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Business - Written by on Thursday, June 19, 2008 17:02 - 52 Comments

What movie speaks for your generation?

As part of my research on Net Generation leadership, I’m reviewing a lot of interesting books on the subject. I’m part way through Motivating the “What’s in it For Me?” Workforce: Manage Across the Generational Divide and Increase Profits” by Cam Marston. Some interesting stuff in here, but one thing that really struck my interest was the sidebar on page 16. In it, Marston is discussing the 1983 film The Big Chill, stating:

“the young cast, all of whom became major stars, epitomized the Baby Boomers’ new version of the American Dream: “You can have your cake and eat it, too.” The film is now a classic because most Baby Boomers identified with the conflicts experienced by the characters.”


The thing is…outside of Baby Boomers, almost everybody hates this movie or at least finds it pretentious and self-involved. To illustrate, here is some dialogue from the John Cusack movie, High Fidelity.

Barry (wonderfully played by Jack Black): Top 5 songs about death. A Laura’s Dad tribute list, okay? Okay. Leader of the Pack. The guy f***in’ beefs it on his motorcycle and dies, right? Dead Man’s Curve. Jan & Dean.
Dick: Do you know that right after they recorded that song Jan himself crashed his car…
Barry: It was Dean you f***in’ idiot…
Rob: It was Jan. It was a long time after the song.
Barry: Okay, whatever. Tell Laura I Love Her. That would bring the house down – Laura’s Mom could sing it. You know what I’d want? One Step Beyond by Madness. And, uh, You Can’t Always Get What You Want.
Dick: No. Immediate disqualification because of its involvement with The Big Chill.
Barry: Oh God. You’re right!

If the Big Chill speaks for the Baby Boom, what speaks for the other generations? As a Gen Xer, do I claim Top Gun (I do recall serenading young women with You Lost that Loving Feeling like Maverick and Goose…I don’t recall it working), Breakfast Club, Raiders of the Lost Ark? Does the Net Gen claim Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter…or is their real angst that needs to be expressed on film still ahead of them?


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Justin Papermaster
Jun 19, 2008 17:36

Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter no more represents the net generation than the Star Wars trilogy represents the sentiments of your generation Mike. They are all great films, but the message in each is timeless rather than generational.

I really do hope that the film which represents the sentiments of the net generation is still to come. Something that expresses our vivacity, collaborative ability, and technical prowess. I don’t feel that there has been a movie made yet that really captures this essence.

The only movies that have come close are the Borne trilogies. This is because Borne is an unstoppable bad a$$. Just like the Net Gen!

Jun 19, 2008 18:00

The movie of my generation is Fight Club. It’s particularly resonant with the American white straight male.

Mike Dover
Jun 19, 2008 20:23

Brittany Creamer
Jun 19, 2008 21:22

I agree with Justin that LOTR and HP do not define Gen Y, but I do think they are part of a new mythology that, in a way, is a reflection of our society as a whole. The explosion in popularity of fantasy series and super hero movies in the last 5 years or so is one example of this.

Matthew Dreitlein
Jun 19, 2008 22:28

I would have to say, after some amount of conversation amongst my peers and a fair degree of analogy experiance under my belt, that it is The Matrix.(the first one by itself, not the trilogy)

The real world around us is one that seems to be full of darkness(war,global warming, disasters, poverty, famine, disease) but through technology we are able to learn anything in a fraction of the time it would normally take and awaken others to fight against an outdated and oppressive system.(Monopoly driven Capitolism, Global Apathy, Global Competition rather than Collaberation, ect.)

We are fullfilled through mastering the technology that surrounds us. Ironically, this is only possible if we “free our minds” of the old paradigms of the corperate world.

There is even a bit in the movie about having to be young to accept this transition. Everyone else thinks that the world of 1997 is real, when we know better. We know that the truth, that anything is possible.

If you take the resistance as a whole, and you don’t focus spesifically on Neo, then I think the tale can fit.

You also have to gloss over the whole “human vs. machine” theme that is more explicitly taken up in the second and third movies.

If we see the “agents” as the higher level executives and media personalities trying to conserve the old way of life(given omnipresence and inconceivable strength through media dominance and top down control)then the first movie stands alone as an excellent example our struggle to change the world.

