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Lena Dunham Re-shapes the Meaning of Mainstream


Today’s post comes from Ypulse General Manager Jake Katz.

Lena Dunham Re-shapes the Meaning of Mainstream

In 2010, The New York Times published an article called “What Is It About 20-Somethings?” This identification of the “emerging adulthood” Millennial phenomenon serves as the creative seed from which HBO’s “Girls” has grown.

“Girls” has sparked as much discussion in the marketing/media community as it has among its viewers. Thematically, the show brings to life many Millennial concepts. In particular, the growing complexities of dating (it’s no coincidence an article titled “The End of Courtship?” ran the same week as “Girls’” premiere). Additionally, the show’s exploration of navigating one’s post-college path to success mirrors much of what our research here at Ypulse shows about how Millennials are realizing their dreams in a post-recession economy.

While much of the discussion around the show has been quick to point out its misses (a lack of diversity in the cast, arguably skin deep analyses of life from Dunham), stepping back and examining it from a few levels higher brings up a more important discussion. The media industry should quickly be decoding what it means for our perceptions, visions, and assumptions of “mainstream America”, that a show set in the most notoriously niche and infamously marketing trapdoor of Williamsburg is as relatable to 20-somethings as the more obvious “The Carrie Diaries.”

The elephant in the room has now been recognized. For every big brand that has learned to assess new ideas, talent, trends, and marketing through a lens of mainstream versus leading edge, could this be the moment we realize the gap between leading edge and mainstream has nearly dissolved? Maybe.

Let’s think about this for a moment. We know this generation of youth garners status from finding and sharing content of all sorts on their social media platforms, and collecting metrics of success in these spaces based on the likeability of that content. Literally, being “liked” has this new meaning. Given that each and every one of this 100 million strong group of consumers has access and is an expert at discovering new content like this, the likelihood of something going undiscovered and unshared is smaller and smaller. What this does for new ideas, talent, and trends, is speeds up their cycle from discovery to mainstream adoption. While there are certainly still differences in consumer psyche and taste based on geo-location, this traditional notion of trends wherein culture is still thought to be a mass of people slow to adopt the taste of the leading edge, is quickly changing.

“Girls” proves to the marketing/media community that these corner pockets of young American culture might not be as niche as we think. If a show about brand loyal-less, proud to be unmarketable, indie 20-somethings can tap into the emotional needs of the masses, maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to still think of the world as “middle America” and “cities”, or “leading edge” and “mainstream”.

This just might be a moment where we realize there may no longer be such thing as “too early”. In this context, anyone creating anything for Millennials now has more permission to take creative chances. That blip on your trend radar is closer to its cross-fire than you might think. Gone are the days when top 40 reflects all of an audience, and here comes an era when emerging trends are nearly as important as the ones we see making today’s news feed.

             Jake Katz

Jake KatzJake Katz is charged with curating the “big picture” both within client projects, as well as managing the growth of Ypulse’s overall menu of offerings. Katz has a passion for decoding pop culture, and at 26, he has already worked with a variety of brands — from Nickelodeon to MTV to NBCUniversal — to help them understand trends in youth culture. He lives in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and is a proud member of the “Avocado of the Month” club.