Zachary German is an anomaly. A twenty-something writer of alternative fiction with zero web presence whatsoever yet not so long ago he was all there. What happened? Shitty Youth presents the portrait of the artist who doesn’t give a fuck. German has structured his life from the creation of culture to the consumption of it. Here the documentary focuses on German going from wanting to be a part of the literary scene to wanting to be apart from the literary scene. German states ‘I don’t think that what they are doing is interesting or worthwhile so I don’t need to talk to them’ regarding the more recent phenomena of alt lit or online literature.
German is alone. In front of a microphone for Shitty Youth, his radio show, he is alone. Kitchens are vacant sans German and his minimal radio equipment. Out walking dogs for his job he remains alone. Whether or not there is an audience is irrelevant for German. He does what he wants how he wants. German’s criticism and thoughts on literature are amazing. If he ever wanted to do literary criticism he seems to have the analytical mind and interest. Motivation and meeting his internal standards would continue to be a problem like it has been for his fiction however.
Figures within the literary community discuss German. Some of them claim to be his ‘friends’. German’s ‘friends’ like David Fishkind claim to see him once every two months, hang out with him without talking to him, and are abruptly told to leave. Tao Lin states German wants no online presence and relishes the ability to tear it down. Tao Lin also talks about how Zachary may be genius level in terms of how he writes. David Fishkind describes the style German uses and the effectiveness of it. Indeed German’s art appeals to people far more than German as a person.
Marshall Mallicoat states ‘he’s an ubermensch, he doesn’t need anybody’. This is reflected in how German interacts with the world. Out of all the people interviewed about German the best moment comes with Brandon Scott Gorrell. Here is where the philosophy of Zachary German becomes clear. The concept of ‘Apathyiscool’ German’s old twitter handle is taken apart. And the ending result after Gorrell is done is of a life sans accompaniment akin to a modern day hermit. For German appears fine with loneliness even prefers it. Alone German does not need to validate or respond to anyone. This may explain his desire to avoid online interaction.
German discussion on his writing it is illuminating. Here is where some of the worry of ‘Is German ever going to come out with another book’ gets addressed. Right as he says that his book sucks he stares blankly at the screen, sad for a moment, and then moves the talk to wondering where they are. Parts of the documentary get self-aware with German stating ‘That’s so stupid to need an arc’. Out of this comes perhaps the saddest part of the film. Right as German reads in Florida to a crowd inclined to like his work he finds a typo. “Robert takes an ice cube tray out of the ice cube” – this is a typo that most would automatically correct. German doesn’t. Rather he says ‘I was so good for so long’.
‘I was so good for so long.’ This may be the answer to everything. Why German exists as two separate people: the one that existed for his ‘Eat When You Feel Sad’ publishing phase and the post-publication work. Here German appears to show that he genuinely feels trapped and unable to do anything that meets his own self-imposed publication standards. An artist trapped is what comes out of the movie at the end. After the reading German watches dogs race. He appears disinterested in what is going on and the camera pans out, showing him standing alone in the darkness with Americana surrounding him.