In talking to people my age, it fits. Most everyone over 30 that I know thinks that it was mindblowing and strange. But everyone under 30 that I talk to is like, “it’s so true to life!” Except, of course, none of my freinds think they can fly, and none are interested in shooting up a government building.

I think there are plenty of other analogies in the movie that are perfect symbols here,(Neo Jumping into Agent Smith, The Digital Imagery, The Oracle) but I’ll save them for another post, this one might be too long already.

Vicky's WebGeek
Jun 19, 2008 22:29

Personally, I find “Strange Brew” speaks to me more than most other films from my (our) formative years, but I have a feeling I’m pretty alone in that.

But if your looking for movies that spoke to the “gen-x” crowd, I’d say look at “Slackers” or “Clerks”. If you looking for our “Big Chill” (complete with pretentious dialog), that’d be “Reality Bites”.

Mike Dover
Jun 19, 2008 22:37

Absolute best thing about Strange Brew was the bribing with the donuts.

“Maybe THIS would help you remember…”

Jun 19, 2008 23:11

I really don’t know why, but it seems to me that Garden State hit a nerve with the EMO age-group (24-28) I’m 33 and I just didn’t get it.
Not related, but Igby Goes Down put a hurting on my soul…and Jeff Goldblum was in it as the evil baby boomer and he was in the Big Chill. So maybe there is some connection there.

Jun 19, 2008 23:13

For me I think it was two movies – an early generation influence of Breakfast Club and for later, Rivers Edge.

Mike Dover
Jun 19, 2008 23:39


I think it is entirely cool and not inconsistent to dig Goldblum while being appalled by the Big Chill.


Jun 19, 2008 23:40

Garden State
Fight Club

My generation is in between these two :)

Naumi Haque
Jun 19, 2008 23:49

Pulp Fiction was huge for me (after first watching Reservoir Dogs). I remember trying to sneak into the movie theater six times before we finally managed to see it (I was 17 at the time and they wouldn’t sell us tickets). One time we snuck in right at the part where they were hosing off the blood and brains from the back seat of the car (before we quickly got caught and tossed) – man we really wanted to see it after that.

I also agree with Vicky on the Kevin Smith connection to Gen X. Clerks, Mallrats, and to a lesser degree Chasing Amy were all influential during my formative years and I think are all representative of the emotion at the time.

While we’re building a list, lets toss Dazed and Confused, into the mix as well, along with The Crow, Good Will Hunting, and Friday; all of which definitely hold some nostalgic “growing up” value for me. Oh, and I do recall a Tombstone poster as well as a Desperado poster in my room in high school.

Epics like Star Wars and Indiana Jones don’t count because, as Justin points out, they are timeless classics.

Full disclosure: at 30 years old, I’m on the Gen X bubble.

Glen K. Amo
Jun 20, 2008 5:23

I admit to thinking “Strange Brew” myself. You are not alone. I have always felt a bit between generations, anyhow.

…it’s a jelly.

Neil P
Jun 20, 2008 8:11

Great discussion.

I agree with a lot of what’s already been said (especially on Matthew, naumi, and Larent’s posts), but I think for me it’s gotta be Judd Apatow all the way. Especially the TV shows Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared he did, before hits like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and Superbad.

Biggest thing: he gets the language right, and I think that’s the major difference between his stuff and everyone else’s. Raunchy is no big deal, crazy-nasty-lewd is the new normal. Little things hurt, people mess up their words, nobody talks like they’re fifteen years older than they are. My stomach twists on me a lot when I watch Freaks and Geeks, especially.

On the newer movies he does, the dialogue is kid-raunchy, probably Internet porn influenced (see cover of Macleans this week about 8-10 year olds viewing hardcore porn). Plus, lots of pot references (more kids smoke pot than cigarettes these days, according to stopthedrugwar.org), and he taps into the usual fears of kids (virginity (“40 Year Old Virgin”) / being cool (“beard gag in Knocked Up” / entire plot of Superbad) / being gay (“You know how I know you’re gay?” running gag in 40-year-old virgin), etc).

The other thing I think about Judd’s stuff is that they all very obviously take Young People Seriously. Their stuff is important. Parents walk by in the background, but it’s the kid’s troubles that get the air time.

So yeah, for me it’s Judd Apatow’s stuff. Well, either that or Crimson Tide.


