The internet has blessed and cursed us with an infinite pool of people to make fun of, whether they have it coming or not. This week’s star, an unemployed 30-year-old man named Michael Rotondo, was sued by his parents after they made many unsuccessful attempts to kick him out of their home in upstate New York. They sent him five notices, starting in February, urging him to, well, grow up. In the second note, they were nice enough to offer him $1,100 to find a new place, suggesting that he:
1) Organize the things you need for work and to manage an apartment...
2) Sell the other things you have that have any significant value, (e.g. stereo, some tools etc.). This is especially true for any weapons you may have. You need the money and will have no place for the stuff.
3) There are jobs available even for those with a poor work history like you. Get one - you have to work!
4) If you want help finding a place your Mother has offered to help you.
Rotondo apparently ignored his parents’ repeated warnings to vacate, as well as their offers of assistance, telling the court that throughout his rent-free years at his family home, he "has never been expected to contribute to household expenses, or assisted with chores and the maintenance of the premises." (Public records suggest that between 2008 and 2010, he may in fact have lived outside his parents' home.)
Long haired and bearded with unadorned glasses, Rotondo resembles a sad, twisted version of David Foster Wallace—"infinite guest," one Twitter user quipped—his gaze vexed in an adolescent sort of way, exuding a vague emptiness. A real life iteration of the worst millennial stereotype, it’s no wonder Rotondo’s story was quickly picked up by national and international news sources. He’s every young person’s worst nightmare of how they might end up if they fail miserably, an archetype for Baby Boomer scorn.
After the judge ruled in favor of his parents, Rotondo complained to the press outside the courtroom on video, which was later aired on Jimmy Kimmel Live. "In case you’re thinking of having a kid anytime soon, I want you to listen to this story," Kimmel quipped before explaining Rotondo’s situation. When the clip rolled, the Kimmel audience burst into laughter at the mere sight of the man, who throughout the interview, wrestled with his unruly mane, slowing putting it into a ponytail, as he sputtered to reporters, unable to coherently make the case for why he shouldn’t leave his parents' home. The moment was so inherently funny that Kimmel didn’t even need to offer his own commentary in order to get the audience aroar.
“I do plan to appeal it,” Rotondo told a reporter, “but I’m wondering, you know, 'cause like, how it sounded, you know, I mean, uh.”
“It sounded like he said you need to vacate today,” a reporter replied.
“It sounded kinda like that too, but that’s just so ridiculous,” Rotondo continued.
Rotondo also appeared on CNN, Fox News, TMZ Live, and Inside Edition. His CNN interview was particularly cringey. "There are a lot of people who have read about your story and the thought bubble is, 'What is up with this millennial generation that you guys seem so entitled?' What would you say to those critics?" anchor Brooke Baldwin probed.
"I would say I'm uh, that I'm really not a member of that demographic they're speaking to, of that group, I'm a very conservative. The millennials they’re speaking to are very liberal in their ideology, um," Rotondo said, looking a little confused.
"But you’re 30, so technically I think you are part of the millennial generation. I don't think there's a delineation between..." Baldwin countered.
"Right. You're right, but uh, when people speak to the millennials and the—their general nature as a millennial, they speak to more liberal leanings. In my opinion. Do you disagree?" Rotondo asked, seeking approval.
"I don’t think it’s for me to disagree, I think a millennial is a millennial is a millennial based upon the year you were born, but I think it’s totally your opinion to say," Baldwin said, trying to wrap up the awkward segment.
As she wished him the best of luck with his future endeavors, Rotondo piped up, almost robotically, "I am a millennial."
"Yes," Baldwin said, giving him a heavy dose of side-eye. When he was off the air, she noted, "That was one of the most surreal interviews we’ve taken part of here.”
Rotondo's explanation for why he doesn’t fit the caricature of the entitled, avocado toast-loving brat—his politics—ignores the actual flaws in the stereotype often echoed by right-leaning, curmudgeonly pundits. Complaints about millennial laziness and entitlement fail to take into account the financial burdens unique to the generation—the crippling student debt, the fact that the median income for people 25-34 is 20 percent less than it was in the 1980s, and the lack of the same high-paying job opportunities available to past generations. Census data also shows that as of 2017, almost one in five 25-to-34 year old men lived at their parents' homes, while only 12.5 percent of women in the same demographic still resided with their parents. "The share of young men with jobs peaked around the 1960 Census,” the Pew Research Center reported. “The fall in young men’s employment and earnings since 1970 has likely made living independently more difficult for them, which in turn helps account for the rise in the share of young adults living with their parent(s)."
Rotondo seems fundamentally disinterested in getting a job, vaguely assuring the various reporters who questioned him about it that he was trying—or that he had other stuff going on. "I've been a father for the last few years," he told Business Insider. He also said he recently lost visitation rights due to a conflict he had with the child’s mother.
As laughable of a character as Rotondo may be, his story is a fundamentally sad one. An unkempt man-child—the internet prefers "large adult son"—making a big stink about losing his free housing while passing up the whole work thing is perfect fodder for cable news, television, and Twitter, but relentlessly mocking him is punching down. His story is an embarrassing cry for help, and for whatever reason, he lacks the emotional constitution and life skills he needs to move out of his parents house.
"You only have one mom and dad," Baldwin said to Rotondo on CNN. "I'm sure you’re more upset than you're letting on, but don't you want to reconcile with them?"
"Nnnn-no," Rotondo said.
Rotondo is almost certainly in a crisis of his own making, stubborn and ungrateful to parents who appear to have done what they could to help him mature. But for now, he stands alone in the world, the butt of late-night jokes and relentless internet ire. He's also completely alienated from both his parents and his own child. The temptation to mock him is only natural, but it should also make us uneasy. For the millennial generation, Rotondo is the epitome of who we don’t want older people to think we are.
His story is a warning—never be that guy—but it’s also a tragedy.
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