Drifters: Delaying adulthood
This review looks quite long and only just briefly touches on some of the important points I wanted to make. I have also used it as a means of illustrating a point I have been making for a long time now but I cannot seem to shout loud enough. Beware, excessive use of the bracket&sarcasm combo.
Being a recent grad I thought I would give the new channel 4 series “Drifters” a go. Having written about the typical pathways of some of my friends and course mates I was interested to see whether this program would accurately encapsulate what it is to be a grad today. I was happy to see that the main characters are all female and thought it would be refreshing and witty. I also hoped it would be like my own experiences played out on TV. After watching a few episodes in a row, I’m not sure it was like that at all. It starts with 2 of the main characters coming back from gap-time in India. (May be some spoilers below but nothing massive)
The protagonist Meg arrives home to see her family mainly celebrating her brother’s triumph at getting an accounts director job despite not going to uni. Something I can relate to in a way as, after successful A levels, my sister rejected the debt riddled path of uni and decided to become an accountant via an apprenticeship – massive pride from me but also a little bit of jealousy as she has stable employment, earns a decent wage while learning, can now drive and has her own car (role reversal right? Aren’t I meant to be the big sister?)
In places this program successfully supports the idea that students and young grads don’t always have their priorities in order. For example when Meg returns home she discovers her room has been turned into a walk in wardrobe for all her mum’s expensive handbags and shoes (yet her family go on to tell her they can’t afford to support her at home?!) Her parents have accepted she is still going out with a “psycho” ex boyfriend (so, phones/communication doesn’t exist?) and when I say psycho I don’t mean dangerous but just mega clingy. Meg therefore ends up living with him as he has already moved all of her things out of her family home (because you’d take that over your parents sofa and home cooked meal and wouldn’t have thought about what you do when you get back, right?)
The rest of a series (so far) follows Meg, Bunny and Laura and does touch on some instances of Meg at least trying to find employment but she always ends up returning to her job as a promo girl. While some of the shenanigans shown ring true a lot of them are centered around the personal and sexual habits of the girls rather than the inevitable problem of finding a job after graduating. The characters seem preoccupied with their sexual conquests rather than, you know, finding somewhere stable to live . But perhaps this is something I can’t relate with as I have been with my partner since we were at university together.
I’m all for freedom of expression and women being able to have as much choice as men in terms of their private life with no judgement but honestly, I felt as though it perpetuated and normalised the idea that you don’t have to have it all together at the age of 24, neither do you have to take anything seriously. This series also suggests getting a partner is the most important thing for a young woman (all the single ladies?) And the characters seems to be more interested in that than getting a meaningful job (“Hey you’re young, you’re pretty, find the right man and you won’t have to worry about a career?”)
Yes I acknowledge I am sounding picky now, but there is also an episode in which Meg befriends a lesbian she then gets confused as to whether this character fancies her or not (because all lesbians fancy all women, right?) I don’t know what uni Meg went to but are you honestly telling me that she had NEVER encountered anyone that isn’t straight? I know it’s not claiming to represent feminist view points but it manages to show how this small group of young women have to make themselves look stupid in order to get anywhere or be entertaining be that in terms of the job they take, the partners they put up with or the way they generally interact with other human beings. Some friends who have watched it have said it’s trying to be a female version of inbetweeners…
Another aspect that annoyed me was the quip about depression. Bunny, one of the more skittish characters, picks up a leaflet about depression at a pharmacy and claims she is depressed to which her friends reply that she is attention seeking. I don’t think feeling rubbish after graduating and not having a fulfilling job should be trivialised in that way. I know I felt like a total failure for a time after uni but hey, perhaps I’m being sensitive and attention seeking?
Although I sound overwhelmingly cynical and negative what this program does do in a reasonably OK way is encapsulate what it is like to be an awkward adult and the strange nature of the transition from university to adulthood. It also manages to convey the prevalence of delaying adulthood which I have witnessed in many a grad and maybe a little in myself. It also shows how after university you still don’t lose the desire to go out and party and prolong the experience of the never ending social bubble with what I refer to as “fear of missing out” or FOMO that is to say the need to go to every social gathering for fear of being out of the social loop. No one “teaches” you the stuff about “life in the real world” after uni (as if those two things are mutually exclusive) It’s especially challenging if no one in your family has been to uni before. And the notion that people who graduated in previous years have had a seemingly easier ride doesn’t bear thinking about.
In addition drifters “drifts” the idea that university and indeed gap-times don’t adequately prepare students for the world of work or the “real world”. I’m not convinced that is what Drifters is trying to do but it does also reiterate the idea that one should should be organised in their search for a job BEFORE graduating and before being lured in by “life changing experiences” abroad. I don’t mean any offence to the creators or the actors in this, contrary to my negative tone I didn’t think it was the worst thing on TV (I sat through the series didn’t I?) I plan on following up this post with one about grads selling themselves short but we’ll see.