Jun 20, 2008 9:19

Kevin Smith stuff – check

Quentin Tarantino stuff – check

I’ll also toss the earlier (read ‘watchable’) Adam Sandler and Will Farrell movies into the mix to round out the big pop culture movies from our time. Some because we identified with them in some way, but others just because we recite lines from them in the course of regular conversation on a daily basis.

John Duda
Jun 20, 2008 9:28

Actually, the absolute best thing about Strange Brew was when Bob and Doug give Hosehead directions to Oktoberfest:

[to Hosehead] Sit! Sit! [to Inspector] Got a map? [the Inspector
gives the map to Bob, who shows it to Hosehead] Ok, this is like an
aerial view. Ok, take the 401 to here, then take highway 6 north, ok?
It goes right up here. That’s the offramp.

Don’t forget to take a right at highway 6, eh?

Jun 20, 2008 9:40

I’d say that the Kevin Smith / Quentin Tarantino / Robert Rodriguez trinity grabbed hold of the cultural moment of the 90′s and twisted it together with vintage and contemporary cool music, comic books, video game culture to form the heart of filmmaking for the generation…

Jun 20, 2008 11:41

i think the question is flawed – is the *movie* media form even relevant to n-Gen? arent these people all about hyper-interactivity, non-passive media consumption, user-created content, and the ‘free’ sharing of EVERYTHING? actually one movie does come to mind, one that very few people ever saw – Star Wars: The Phantom Edit

Jun 20, 2008 12:50

Somewhere between Judd Apatow films and Garden State would probably be the best traditional movie, but I think d-cozz is correct that it’s not just about movies. It’s a media cocktail that includes movies, tv, and lots and lots of online video.

So add to the mix: evolution of dance, Chris Crocker, Ze Frank, Chad Vader, Lazy Sunday, Chuck Norris, and anything with John Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Now you’ve got a mishmash of content that’s appropriate for a generation who takes input from at least 3 sources at any given time.

Matthew Dreitlein
Jun 20, 2008 13:45

While I do appreciate the mention of mashups and other user created content, I don’t think the question is flawed. Or at least, not so flawed that it is not worth considering.

While millions of mashups and other creative works exist, they mostly spread through viral marketing. This limits a large majority of them from reaching the entire populous, and they seem to rather act within populations of already existing common interests. Star Wars fans that were frustrated by Gweedo shooting first in the digital remake may have seen the 10 minute, “The Real Reason Gweedo Shot First” on Youtube, for example. But I sincerely doubt, that everyone in the generation, or even most, have seen it.

Even video games, while making record profits per game, appeal to smaller communities than movies. When the numbers are taken into a context, we quickly see that it is because a small population of people are devoted to their games (and willing to spend 50 bucks a pop) that games like grand theft auto were able to make 500 million in the first week (at 50 bucks a game that’s 10 million copies, where the Net Generation in the U.S. alone is above 80 million)

When we take movies, however, the premiums are so much lower that we can see a much greater area of saturation, despite lower gross sales.

The Matrix made about 150 million in the U.S. according to the latest figures (www.the-numbers.com)

With movies ranging from 1 dollar (bless the dollar theater here in Rochester) to 10 dollars, we can take the average to be about 5 dollars,(especially considering that it came out in 1999). With that in mind we can easily see how a movie like the matrix saturated the culture more by reaching 3 times the amount of people. (30 million) (These numbers are by no means definitive: grand theft auto has only been out for a few months, I am not accounting for international gross of the movie, and I do not pretend to have demographic consumer information readily available. The numbers are meant as an illustration of what could be happening)

Now, of course video games are more interactive, and the amount of hours spend playing them is far more than the hours spent watching a movie.

However, it is the passive quality of the movie that qualifies it for this kind of a question. Even thought we are more interactive than other generations, we are still affected by the culture around us.

So, I think the question is not flawed, in a much as you think generations can be understood based on the culture in which they grew up. I for one am intrigued by the question. However, other sociological viewpoints do abound. Cheers.

