Domestic Cozy: 1

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Domestic Cozy

I made a prediction on Twitter on February 6th: If Millennials (b. 1980 – 2000) were the premium mediocre generation, Gen Z (b. 2000 – 2020) is going to be the domestic cozy generation.

I was waiting for the perfect image to start blogging the idea, and last week supplied one: the Celestial Buddies plush toy that rode on the Crew Dragon test flight. The symbolism is perfect: an oddly satisfying little squeezable nugget of comfort within the disorienting, weird domesticity of a spaceship.

Domestic cozy is in an attitude, emerging socioeconomic posture, and aesthetic, that is in many ways the antithesis of premium mediocrity. Unsurprisingly, it takes its cues from the marginal shadow behaviors of premium mediocrity.

It finds its best expression in privacy, among friends, rather than in public, among strangers. It prioritizes the needs of the actor rather than the expectations of the spectator. It seeks to predictably control a small, closed environment rather than gamble in a large, open one. It presents a WYSIWYG facade to those granted access rather than performing in a theater of optics.

Premium mediocre seeks to control its narrative. Domestic cozy is indifferent both to being misunderstood and being ignored.

Instagram, Tinder, kale salads, and Urban Outfitters are premium mediocre. Minecraft, YouTube, cooking at home, and knitting are domestic cozy. Steve Jobs represented the premium that premium mediocrity aspired towards. Elon Musk represents the relaxed-playfulness-amidst-weirdness at the heart of domestic cozy.

Premium mediocre looks outward with a salesman affect, edgy anxiety bubbling just below the surface. Domestic cozy looks inward with a relaxed affect. A preternaturally relaxed affect bordering on creepy. One best embodied by the rise of the ASMR-like sensory modality (which even the NYT has noticed) that has come to be known as oddly satisfying.

Premium mediocrity is the same everywhere, every patch of domestic cozy is domestic cozy in its own way.

Premium mediocrity expends enormous energy preserving the illusion of normalcy. Domestic cozy slouches into the weirdness and simply ignores it, preferring to construct sources of comfort rather than trying to make sense of the weirdness in the environment.

Premium mediocrity strains to pretend it understands what is going on. Domestic cozy openly acknowledges it has no clue, and simply seeks to preserve equanimity, if not sanity. Premium mediocrity is edgily neurotic. Domestic cozy is blissfully psychotic.

As an aesthetic, domestic cozy superficially resembles the hipster aesthetic. There is a focus on craft and production, and it can appear artisan-like due to the focus on small, individual scale. The key differences are that the locus of the aesthetic is domestic rather than public, and it has no particular affection for retro traditionalism. Both knitting and Minecraft can be domestic cozy.

The key is that the activity must be conducive to an oddly satisfying state of mind within the weirding.

The oldest Z’s are just about enter adulthood. Unlike premium mediocrity, which I called at its peak, I’m calling domestic cozy just as it is getting started. So I’ll track it as a blogchain.

Series NavigationDomestic Cozy: 2 >>

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About Venkatesh Rao

Venkat is the founder and editor-in-chief of ribbonfarm. Follow him on Twitter

Comments

  1. Marc Hamann says

    Do you have an equivalent pithy name for the dominant Gen X aesthetic?

    As Gen X myself, I relate to this “domestic cozy” much more than the alienated performativity of the premium mediocre.

    Are you sure you aren’t projecting our values onto our “children generation” the way the Boomers do to the Millenials?

    • The rhyming is correlation not causation. I’ll say more about it next time, but basically, what is a life-stage reaction for older generations from a given environment needs to be life-long programming for the coming-of-age generation. Not just X, but millennials too have strong shadow rhyming with domestic cozy. There is also an element of parent-child mirroring that’s more direct imitation than projection (ie, GenZ kids are likely adopting and centering marginal coping behaviors they see in their parents and older siblings, such as staying home more, self-care etc).

      The surface preferences fall apart when you poke a bit. The behaviors mark realist while the same behaviors signify escapism in GenZ.

