Dynamic culture: Gatsby Elites

All Millennials are not alike.  And, amongst us there exists a select group of individuals, from select geographic pockets (often suburbs of New York, Boston, Philadelphia DC, South Florida, Bay Area, Los Angeles) that I’d like to label as Gatsby Elites.

It might not surprise you that many members of this group are privately educated for high school and go on to study something finance or economics related at highly prestigious, often private universities. Their families are generally upper-middle class or higher socioeconomically and as a group they tend to be racially homogenous (Caucasian). If at a Greek school, they often join the fraternities and sororities with the most influential reputations, which in reality is just a nicer way to acknowledge that socio-economic segregation is still alive and well. If attending school with a strong bar culture, they often have the most expensive fake IDs that enable them to get into “tougher” bars as underclassmen.

Now, to really make it sound like I’m painting a stereotype that’s been depicted in many films and TV shows from Animal House to Cruel Intentions to Gossip Girl, they are attractive, both physically and in terms of social status The Social Network/Henley Sequence, and date and have sexual relationships mostly with those who are also labelled as physically attractive - arguably a defining element of social status in college. In many cases, the “betches betcheslovethis” in this group gravitate towards hanging out with athletes, particularly lacrosse players. Due to their perceived superiority, they have a strong sense of entitlement, which sometimes leads to a disregard for general rules as well as erratic and excessive behavior George Huguely-Yeardley Love Lacrosse Murder, particularly in terms of sexual activity as well as alcohol and drug abuse. Consider the semi-recent events in the lacrosse world; particularly the Duke rape case (2007) and the Yeardley Love murder at UVa (2010).

The bros in this group tend to be strikingly misogynistic This Dangerous Swagger, although in some cases it appears that their female counterparts have either have come to accept or in fact embrace this type of behavior.  (Think Karen Owen, who seemingly wholeheartedly enjoyed her lifestyle of frivolous sexual activity with respected and often successful Duke University athletes).  Following college, many in this set find or hope to find (depending on what happens with the economy) high paying jobs as analysts at investment banks, traders or financial consultants.

What makes them different from similar groups in the past is their striking sense of self-awareness. Their image and sub-sets of their image has arguably been developed better through internet satire more than anything else (think videos like Bert the Broker BroBible.com presents, websites such as Sushi With My Girls! How Sushi are You), which says a lot about how this group is viewed by both themselves and by others. Although these satires are usually obvious exaggerations of these stereotypes, the feedback  and popularity generated by these blogs and videos strongly suggest that the content is based in reality. Because we Gen Yers have grown up in a world that is undeniably more socially progressive First Same Sex Marriage in NY than that of our parents, perhaps satire is a safer, more socially conscious way of expressing our identity. Although this is pretty ironic in nature, it does allude to the fact that our behavior may be more characteristic of  a contrived social construction rather than an individual mindset. In other words, maybe Gatsby Elites believe this is the way they must act in order to attain social worth and credibility, but they wouldn’t necessarily associate themselves with these same values on a more individual level.

Even with the recession this is a segment of Millennials that has disposable income.  Companies should want these people on their side, as they will - and may even already - be their future business partners.  So understanding their cultural tastes and what appeals to them from a value-based standpoint is essential. As one university student with Gatsby-like characteristics put it, “I associate(d) myself with things that aren’t exactly mainstream but are appreciated my most.” This could mean watching niche-based television shows on cable or premium television (think Mad Men, Entourage, Weeds), or identifying with brands that aren’t too radical yet offer a refreshing spin on an existing trend. In music, this is reflected by the recent popularity of bands like Foster the People (Indie pop), Mumford and Sons (Folk rock) and Skrillex (electro-house, dubstep), all of whom enable people to explore a new genre without having to dive into it headfirst. For many Gatsby’s, cultural awareness is just as important as an appreciation for Dom Mazzetti vs Dubstep. In other words, if you don’t know about it, you aren’t cool.

1 Comment

  1. I don’t believe that the Gatsby elitists are the creation of a new sect of society but simply the evolution of a previous held position. There will always be a large group of people that will crave power/popularity/recognition and will put themselves in the position to align themselves with it even if they aren’t reaping the benefits directly. I simply believe that strong and quick culture change was well as the growth of the middle class has exposed this section of society if not expanded its notoriety and influence.

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