Rob Salkowitz
Jun 20, 2008 15:39

Hardcore GenXer here (b.1967). The 1991 Cameron Crowe film “Singles” (shot in Seattle, down the street from my apartment at the time) was practically a documentary of me and my friends in that era, although it was not an especially great movie. “Repo Man” and “Blue Velvet” are among the first films where I felt a real generational disconnect between those who got it and those who didn’t. Most Boomers seemed to hate those movies, finding them too dark and cynical, while my GenX pals and I loved the irony and contempt (and the humor, and the music). Of the GenX directors, Richard Linklater (“Slacker,” Dazed and Confused,” “Before Sunrise,” etc.) seems to have the mindset dialed in best.

Sean moffitt
Jun 20, 2008 15:54

here’s my attempt:

GI generation (get it done)
- Mr.Smith Goes to Washington (stand for the right thing)
- Gone with the Wind (historical values)

Silent Generation (conformists, prosperity, civil rights)
- Ben Hur (individual hero)
- To Kill a Mockingbird
- My Fair lady
- Sound of Music

Boomers (self absorbed, liberal, do what you want, distrust of authority)
- Big Chill (sentimentalism)
- Grease/Rocky (optimism, rags to riches)
- Rocky Horror Picture Show/Saturday night fever (glam)
- Easy Rider

Gen X (apathy, social prblems of the day, MTV, falwed hero, interactive tech begins)
- Mallrats/Clerks/Office Space/Chasing Amy (anti-corporate, McJobs, Coupland)
- Do the Right Thing (race)
- Breakfast Club/
- Ferris Bueller’s day off (maverick)
- Say Anything

Net Generation (freedom, collaboration, the net, integrity, speed)
- Harry Potter/Lord of the Rings (unexpected hero)
- Snakes of a Plane (net)
- Inconvenient Trust (environmentalism, something larger than yourself)
- The Notebook
- There Will Be Blood/Borat/Bourne identity (entertainment)

Naumi Haque
Jun 20, 2008 16:22

Good call on Office Space Sean. I think you have to include Office Space as the quitisential anti-cube jockey Gen X movie.

Rob Salkowitz
Jun 20, 2008 16:24

Seems like you’re selling the Silents short, Sean. How about “The Wild One,” “Rebel without a Cause,” “The Seventh Seal” (Silents were the first generation to get into foreign films in a big way), “Cool Hand Luke” and “In the Heat of the Night.” Generationally, I think they had (and still have) the most complex and interesting taste, and have produced the most literate films and film criticism of any cohort.

I also noticed recently that someone is doing a remake of the Breakfast Club for a NetGen audience. I wonder how that will go over…

Mike Dover
Jun 20, 2008 16:28

One thing for sure, the Net Gen won’t allow themselves to be put in a corner.

I don’t think that the War on Terror translates into a remake of Red Dawn. Remember Caroline in the City covered in mud? Good Times.

Editor’s note: this sets the record for the most references to Jennifer Grey (also Ferris Beuller’s sister) in a single Wikinomics post.

Jun 20, 2008 17:17

Now that’s comment-bait :)

Among American movies, I’d say ‘Shawshank Redemption’ is far and away the Gen X top movie (I am Gen X).

Someday I’ll make up a list of generationally-representative Bollywood movies, though the Indian generations don’t quite segment the same way.

Tammy Erickson
Jun 20, 2008 17:19

Hi All — Fun discussion. Mike, thanks for inviting a Boomer to play.

Okay, first things first. The Big Chill is a GREAT movie. I loved it. My husband loved it (therefore, not a chick flick). It’s not about a group that is pretentiously going after it all; it’s about people who are struggling to figure out how to make sense of a life in which a wide spectrum of options is suddenly possible. Can you balance a career and kids? Where are the boundaries of the new sexual mores? (Remember, Boomers are the only generation that experienced the joys and freedom of a post-pill and pre-AIDS world.) And, with the evil establishment all around, is this a world we can live in?

The movie pretty much captures what it felt like to be a young adult at the time. Optimistic and embolden, yes, based on encouragement from all sides to step up – make a difference – have it all. But confusing, too – and overwhelming. How do you sort out the new roles? How do you deal with the challenge, the competition, the number of things that need to be done or changed or even ignored? Do you become hardened and focused on your career? Simplify and withdrawn, perhaps with an X’er at your side? Or give up completely and pack it in?

We also lived in a world without MTV. This movie was our MTV. It combined our favorite songs; you could have it on in the background, without even watching and enjoy it. The sound track was our iPod.

