The Bling Ring by Nancy Jo Sales
Meet the Bling Ring: six club-hopping LA teenagers accused of stealing more than $3 million in clothing and jewelry from the likes of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Orlando Bloom, Rachel Bilson and other young members of the Hollywood elite-allegedly the most audacious burglary gang in recent history.
Driven by celebrity worship, vanity, and the desire to look and dress like the rich and famous, the Bling Ring made headlines in 2009 for using readily available sources-like Google maps, Facebook and TMZ, to track the comings and goings of their targets. Seven teens were arrested for the crimes, and instantly became tabloid fodder. The world asked-how did the American obsession with celebrity get so out of hand? And why did a band of ostensibly privileged LA teens take such a risk? (via Goodreads)
I am a late edge Gen X-er. I am young enough to have still been in high school when the label “Generation X” became prominent in the early 1990s. I was told that my generation was a cynical bunch of slackers that would never be as successful as our parents. Those were the shoes I was apparently destined to fill when I started college in 1993. Way to inspire optimism, adults!
It’s easy to look at a younger generation and purposefully not understand them. In retrospect, what was taken for laziness in Generation X was caution. We’d spent our childhoods in the mess that was the 70s: huge financial recession, the wake of a divisive war that wasn’t a war, and social changes that led to a rise in divorce rates. Even if your parents stayed together and managed to remain employed, there was still a pervasive tension. As Gen X hit adulthood, we didn’t jump into the world. We slowly and deliberately made our way, doing things our way.
Between October 2008 and August 2009, a group of upper middle class teenagers from Calabasas, CA burglarized famous people. This wasn’t at all on my radar when it happened. I’ve never followed current fame culture. I do have an interest in heists though and I was intrigued when I learned that Sofia Coppola was making a movie based on events. Okay, not enough to see the movie, but I did bookmark the book at the digital library and decided to read it on a whim last week.
Alas, heist is a strong word for what these kids did. Pretty much, they used Google maps to scout the celeb’s houses and looked for easy entrance. Which they generally found. You’d think that really rich people would have kick-ass security systems. Instead they seemed to rely on the fact that their neighborhood (in some cases, gated community) is safe and crime-free. In many cases, the Bling Ring walked in and walked out. The better part of the story, for me, turned out to be the different versions of events that each Ring member told later. Whether misremembered or self-protecting lie, it’s a marvelous case of seven-way he-said she-said.
Nancy Jo Sales originally wrote a long-form article about the Burlar Bunch for Vanity Fair. The Bling Ring is part further story, in light of concluded criminal proceedings, and part explanatory theorizing. Why would these youngsters do this? In most cases, they didn’t need the money. Did they do it because they felt entitled to engage in these celebrity’s lives? Had reality TV made them envious of a certain lifestyle that they didn’t quite have? Did they do it to be famous too?
These are good questions. Unfortunately, Sales tinges her answers with a sort of cherry-picked nostalgia. In her eyes, current culture is to blame; this never happened in the past. I don’t have refuting details at my fingertips, but it seems that the more history I am exposed to, the more I realize that nothing is new.
I try not to be too hard on Millennials. They spent childhood in an economic boom. Their parents, later Baby Boomers, had the resources to protect them and give them everything they could need. Millennials have been emboldened with the notion that they can be anything, do anything. In moderation, that’s a great thing! Unfortunately, the Millennials entered adulthood in the 2010s: huge financial recession, continually rising cost of education, and an increasingly connected social world that can be pretty damn hostile.
Having lived through the 70s, I feel like Gen X-ers spent the economic boom time like any good survivalist would. Expecting that the world would go to pot again eventually, we built figurative bunkers, well-stocked with fresh water and canned goods. We know the world sucks, but it’s a survivable level of suck. So Gen X-ers, if a Millennial comes knocking, share a can of green beans with them. Millennials, please accept a can of beans in friendship and know they’ll at least be French cut. I mean, we’re not savages.
Publishing info, my copy: OverDrive Read, HarperCollins, May 21, 2013
Acquired: Tempe OverDrive Digital Collection
Genre: nonficton, popular culture
As a good Gen X-er, I felt inspired to make a
mixtape, er, playlist reflecting the struggles of every generation: