The past decade has seen the rise of a new archetype in popular culture: the “failson.” As described in recent articles, failsons are adult men who continue to rely financially and emotionally on their parents, lacking drive and purpose in their own lives. While the failson is often treated as a joke or object of ridicule, his existence points to deeper problems in our society.
The failson is not inherently lazy or incompetent. Rather, he is a product of an economy and culture that no longer provides clear paths to adulthood for young men. Good jobs are scarce, the cost of living is high, and traditional markers of manhood like home ownership feel out of reach. Faced with poor prospects, many young men see little incentive to strike out on their own or assume the responsibilities of adulthood.
This lack of opportunity and purpose has created a lost generation of young men unsure of their place in the world. Saddled with student loan debt and unable to find work that matches their skills and education, many failsons move back in with their parents after college. Without an urgent need to support themselves, they lack the motivation to develop a career. The failson drifts through low-wage service jobs and unemployment, just getting by with financial support from his parents.
The failson identity has become almost a safety net, allowing young men to avoid the pressures and responsibilities of adulthood. When you’re a failson, you have a built-in excuse for not moving forward in life. After all, society itself feels rigged against you. Why try when the deck is stacked? The failson persona allows drifting and avoidance to be rationalized as rebellion against an unjust system.
At the same time, popular media targeting young men glorifies irresponsibility and crude behavior. From frat boy movies to YouTube prank channels, too many role models for young men today are proudly immature and self-centered. They promote outrageous antics over responsibility childish rebellion over maturity. This media aimed at young male audiences revels in stereotypical “man-child” behavior. Is it any wonder why some young men adopt the failson identity?
Failsons are not bad people at heart. But their existence indicates that our society is failing young men by not providing adequate economic opportunities, purpose, or positive role models. Turning this around will require systemic changes to make adulthood more accessible and socially valued.
On a policy level, we need reforms that promote good jobs, affordable housing, and improved education so that young people have a fair shot at success. The college debt crisis, in particular, is crushing an entire generation and must be addressed through loan forgiveness programs and reduced tuition costs. We need a new New Deal focused on jobs and economic mobility for young people.
But policy alone is insufficient. We need to seriously reconsider how we socialize young men and convey cultural values. Fathers must be involved and set a positive example, modeling maturity and work ethic. Mentors should encourage responsibility and character development in young men. Pop culture and the media need more positive male role models who demonstrate adulthood and growth rather than reckless stunts and vulgarity.
Most importantly, we need to instill purpose in young men. Skill-building, career mentorship, and volunteer programs can show failsons that they have value to add to society. Trades and apprenticeships provide alternatives to college that lead to solid careers. By providing purpose and opportunity, we can motivate listless failsons to become contributing members of society.
The failson may be a punchline today. But he represents a generation of young men unsure of their place in the world. With the right reforms and guidance, these same aimless failsons could develop into the responsible leaders and citizens our society needs. But it will require effort and real change both systemically and culturally. Only then can we transform failsons into successful and fulfilled men. The time to act is now, for their sake and the sake of our future.