There were others that captured the Boomer experience: American Graffiti as high schoolers and Kramer vs. Kramer as young parents, sorting out men’s new roles in parenting.

We loved movies about rebels in all forms, because beneath the corporate suites (straight from the Dress for Success manual), this is what we secretly thought ourselves to be – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Dirty Harry. We identified with the upbeat, optimistic underdogs – Breaking Away, Rocky—and the quirky but free-spirited individuals – Annie Hall, Harold and Maude.

We “played” at cult movies, “wasting” as much time there as X’ers later would on Dungeons and Dragons or Y’s on World of Warcraft. I must have seen The Harder They Come nearly a hundred times. Others dressed up for and shouted along to The Rocky Horror Picture Show over and over again.

And we loved movies that reinforced our belief in the absurdity and even evil of the adult establishment – M*A*S*H, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, Chinatown, A Clockwork Orange.

Boomers’ youth was a time of new gender roles (women working, men parenting) that needed to be explored. It was a time of defiance and scorn for institutions, and it struck in most a strong desire to do “something” – something big, to make a difference, rebel, refuse to conform. That expectation set the stage for easy disappointment and angst; many of us soon found ourselves conforming – and lay the groundwork for The Big Chill’s resonance.

Now, on the note of Y films, I’d like to propose The Devil Wears Prada. I think the ending is a great test of the generations. Based on several inter-generational discussions, the folks I know pretty much agree that Y’s love the ending, X’ers accept the ending as a wise move, and Boomers (and certainly yours truly) think the ending is absolutely ridiculous. (Here’s a link to a blog I wrote on that.) http://discussionleader.hbsp.com/erickson/index.php?page=6



Jun 20, 2008 17:23

Mike- Very interesting post. We’re looking into some of these same things.

I would say that in terms of Millennials’ angst being reflected in films, per your last sentence, Harry Potter may actually be quite relevant. Harry Potter’s “angst” is figuring out how to persevere and generally be heroic in a turbulent and confused world. Whereas Boomers’ angst was existential, and Xer’s angst was rebellious against a society they felt abandoned them, Millennials’ angst is about how to, in some sense, “save the world”. This is widely reflected in the films that have been discussed here

This is a fascinating topic; I’m very interested to see where this leads.

Alexandra Samuel
Jun 20, 2008 17:39

My first blush response is to back up Rob re: Singles — when it came out, that movie really did feel like it was “about” my friends, from the hopeless pursuit of inappropriate guys to the fact that the appropriate guy was a green transit geek.

And in a COMPLETELY different vein, I might also nominate “Demolition Man” — because while it’s not an Xer movie per se, I sure know a lot of people who share my fondness for the way its futurism commented fondly and ironically on our present.

But I have to admit that while I’m a great movie lover, there are damn few movies that I’d say really speak to & for me. Reading some recent coverage of the Sex & The City phenom — the general tone of which is, omigod! women want movies about THEM?!!? — has encouraged me to reflect on how few movies are about women, largely (I gather) because women don’t drive ticket sales. Even in our generally egalitarian home, we tend to see guy flix, because while I am delighted (really, genuinely, shamefully delighted) to see an action flick or dorky comedy, Rob isn’t usually up for the let’s-talk-about-our-feelings movies. (He gave at the office, I guess.)

Sex & The City certainly didn’t fit the bill — I enjoyed it, but it bares just about zero relationship to my reality. Probably the filmmaker who comes closest to capturing women of my particular demographic is Nicole Holofcener — both “Walking and Talking” and “Lovely and Amazing” had moments and characters that felt very evocative.

Mathew Ingram
Jun 20, 2008 20:32

Some great suggestions for all generations.

I guess I’ve always felt kind of in-between generations (born in 1962) — not really a Boomer, but not really Gen-X either. So I really liked the Big Chill, but it didn’t feel like watching my friends and I — Breakfast Club was closer, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. But the one I identified with the most was probably Repo Man, for whatever reason.

Mike Dover
Jun 20, 2008 21:07

Interesting that Repo Man came up again.

Awesome movie and it’s soundtrack was pretty much the opposite of the Big Chill’s.

