Like other upbeat insta-phrases, rise and shine is a crude instruction to ignore our feelings, says the New York-based journalist Jean Hannah Edelstein
Kylie Jenner has applied to trademark the phrase rise and shine and why shouldnt she? Shes a billionaire, she can do what she likes: the rest of us just exist in a world controlled by people like her. They own so many parts of our lives, so why shouldnt they also own the cheery soundbites that are designed to smooth over psychic pain like a slick swish of buttercream?
Jenner made the application last week after a video snippet of her singing the phrase to her baby daughter went viral. And as a quite new mother myself, I get it if I could monetise the version of Ive Been Working On the Railroad that I sing to my little boy when hes screaming in the car, I absolutely would. But the commercial power of those three little words also demonstrates how much we cling to aphorisms in this age of anxiety. Why talk about your actual feelings when theres a hashtag for them?
Maybe its just a self-protective instinct: nothing says Im not actually interested in your clinical depression and existential angst more than a $65 rise and shine sweatshirt. Jenners catchphrase is just one of many relentlessly upbeat diktats being batted around these days. Much like Keep calm and carry on, todays aphoristic exhortations insist that we ignore grim realities and continue our pursuit of narrow self-interest, with a dash of hopelessness.
Consider the phrase You got this! It is something I rarely heard before becoming a mother, but from the day I gave birth I noticed that people mostly well-meaning had adapted this as the go-to phrase in response to women expressing their fears and concerns about the trials of dealing with a newborn, a six-month-old, a teen. It peppers in-person conversation and, even more so, every online space where you see new mothers yearning to be heard and helped.
You got this is intended to be an empowering encouragement to a mother who worries that she hasnt mastered feeding or changing or entertaining her child, but it also ends the conversation. The implication is that its all on you, despite the fact that so many challenges of parenthood are beyond the parents control. Struggling to balance full-time work and childcare because the cost of the latter is barely covered by the former? You got this! Overwhelmed by a child who only sleeps for an hour at a time before requiring milk while you try to get enough sleep ahead of your 12-hour shift? You got this! Desperately afraid that your child is going to reach adulthood just in time for an apocalypse? You got this! You got this is what we say when someone wants to hear Im here to help but we dont actually have time to say it, or any help to offer (or interest in helping). What if you havent got this? Well, youll still be told that you do, until you either come to believe it or stop sharing your feelings.
Be the change is another one tagged on Instagram, the beating heart of all of our anxiety, a chilling 4.6m times. Its shorthand for Be the change you wish to see, and like these other upbeat phrases it seems to stem from good intentions. But again it thrusts the responsibility for big problems on the individual, not the powerful. Its a cheerful way of telling someone to get their own house in order before they dare levy criticism elsewhere. Dont bother coming out to a climate protest against the corporations that cause the vast majority of global emissions if youve ever drunk from a paper cup or eaten a hamburger.
What if the change you dont want to see is the departure from your country from the European Union? Too bad. Get ready for Brexit is surely the most meaningless exhortation of them all. Get ready for what? How? When? No matter. Rise and shine! You got this.
Jean Hannah Edelstein is a freelance journalist and author in New York