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Gen Z: Let's Stop Glorifying "Old Money"

It's crucial to recognize that by glorifying this old money lifestyle, we inadvertently endorse the very inequalities we strive to dismantle.

Article contribution by Isaac Yankem

Blair Waldorf and Chuck Bass / Gossip Girl / Credit: WARNER BROS. TELEVISION

If I’ve learned anything post COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that money can’t buy happiness. In the early months of quarantine, used retail therapy as a reliable mood booster. I’d research, scroll, shop, and wait for the delivery man to leave the parcel at my door. Then I’d tear open the package just to find that the book within the box did little to soothe the ever unhappiness lingering over me.

Clearly, money isn’t the cure for pandemic-related despair. But, as French playwright Françoise Sagan aptly put it, “I’d rather cry in a Ferrari than on a bus.”

That’s how I imagine Gen Z’s recent obsession with this lifestyle (or style). Specifically, old money. We got tired of our boring, average, mundane lives and began to fantasize about an idealistic world.

As a result, my social media feed has been bombarded with reviews of The Crown and Gossip Girl TV Series. I keep coming across Spotify playlists titled “Living Like the Kennedys” and “Old Money Life”. I hear Lana Del Rey crooning about wealthy old men every time I open TikTok. The Tik Toks themselves are dedicated to the suddenly trendy “old money aesthetic.” It’s as if the algorithm knows I have nothing better to do than daydream about living with Blair Waldorf.

Blair Waldorf and Chuck Bass / Gossip Girl / Credit: WARNER BROS. TELEVISION

I don’t blame the internet; this old money aesthetic surpassed the fashion fads. The aesthetic usually centers on a mansion overlooking grounds, surrounded with classic cars; elegant rooms decked in Baroque-style paintings and family heirlooms; young chaps wearing all white tennis apparel, frolicking in clay tennis courts and lavish country clubs. In another setting, young socialites flock to debutante balls at the Waldorf-Astoria and charity galas at the Ritz-Carlton. Who funds these activities? (Hint: Rich husbands born into American dynasties, akin to Kennedy, Vanderbilt, Rockefeller). The admirers of the old money aesthetic fantasize about a leisure world, where money is endless and glamour never ceases; a world where life is easy.

However, this idealization glosses over the oppressive history tied to such wealth, rooted in exclusion and exploitation. Historically, old money has been synonymous with racial and socioeconomic privilege. Many of the families associated with "old money", such as the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts, amassed their wealth in times when people of color and lower socioeconomic classes were systematically oppressed and excluded from these opportunities. The Koch family, for instance, was implicated in stealing oil from Native American reservations, which underscores the exploitation and marginalization embedded in old money histories.

For Gen Z, a generation known for its activism and commitment to social justice, this obsession is paradoxical. We are the same generation that championed movements like Black Lives Matter and voted for change in the political arena. Our consumption habits reflect a desire for sustainability and equity, with a clear stance against the vast disparities perpetuated by unchecked capitalism.

Yet, the allure of escaping to a world of opulence and exclusivity remains strong. The fantasies of grand estates and exclusive parties offer a temporary respite from the daily boring and mundane life. However, it's crucial to recognize that by glorifying this old money lifestyle, we inadvertently endorse the very inequalities we strive to dismantle.

In pursuit of a more equitable world, it is essential to shift our aspirations away from these outdated symbols of privilege. Let's celebrate diversity, inclusivity, and sustainable practices, and reject the glamorization of wealth that perpetuates inequality.

By embracing values that promote fairness and social justice, we can build a future where success and happiness are accessible to all, not just the privileged few.

Now, excuse me, as I'm going to rewatch Gossip Girl series on HBO Max again.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of GC.

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