For those that haven’t experienced the early Emilio Estevez film, here is a link that explains why it is a classic. Warning: the language gets “a little blue”


Thusenth Dhavaloganathan
Jun 20, 2008 23:31

Matrix I – techno thriller
Fight Club – break out of the mold
40 Year Old Virgin – a new type of comedy that holds nothing back
Lord of the Rings – epic
An Inconvenient Truth – rally the GenY’s to fix GenX’s mistakes
The Notebook – who says romance is dead

Brian Magierski
Jun 21, 2008 1:17

What a great thread … nice job Mike!

As an X-er, I can identify strongly with the anti-establishment / maverick films already mentioned – Top Gun, Ferris Bueller, Breakfast Club (though this one has really wore thin on me now). Adding one more, how about Broderick as the maverick computer nerd in War Games?

Reality Bites was certainly a generational flick too .. and a hip soundtrack to boot.

I gotta say, I loved Tammy Erickson’s comment about The Devil Wears Prada and how she tied together the generations on the ending of that one … what a great call.

On the timeless classics, I am a huge fan of the Godfather Trilogy (particularly I and II of course) … don’t know what that says.

Extending that, I’d add the maverick gangster Chilly Palmer (John Travolta) in Get Shorty – love that one.

And I’m writing this while watching Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan in Clear and Present Danger tell the President of the United States ‘Sorry Mr. President, I don’t dance’ … what a maverick!

Martin Bakner
Jun 21, 2008 14:08

Like Mathew, I am stuck between Boomer and Gen-X (b. 1960)… so my picks are a bit eclectic.

From my youth: 2001… the ultimate SF film for the Apollo Age.
My teens: The Godfather… better than Tarantino in use of gratuitous violence.
Young adult: Apocalypse Now… thank you, Robert Duvall.

Special recognition: A Christmas Story… real kids acting like real kids.

Jun 22, 2008 14:42

I was a kid in the German 70ies and a teenager in the 80ies. In the 70ies we “Annie” was our girl and “Asterix and Obelix” our guys. In the 80ies “Top Gun” rocked, “Footlose”, “Flashdance”, “Dirty Dancing”, “Rocky”, “Rambo” and pretty well everything that was big in America.

Wikinomics » Blog Archive » Wik
Jun 22, 2008 20:20

[...] What movie speaks for your generation?Who needs analyst firms anyways? Another Smart Response to “The Dumbest Generation”Obama’s YouTube Secret: Longer VideosDilbert mash up: June 20th 2008 [...]

Ben Letalik
Jun 22, 2008 20:35

Although it’s very recent, I’m a little surprised that Juno hasn’t been mentioned so far. It’s a movie universally liked not only by my generation (Y), but I feel others as well.

It tackled a very tough issue in what I feel a fairly realistic way. Juno’s parents’ reaction, especially, was apt considering my generation’s relationship with our parents.

While the dialog was a little unrealistic, (and made me cringe at times) I still think the movie has its place in defining our generation.

I think with Arrested Development, Superbad and Juno, Michael Cera has done a pretty good job of representing our generation.

Jun 22, 2008 22:02

“Reality Bites”! (which girl in her mid-thirties hasn’t dated a Troy Dyer? C’MON!)



Troy Dyer
Jun 23, 2008 13:48

What’s wrong with Troy Dyer? http://legalpad.typepad.com/my_weblog/2007/03/legal_reality_b.html

In 2005, the real Troy Dyer (a financial planner from Wisconsin[10]) sued writer Helen Childress, producer Danny DeVito and director Ben Stiller.[11] Dyer claimed that after the 2004 release of the tenth anniversary DVD of the film he had “inquiries from potential clients as to whether he was the fictional Troy Dyer”.[11] Universal, Childress, DeVito and Stiller attempted to seek shelter under California’s anti-SLAPP statutes but in early 2007 the appeals court denied them SLAPP protection with the following decision: “In sum, assuming the issues facing Generation X at the start of the 1990’s are of significant interest to the public, Dyer, a financial consultant living in Wisconsin who happened to have gone to school with Childress, was not connected to these issues in any way. Thus, the defendants failed to meet their initial burden of showing the activity underlying Dyer’s lawsuit was in furtherance of the defendants’ constitutional right of free speech in connection with a public issue or an issue of public interest”.[11]

Cam Marston
Jun 24, 2008 7:18

I love that my book has been linked in any way to a movie of a generation. And as a Gen X’er myself I think the movie that fits is Breakfast Club. For me, at least. The one most often associated with Gen X is Reality Bites but I’ve never seen that. I guess I’m not too up on my research. But Breakfast Club hit me in the gut when I watched it much like Rebel Without A Cause hit a previous generation much the same way. Each generation has their own rebellion movie and that is the one that rings true for me.

