The worst generation(s)

February 24, 2014


I was going to write a commentary about how, given current evidence, Generation X is the worst generation to come along in a while – the evidence being the current crop of movie releases and the general trend (at least in the studio world) to focus on pre-sold properties, be they remakes, sequels, or adaptation of TV shows and comic books.

Except that in pointing generational fingers, of course, one has to start at home: with my own generation, the Baby Boomers.

Because you reap what you sow – and we Boomers pumped a lot of shit into the system when it was our turn. As a result, when the Gen-X crowd was coming of age in – gulp! – the era of Reagan, Bush I and Clinton, when we Boomers were in ascent, we set the table for what we’re being served today.

Even as Boomers wallowed in the glories that were the films of the 1970s, we took all the wrong lessons from them. Francis Ford Coppola turned a potboiler novel into cinematic literature – twice – and the lesson we took away from it was: Sequels mean money.

George Lucas and Steven Spielberg tapped into their inner kid with movies like “Jaws” and “Star Wars” – and the take-away was: Making a movie that earns less than $100 million is the equivalent of failure.

Richard Donner crapped up “Superman” – and we now have what seem like an endless string of fair-to-mediocre comic-book movies.

I’m not quite sure who to blame for what seems to be the endless conveyor-belt-line of old TV shows and movies being remade but I have to put the most recent clot of them – “About Last Night,” “Robocop” and “Endless Love” – squarely on Gen-X. Those are obviously favorites from their youth that they’ve now decided to revisit in a mass-market way in a misplaced tribute to younger days.

And if we’ve learned anything, it’s that a) the pop culture you absorb as an adolescent strikes nostalgic chords in later life, no matter how awful it was; and b) most of it was pretty awful, but we refuse to acknowledge it – and then try to foist it on new generations. (Hello, “21 Jump Street”?)

But that’s the road we paved in the 80s and early 90s. While there were good movies being made in those years, they rarely were made by American studios, which went into a slide that turned the 80s into a kind of cinematic sludgeheap. And I speak as someone who was reviewing films on a weekly, if not daily, basis during those years.

Your tastes change as you age but, unfortunately, Hollywood is always most interested these days in the youth demographic – the audience with the least discriminating taste, and the most spare time and willingness to see movies over and over on the opening weekend. That is who the studios make movies for these days, with the Millennial audience being hand-fed by Gen-X types who are now calling the shots, as we Boomers age out.

Having reached an age where we hopefully have developed the taste and discernment that we lacked in our youth, Boomers are now ignored as an entertainment demographic at the movies. Hence, the dumbstruck response by young journalists and editors, who run stories full of amazement every time a movie aimed at the over-50 audience becomes a hit. At this point, however, Boomers are catered to only by television, one of the few places left for telling stories that are full of character development, if not character-driven.

So when the inevitable “The Full House Movie” (with cameos by now-grown Olsen twins) or “Manimal – the Film” reach screens, there will be no one to blame but ourselves. We had our chance. We blew it. And it’s only going to get worse.

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