Dear Generation X,
First of all, on behalf of baby-boomers everywhere, allow me to apologize. You were forced to come of age in the 1980s, the Reagan era, which shouldn’t happen to anyone. My generation was going to be the one that changed the world; most of us didn’t anticipate that so many of us would sell out and change it for the worse.
But one thing we did give you was an era of great movies. We can point proudly to the films of the 1970s and the rise of independent film, both of which happened on our watch.
So here’s my question: Why are you ruining the movies now?
Perhaps I’m generalizing to blame it on Gen-X. Each generation, after all, wreaks its own particular brand of havoc on the film world. Still, consider the evidence: Specifically, recent news reports enthusiastically announcing that Zac Efron would join Dwayne Johnson in a movie version of “Baywatch.”
This occurrence, I believe, is referenced in the Book of Revelations. The end times are indeed upon us.
Why blame this on Gen-X? Do the math: The execs that make these decisions are now in their 40s — which means they fit the Gen-X demographic. “Baywatch” was a hit in their youth, an uber-crappy throwaway TV series that would give the term “guilty pleasure” the willies.
I can hear the conversation now: “Remember how great ‘Baywatch’ was? We should totally remake it — and we can get The Rock instead of David Hasselhoff. We’ll make fun of it and take it seriously at the same time — maybe even get Hasselhoff for a walk-on, totally meta!”
We all treasure the cultural detritus of our own formative years, when everything seemed to be life and death. But as much as you may have loved “Baywatch” or “21 Jump Street” or “Point Break” or any of an endless list of unnecessary recycling to which we have or will be subjected, you saw them at an impressionable age. You hadn’t really learned to discriminate between quality work and work that manipulated or distracted that still-forming sense of taste.
So a simple rule to live by (listen up, Millennials, because your turn will come):
Very little of the pop culture that you treasure from the period before your 18th (perhaps even 21st) birthday — whether it’s movies, TV shows or pop music — will stand the test of time. I don’t care if it’s “Baywatch” or “The Goonies” (another generational marker, a weak movie remembered by Gen-Xers as being way better than it actually was; “Gremlins,” released the same year, is a much better film).
If you saw it or heard it before the age of consent and you love-love-loved it, well, nostalgia is fine. But don’t mistake fond memories for actual quality.
That’s true, no matter what generation you belong to. God knows we boomers harbor unwarranted affection for our share of garbage from our youth. How else to explain the continued popularity of bad ‘70s bands that still pack them in at outdoor venues every summer? Or the urge to ironically recycle work like “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”?
So, Gen-X execs in Hollywood: Please don’t.
Remakes are bad enough in and of themselves, a raging symptom of the death of imagination in movies. This, however, is somehow worse, not just a dumbing-down but a lobotomizing of popular culture.
Remember this simple rule: Don’t remake films or TV shows that were crap to start with. A turd, even a gift-wrapped turd, is still a piece of shit.
All the best,