Brian Gillooly
Jun 25, 2008 10:51

Like Matthew, I consider myself on a “cusp” of generations (’61) — I don’t feel like a boomer and I definitely am not a Gen Xer. So, to me, a “bridge” film (bridging the generations) best represents the people I associated with, and there are two that came to mind immediately. No question that “Animal House” had a huge influence culturally on (if not my entire mini-generation) me and my friends. The irony is that it was about the mid-boomer folks (mid ’50s), but it resonated like hell with us. Maybe it was because we were at a rebellious point in our lives (late teens) when it was released, or maybe because as people on the cusp of the generations we needed something rebellious and fun to identify with since we didn’t really identify with either generation bookending us. We all had the toga parties (yeah, I know, real rebellious), we quoted the film endlessly, we left our alligator shirts in the closet in favor of torn gray sweatshirts — we felt a sort of release after that film came out. The parade-scene denoument was our big-display, in-your-face rejection of authority — you just loved how they used their ingenuity to craft a bigger-than-life scheme to stick it to the man — and that summer we metaphorically jumped in our big convertibles and drove off with the pom-pom girl (so maybe it was more of a guy flick).

But I can’t leave out another one that I also think represented the “bridge” group I was in and that was The Exorcist. I know it’s odd to equate the devil with a generation, but we were totally captivated by that movie. Again, maybe it was just my group of friends and not the whole mini-generation, but we watched it dozens of times. I remember one of my friends at the time summing up why that movie scared/entertained us so much more than any of the other classic horror films. He said, “You don’t mess with the devil.” Jason, Freddy Kruger, etc. — they were just Hollywood creations and fake blood. They weren’t scary so much as occasionally startling (“Kid, can’t you hear the screeching violins?!? Just RUN!”) But the devil was “real” to us, especially the children of old-fashioned Catholics. I think The Exorcist represented whatever “boogeyman” was dogging the latter part of the boomer generation — unlike our parents and the early boomers with their nuclear families and white picket fences, this was post Vietnam War and we still suffered that angst; the economy was heading south; the big bad Soviet Union and nukes were always a threat; it was the waning era of the Organization Man, so long-term jobs weren’t guaranteed as we started entering the workforce. Maybe I’m overstating things and we really just liked a good scare, but I’ve identified with that movie as part of a coming of age.

I’m surprised no one’s mentioned Napolean Dynamite. I seem to remember all the articles about how it went from unknown indie to cult classic because kids identified with it so much. I liked it well enough, but I remember thinking “this is what they want to be known as??”

Roy Youngman
Jun 25, 2008 14:42

Interesting and fun dialog. I’m a boomer, but didn’t really care for The Big Chill but bought the CD in any case (music-great, movie-boring). Loved the original Star Wars trilogy but am enjoying the Harry Potter series just as much. Also love The Maltese Falcon and laugh at the Austin Powers nuttiness, so what can that mean other than I’m a confused individual? So what I like probably has nothing to do with my generation.

If I think about movie characters and how they correspond to people I knew growing up, I guess The Big Chill is as accurate as any. But so is Kelly’s Heros and the nut cases in that flick. It also seems like all my buddies wanted the relationship Butch and Sundance had.

It seems that the makers of movies tend to be a generation older than the largest group that watches them (whoever is still in school at the time they come out). So, maybe instead of movies, music speaks for generation better? Or maybe even sports?

john yorke
Jun 26, 2008 16:36

“I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don’t want to do that.”
a quote for the grunge generation. the soundtrack was two years ahead of its time.

Can you ever listen to “In your eyes” by Peter Gabriel and not think about Lloyd Dobler?


Jun 27, 2008 16:53

I paid to see The Princess Bride 11 times while it was in theatres, and I watch Groundhog Day and It’s a Wonderful Life at least once each year. My favourite movies include Citizen Kane, The Iron Giant, Stranger Than Fiction, The Muppet Movie, The Mighty, and everything Pixar has released. (Well, maybe not the short film Boundin’ – what was THAT about?)

