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Pop Off: Generational movies

By Brendon Field
On April 14, 2014

Once in a while, a movie comes along that completely captures the ideas and behaviors of a major demographic in society. Or alternatively, a film that revolutionarizes a certain genre and earns the fixation of the masses. Either way, these are generational movies that will still be talked about fifty years from now, those born and raised beyond the time of its release will associate with the people of its respective era.
Common examples of these are "Easy Rider," a film about two bikers on a cross-country road trip, came to be representative of the counterculture. "The Breakfast Club," along with most of John Hughes' films, was a snapshot of teenagers in the 1980s, constantly surrounded by social pressures and parental expectations. "Clerks," a day in the life of two minimum wage grocery plaza employees showed that the life of the Generation X slacker was not one without personal turmoil.
This leads to the question: "What is our generational movie?" A movie that best represents the millennials-the people who have grown up with the rise of the information era, the generation of diversity and personal expression-young people who know that they are living on the cusp of new age.
The film that is frequently cited to fit this description is "The Social Network," as its centered around not only college students becoming instant millionaires, but facebook and its effect on the social landscape. I don't really buy into that. "The Social Network" isn't really about Facebook. At its core, it's about one man's rise from being a nobody to a somebody and in doing so his decision to either stick with his loyal friends, or favor unbound business models. The thematic model is nothing new, and it could have been made 40 years ago about Nolan Bushnell.
As for other candidates that could be deemed the "millennial film," "Avatar" is one of the first to come to mind. With an effect similar to "Star Wars," it set new standards for visual effects and computer generated imagery. It was one of the first movies to properly utilize 3D, and became the highest grossing film of all time. Another is "This Is The End," which not only chose the apocalypse for its setting, but its premise of actors playing fictionalized versions of themselves shows not only the contemporary prominence of fame, but also the rise of meta-humor. It's central cast is a group of people who have paid their dues before achieving stardom, and whose catalogue of work is almost universally respectable. Seth Rogen, James Franco and Jonah Hill have all earned the reputation of millennial actors.
But the one film that standouts to me-because it not only represents the millenial generation, but a former subculture that has just recently arisen to the mainstream-"Scott Pilgrim vs. The World." With design aesthetics based around comic books and old school video games it reflects the millennial of bringing what were traditionally considered forms of entertainment for children into their adult lives. But as a romantic comedy, it doesn't feature idealized figures of glamour looking to make their relationship work. It instead focuses on two heavily flawed but relatable people in their struggle for maturity and only with their individual personal growth, can make their relationship work. It also featured openly homosexual characters, whose homosexuality didn't really matter in the big picture. Like everybody else, they were just trying to live along their personal agenda. The characters weren't yuppies or slackers, but somewhere in between, just young people who were unsure where they wanted to go in life and if they should even go at all.
A pivotal age for millennials appears to be the twenties, a time has come to be called the quarter life crisis. It's a time when one must decide just how much of their past they should cling to, and the question of whether or not to "grow up" in the traditional fashion looms every day. The two central characters of "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World" face these exact problems. Two or three years from now, when I'm occupying a studio apartment in another state and looking for love in some hipster music club, the ties to old friends and aging relatives withering, that's the movie I'll be relating myself to.

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