      • Marc Hamann says

        Are you saying that. just as Millennials do with premium mediocre, Gen Z will compete for status through domestic cozy? That strikes me as the upshot of the pragmatic/adaptive vs escapist distinction you are making.

        • I’d say no. Status competition using X requires behavior X to play out largely in the public view. The domestic locus is particularly unfriendly to status competition and friendly to incommensurable, equally-necessary roles. Hannah Arendt noted that in the domus, even though the male patriach might be the nominal head, he was as constrained as all members of the household in his roles and duties. I think barring corner cases like polygamy and status competition among wives, domesticity is a sort of status-free zone. Status is fundamentally a public life variable.

          • Marc Hamann says

            I tend to see status competition as more universal than you do ;) , but set that aside for a moment and try a different tack.

            What common function does premium mediocre play for Y that you think domestic cozy plays for Z? You mentioned escapism, so is it “leisure”?

          • Psychological survival

    • After some thought & discussion, I’m going to make a stab at “Rummage Curation” for the Gen X aesthetic. It doesn’t really describe Gen X now, but Gen X when we were coming into ourr 20s – big wooly sweaters, framed movie posters, plants on stands, fried breakfasts, coffee and tea per se (rather than lattes and chai), dog eared paperbacks in huge pockets of jackets with big hoods, clean walls, blocks of colour, cheap headphones, dream catchers and ouija boards and incense and hand-written (scrawled) notes on legal or refill pads. Road trips in Volvos.

  2. I personally think of Domestic Cosy as a sort of… palliative care, in a rather existential sense. There’s something casually, almost cheerfully (and thus refreshingly) nihilistic about it. It’s like, nothing really matters anyway, so just chill, man. With hipsters, there’s still a certain element of ‘striving’, though it’s shabbily disguised in a “too cool to care” frame.

    Hipster: I was uncool before it was cool to be uncool

    Domestic cosy: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ i’m cool being uncool, whatever

    I think the Japanese idea of “hikkikomori” or “modern-day hermit” is quite illustrative here. The American or zeroth strain is not exactly the same, but there’s this underlying, “eh, who has the time and energy to get all worked up about stuff, just chill and do the things you like to do” vibe.

    I think domestic cosy can both be a sort of nourishing psychological home base (you have no obligation to be useful or interesting), and/or a kind of escapist, ‘checked out’ attitude, and it’s not always immediately obvious what’s what. Either way, I think you’re on to something real here.

  3. Made this a while ago to document the cost aesthetic: http://cosygirl.tumblr.com

  4. Anonymous Coward says

    4chan offered the rawest form of domestic cozy: totally* anonymous public fora. completely public without revealing the self

  5. Jack Evans says

    This is right in line with Neil Howe’s and William Strauss’ Fourth Turning generational theory. So, Gen Z : Beatniks :: Gen X : Lost *or* Millennial : Boomer :: Greatest : Progressive. Alternatively, Gen Z : Gen X :: Beatniks : Lost *or* Millennial : Greatest :: Boomer : Progressive. History rhymes but doesn’t repeat, specifically, every other generation. HOWEVER, there’s an historically antagonistic relationship between generations of similar but not identical type. i.e., Millennials and Boomers are both “revolutionary” generations – large cohorts that engineer conformity to institutional change or values change, respectively – and Gen Z and Gen X are both “transition” generations – small cohorts that must focus on individual survival out of the necessity of living through (in the wake of) revolutionary fallout / uncertainty. So Millennials have little sympathy for Boomers, and vice versa, but tremendous respect for Greatest (since Millennials and Greatest are “identical” generations, both coming of age during a 4th Turning…)

  6. Jack Evans says

    gah, rather: Gen Z : Beatniks :: Gen X : Lost *or* Millennial : Greatest :: Boomer : Progressive. Alternatively, Gen Z : Gen X :: Beatniks : Lost *or* Millennial : Boomer :: Greatest : Progressive

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