Born in 1966, I’m officially an early Xer, but never identified with the Generation X label. I remember being annoyed when Coupland’s book came out. I wasn’t cynical and didn’t appreciate being known as a slacker. Still don’t. (We weren’t lazy, honest; most of the good jobs were taken.)

Before the boomers, there was no NEED to define generations. No group of people before or since the boomers had the same influence. By sheer weight of numbers, their needs and wants changed the world.

Hollywood has always catered to the boomers because that’s where the money was/is (and fair enough – it’s called show business for a reason). When I was a kid there were good movies for teens. When I was a teen there were good movies for young adults. The 30something TV series was a cautionary tale about my near future, not a slice of my life. I was behind the boomers. I hope they will revolutionize the retirement home industry, and I hope there will be room for me when I’m ready to go there.

I think it’s a mistake to assume that other generations are like the baby boomers in any way. That includes the idea of generational influence or homogeneity. No political scandal was like Watergate, but every political scandal since has been tagged as a “gate.” This is the kind of thinking that assumes there are generations of people who think and behave like each other.

I don’t know if The Big Chill speaks for a generation, but no movie speaks for me.

Jul 14, 2008 18:36

Man on the Moon, surely.

Jul 14, 2008 18:37

Although Gandhi is a close second.

Jul 23, 2008 15:21

Almost 50 here. T-2, Aliens, Die Hard, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein. Action, adventure and laughter!

Jul 24, 2008 18:10

I think finding a film that defines a generation all depends on how you see yourself and your place in the generation as a whole… I mean I hate sex and the city but it really seems to have struck a chord with a lot of people in my generation… same thing with fight club… I would likely go with movies like American Beauty, Empire Records, Garden State, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind which all contribute to shed light on the way generation Y thinks… Hell for the sake of argument I’ll even throw out pleasantville… but I think the most defining art of Gen Y has to, HAS to be the Simpsons

Left with crumbs
Jul 24, 2008 21:32

Fight Club –

The Baby Boomers was the Simpson Trial, while Gen X was the beat down on Reginald Denny and ensuing chaos. Gen Y is Obama.

Most related films based off of J.G. Ballard novels.

Wikinomics » Blog Archive » Leadership 101 at the Movies?
Aug 19, 2008 12:19

[...] students involved in the program. As I presented the different workshops, I was reminded of the blog post that Mike Dover wrote a few months back about movies that represent a [...]

Nov 24, 2009 7:40

I’m a member of Generation Y (born in ’89).
To be honest, however, I haven’t really seen any film that really captures Generation Y.
There are films that capture certain aspects of it sure, like Juno, Mean Girls, perhaps Harry Potter and stuff. But those don’t really paint the whole picture. Perhaps that’s unique aspect about us. We’re a bit too fragmented to be defined.
Maybe that was a trait of earlier generations too and we didn’t know it.
I like a lot of typical Gen-X movies though, like Heathers, Dead Poet’s Society and Reality Bites.
I was a small kid in the mid 90′s and generation x (or late gen-x) still sort of defined teen/young adult culture then. Much of my stereotypes came from their films.

Feb 28, 2010 12:14

When Lanthan backed up a step, putting distance between them, something behind her heart twisted. Dirt and grime smeared his skin, and his sleek hair was a knotted, tangled mess. Stay where you are. Rhaes markings stood out on his black skin, almost glowing in the amply lit arena. His control rushed up around hers, holding her in, holding her back. He thumbed a tear from her cheek. Since the wrestling match, shed managed to keep herself busy and mostly isolated. Thats what youre happy about? She had given them a gift, and they were proud of—worried for—her. Anything but admit she was wrong, even if she now knew she had been. Tykir had a warmer heart than that. Stubbornly, she refused to cower into the wall behind her. It put his nose right above hers, his bright eyes boring down into her skull. She writhed, prodding the tip of him with her drenched folds. Did he take your ass? Dangerously serious behind his smile, he dragged his gaze back up to meet hers. Her pulse sped as he crossed her threshold. He adopted a teacher tone to replace the pained one. I fell in love with you when I was only a shadow in the darkness. He laughed, pulling his mouth from hers after a few steps.

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