Friday Night Movie Debate – The Quintessential Gen X Movie

 

My wife and I were trying to explain to our daughters what made Generation X what it is, and why we’re thoroughly irked by the whole Boomer/ Millennial fighting.  Face it – GenX is a squeeze generation – outnumbered by both our parents and the Millennial baby boom kids of the last of the true Boomers.  Our parents and grandparents blamed us for not having some unifying theme like Vietnam or WWII (at least we also didn’t have disco!), and accused us of being cynical slackers so often that we readily imbibed the latter while putting paid to the former by working our keesters off.  We’re not “woke”, we can’t afford to be because somebody has to clean up the messes everyone else keeps making.  Whatever.  The one president we can claim as roughly ours was Obama, but hell he was just another glorified preppy class president who went right back to looking down his snooty nose at us the moment he got the votes.  Again, whatever, and screw this.  We know the next prez will be either another Boomer or a woke transsexual pansexual Millennial wiccan.  Whatever! I got bills to pay.

So my fellow cynics, if you had to pick one movie that you could show to the Zoomers (and trust me, we’ve got allies in those kids – they’re sharp, and have BS detectors to rival ours), what would that movie be?

I know, 20 years ago, my sister would have demanded a double feature (cheating, but whatever) of St. Elmos Fire and Reality Bites.  I’m not sure, now that she’s married and has kids, that she’d vote the same, but they’re not bad snapshots of what we thought we had to look forward to when we were the Zoomers’ age.

My wife is more upbeat.  Coming to America gets a nod just for its time-capsule 1980s quality, upbeat and cynical, mocking but loving all at once.  National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is her other choice.  Yes it’s about a Boomer parent trying to have a nostalgic Christmas that hearkens to his WWII parents’ home movies, but man, that’s the world we saw our parents working in every day, and it’s what we feared we’d become.

Me?  My heart wants to donate a kidney and save Ferris Buehler, the prototype computer nerd and cool guy who could play his parents and work the system.  But that was just a happy halcyon snapshot – a beautiful lie.  I don’t think it captures the spirit of how things really worked out.  Honestly?  My vote goes to Mystery Men, a film about perpetually overlooked underdogs – just everyday folks who worked their keesters off by day, and got to do a bit of cosplay and crime fighting at night, even if it annoyed the hell out of everyone right up until it saved everyone.  Because that’s us to the core – overlooked, but hard working, and we’ll be eventually called on to bail out the city from the glamorous insane imposters and lying would-be super heroes who have screwed up one time too many.  And then we’ll go right back to our jobs and bickering and be overlooked again.

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  1. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    Obama is a boomer.  Six weeks older than me, and I’m a boomer.  Tail end, but still.

    • #1
  2. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    Yeah. Barry ain’t Us. I’ll give You time to edit the post while I think of a Gen-X movie (Hughes comes to mind first).

    • #2
  3. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):

    Yeah. Barry ain’t Us. I’ll give You time to edit the post while I think of a Gen-X movie (Hughes comes to mind first).

    I said “roughly ours”.  He’s like the older cousin who’d bully you at family reunions.

    • #3
  4. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):

    Yeah. Barry ain’t Us. I’ll give You time to edit the post while I think of a Gen-X movie (Hughes comes to mind first).

    I said “roughly ours”. He’s like the older cousin who’d bully you at family reunions.

    The first thing I ever heard about Gen X was a magazine article I read in a doctor’s office called “Twenty Something”, an obvious reference to the TV show Thirty Something.  I was twenty-nine at the time, and I thought they were describing me perfectly.  I only found out later that Twenty Something had a cutoff of about twenty-six.

    There’s a lot more overlap than those who categorize would have you think.

    • #4
  5. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):

    Yeah. Barry ain’t Us. I’ll give You time to edit the post while I think of a Gen-X movie (Hughes comes to mind first).

    I said “roughly ours”. He’s like the older cousin who’d bully you at family reunions.

    The first thing I ever heard about Gen X was a magazine article I read in a doctor’s office called “Twenty Something”, an obvious reference to the TV show Thirty Something. I was twenty-nine at the time, and I thought they were describing me perfectly. I only found out later that Twenty Something had a cutoff of about twenty-six.

    There’s a lot more overlap than those who categorize would have you think.

    Regardless of the amount of overlap, We ain’t claiming Him as one of Us. He’s a Boomer, period.

    • #5
  6. Z in MT Member
    Z in MT
    @ZinMT

    I am near the Gen X / Millennial boundary, but definitely consider myself Gen X.

    My pick: Wayne’s World

    • #6
  7. MWD B612 "Dawg" Member
    MWD B612 "Dawg"
    @danok1

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):

    Yeah. Barry ain’t Us. I’ll give You time to edit the post while I think of a Gen-X movie (Hughes comes to mind first).

    I said “roughly ours”. He’s like the older cousin who’d bully you at family reunions.

