If you are not watching The Circle, then you’re missing out. If you are, then BEWARE: SPOILERS AHEAD!!
Rarely do I find myself “feeling old” when I’m navigating the cultural differences between Millennials and Gen Zers. I’m the youngest staff member at Discourse Blog, so I often find myself being the one to say something that in turn will “age” someone else. For example, I will write Slack messages like, “I was in 3rd grade when George W. Bush declared war on Iraq!” or blog a line like, “I was 15 the first time Obama was elected!” and receive swift, pained ire from my colleagues. I take no pleasure in doing this, except maybe only a little.
I get it! It’s not fun to be reminded that someone else is younger than you and that you are, therefore, older. But through the TikTok trends and Twitter memes about side parts, skinny jeans and 2000s jams and whatever else that defines millennials as “old,” I’ve only really felt old while watching the latest season of The Circle on Netflix, and learning that no one under the age of 22 knows who Lance Bass is.
“Oh my god,” I realized, “I am fucking old! And how dare these whole-ass children remind me of this!!”
If you’re unfamiliar with the show, its rules are very weird and complicated and I will not try to explain them. All you need to know is that there is something called the Circle and that on a recent episode, Lance Bass “entered” it. (Well, it was actually his longtime assistant pretending to be him—I was not kidding about the weird and complicated part.)
This is where the younger contestants—21-year-old Chloe , 20-year-old Jack, and later, 22-year-old Mitchell—turned me to dust, because they had no idea who Bass was.
I wish I could find clips online of this reveal of Bass joining the cast and the cast members’ reactions, but I can’t. SO, here is some of the dialogue:
- “Is he American? Maybe Trevor’s got a little bit of competition, hey!” –Chloe, who is brewing a flirtatious relationship with Trevor, and in her defense is also British, but obviously didn’t understand how off her comment was.
- “His name was like, Lance or some shit, I don’t really…?” –Jack
- “With all that said, now I’m just trying to figure out who the fuck Lance is, crying laughing emoji.” –Jack, dictating a message for a group chat
- “What’s N-Y … N-S-Y-N-C? I don’t understand.” –Chloe
- “He’s 41! Jesus Christ he’s well old!” –Chloe
- “Ooooh, so he was on TV years ago then!” –Chloe, upon reading that Bass has been in the “entertainment industry” for over 30 years
- “I think he looks like someone out of a boy band.” –Chloe
- “Lance. Oh, he’s 41? No way. He actually looks really young. He’s an entertainer? From L.A., OK.” –Mitchell
- “I love Lance. He’s playing all the right cards. But, there’s something there that tells me you might be make believe.” –Mitchell
It’s kind of funny, yes, watching these young people talk about this celebrity contestant who they have no idea is a celebrity. But overall it made me feel just reeeaaal fuckin old!!!! Like, that meme of the grandma with her worrying granddaughter trying to get her to go do bed, old. Like, what do you mean people born in 2000 have no idea what NSYNC is?? Surely Bass’ coming out story is something that these people remember happening when they were young??? NO?? But HOW???
When did NSYNC and Lance Bass become proper nouns that the average internet-connected person wasn’t expected to know?? And how was a Lance Bass reveal the first time in 27 years that I felt truly confronted with the finite nature of my existence? Like, really?! I mean, I’ve understood this to be true, I’m not dense, but never have I felt it so alarmingly before. (Oh god, these people must know who Justin Timberlake is, right?? Do they have any idea he was in a boyband before going solo??? Please, I cannot bear the thought that they don’t…)
Seriously, how is this the thing that has cracked my understanding of my own feeble presence on this rock hurtling through time and space? Thanks, The Circle — really, from the bottom of my heart, I hate it!!!