All kids know the one, immutable truth that is the source of all their power: Adults give up. They’re lazy. That’s why they still have cable and landlines, and why their kids ultimately get all the ice cream, iPad games and Smosh videos they want. So it’s no surprise that after years of enduring all that sexting, apping and startuping, 2015 was the Year the Adults Gave Up. Even the most responsible workers in journalism, copy editors, just let me capitalize four words for no reason.
Not since the 1970s has a generation walked away from power so willingly, and this time it’s far more shocking, since these adults did it sober. You want to flout your city’s regulations so your little app thing can usurp your city’s taxi and hotel industries? Fine. You say that seeing Woodrow Wilson’s face makes you cry? We’ll look into removing his mural from Princeton, where he was president. When Caitlyn Jenner made her debut as a transgender woman, adults acted as if they too now understood why the Kardashians were important. So eager were adults to shed their adultiness that HBO bought Sesame Street, Google changed its name to Alphabet and Hillary Clinton did both the whip and the nae nae.
This was the year when adults turned the damn car around and headed home. The year when they said you can smoke your marijuana, marry that guy you said was just your friend and make nice with the communists in Cuba as well as the Great Satan haters in Iran. The year when Joe Biden gave a good look around at what was going on in the world and said, “Forget this,” only in a much more Joe Biden way.
In 2015, David Letterman quit; Mad Men went off the air; Robert Durst allowed a documentarian to get him arrested for murder; Brian Williams stepped down in order to spend more time with his fake war buddies; the authorities allowed El Chapo to “escape”; and NFL commissioner Robert Goodell, after suspending Tom Brady, who played anyway, was officially only in charge of apologizing and handing over the laziest-designed trophy in sports. Even Sepp Blatter agreed to step down from FIFA. He didn’t actually do it, of course, but it was a huge step for him to pretend he was going to. Zayn Malik left One Direction even though he was considered the most adult member of the band by people writing year-in-review columns who were desperate to make the facts fit their flimsy theories.
China, which just became an economic adult, devalued its currency. Almost no world leader besides Angela Merkel showed any notion of adult hospitality toward Syrian refugees. Pluto, which still has to be pissed about being de-planeted by a bunch of nerds, waved its cold white flag by showing the dorks who run New Horizons a huge heart–or as huge a heart-shaped feature as a dwarf planet can have. And it’s filled with frozen poison. But basically, Pluto gave up the fight.
The party of Lincoln and Reagan had a mass exodus of adults, with the remaining one desperately putting an exclamation point after his name–Jeb!– most likely because he confused it with a hashtag. The GOP primary was led by Donald Trump, who is less an adult than one of the kids who don’t make it through the Willy Wonka tour. Two generations ago, believe it or not, all candidates were like Bernie Sanders. Now it is difficult to explain to Kanye West why he shouldn’t run for President.
After years of having the Tea Party make him cry, John Boehner quit the job of Speaker of the House. Then his successor, Kevin McCarthy, quit the job before he even got it. Paul Ryan agreed to take the job only if they let him grow a cool beard and then post on Instagram about being the first Speaker in 100 years with a beard. He is also the first Speaker ever to beard-brag.
During a year of mass shootings in the U.S., the President dejectedly said, “At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries … I say that recognizing the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now.” Which is the equivalent of telling the class that you’re going to wait until they settle down to teach, which never, ever works. Especially when the class has guns.
And yet all this adult capitulation wasn’t good enough for young people, despite their getting a new Star Wars. No, they had to destroy adults’ final refuges by publishing the names of Ashley Madison subscribers and folding SkyMall.
But even as they just take over, the kids are already getting old. There’s no other explanation for why they’re listening to Adele.
This appears in the December 21, 2015 issue of TIME.
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