to hit the dark side of life; someone doesn’t like you, someone doesn’t like your work, someone doesn’t love you back… people die. What we have is a generation who are super-confident and super-positive about things, but when the least bit of darkness enters their lives, they’re paralyzed.
I think it was a world we were promised, though.
There was a certain point where we realized the promises were lies and that we were going to be economically adrift. It’s the fault of the baby boomer generation for raising their kids at the highest peak of the empire, in a complete fantasy world. My generation, Gen X, realized that, like most fantasies, it was somewhat dissatisfying, and we rebelled with irony, negativity and attitude because we had the luxury to do that. Our reality wasn’t an economic hardship.
Right—which is what The Wolf of Wall Street is all about. Is that why you like it so much?
I never like a movie because of its subject matter. I liked it because it wasn’t an op-ed piece and it wasn’t concerned with another thing that so many movies are concerned with today, which is decency: decent people under stress or hardship.
To me, it’s a classic young man story, like Barry Lyndon. Nine times out of ten they blow it, they fuck up, they spend all the money, they let their id run wild, don’t check themselves, don’t look towards the future and… it crashes. Also, I just thought it was hilarious, and Leonardo delivered a transfixing performance. And the fact that he’s not going to win an Academy Award this year is a real bummer.