    The first thing I ever heard about Gen X was a magazine article I read in a doctor’s office called “Twenty Something”, an obvious reference to the TV show Thirty Something. I was twenty-nine at the time, and I thought they were describing me perfectly. I only found out later that Twenty Something had a cutoff of about twenty-six.

    There’s a lot more overlap than those who categorize would have you think.

    I agree, Judge. Those of us born at the tail end of the “official” Boomer generation tend to have little in common with those older Boomers. IIRC, Douglas Coupland (who wrote the book Generation X), considered it as roughly those born 1961-1966. But I digress.

    I think the ultimate Gen X movie would be Clerks

    • #7
  8. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    MWD B612 "Dawg" (View Comment):

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):

    Yeah. Barry ain’t Us. I’ll give You time to edit the post while I think of a Gen-X movie (Hughes comes to mind first).

    I said “roughly ours”. He’s like the older cousin who’d bully you at family reunions.

    The first thing I ever heard about Gen X was a magazine article I read in a doctor’s office called “Twenty Something”, an obvious reference to the TV show Thirty Something. I was twenty-nine at the time, and I thought they were describing me perfectly. I only found out later that Twenty Something had a cutoff of about twenty-six.

    There’s a lot more overlap than those who categorize would have you think.

    I agree, Judge. Those of us born at the tail end of the “official” Boomer generation tend to have little in common with those older Boomers. IIRC, Douglas Coupland (who wrote the book Generation X), considered it as roughly those born 1961-1966. But I digress.

    I think the ultimate Gen X movie would be Clerks.

    That was another fave of my wife.

    • #8
  9. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Bob Gale, who co-wrote Back to the Future, is a Boomer (and a stone cold conservative), born 1951, but he recognized something that I think was true about the Eighties; it was the most “normal”, most family-oriented and confident that America had been since the Fifties. The two conservative decades echoed each other in some ways.  

    • #9
  10. Ekosj Member
    Ekosj
    @Ekosj

    What about Less Than Zero

    • #10
  11. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    John Waters’ Hairspray.

    • #11
  12. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    Fast Times is quintessential Gen-X.

    • #12
  13. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Zafar (View Comment):

    John Waters’ Hairspray.

    That’s a tough one because of when it was set.  It’s an edgy criticism of a bygone era, though in that it also bears some likeness to Clark Griswold’s own nostalgia for his past – a nostalgia that overlooked a lot of faults.

    • #13
  14. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    So how do you define your era?  What movies “belong” to your generation?

    • #14
  15. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Clavius (View Comment):

    So how do you define your era? What movies “belong” to your generation?

    That’s what I’m trying to figure out here.  There are movies that belong, and show, but do not explain.  How does one capture the sheer optimism of exuberant 80s youth, and the disappointments and growing strangeness and cultural fracture of the 90s?  How does one capture the promise of Back to the Future and the failure of that promise?  How does one fly in Flight of the Navigator, or The Explorers, or go treasure hunting with The Goonies, but also the giving up of dreams in Clerks?

    • #15
  16. lowtech redneck Coolidge
    lowtech redneck
    @lowtech redneck

    Z in MT (View Comment):

    I am near the Gen X / Millennial boundary, but definitely consider myself Gen X.

    My pick: Wayne’s World

    Same here.

    I’m trying to decide between Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and The Goonies.  Heathers and Lost Boys are other ones (never mind the psychological implications that none of these had adults as main characters).

    In the end, I guess I’ll go with Goonies, because it was ensemble and probably more accessible for people unfamiliar with 80s pop culture or subcultures, while still reflecting much of the same.

    • #16
  17. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    Given the change in attitude about military service between boomers and Gen X, how about Iron Eagle?

    • #17
  18. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    The Commitments (1991)?

    The Snapper (1993)?

    Both early 1990s

    One of my favorites is All That Jazz (1979).

    Then there is one clearly out of range,  Sorcerer (1979), but it is great.  Tangerine Dream did the soundtrack.  And was never heard from again.

    • #18
  19. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Economics has a lot to do with it. I graduated from college in 1973, so I never saw the postwar economic boom. I’d be part of the mini-depression generation of the mid-70s that would be depicted in movies from Mean Streets to Saturday Night Fever. That behind-the-8-ball mentality lingered as we got older. Reagan-era prosperity erased most of it, but like the Great Depression of my parents’ generation, it never quite fully left you. That separates me from later X-ers, who were teens in the Aerobicize years.

    But it also separates me from older Boomers, who had that easy confidence about plentiful jobs and constantly rising income that we lacked, but on the other hand did most of the Vietnam fighting (and most of the Vietnam protesting). Almost every man I knew who was even a few years older than me had been in the service. 

    The Clinton years were pretty good economically–let’s admit it; it doesn’t mean he was responsible for it–the Bush years much less so. Anybody who graduated in the face of the 2009 recession can be forgiven some bitterness about the slug-like torpor of the slow recovery. 

    In short, good times and bad times define generations as much as events like 9/11. IMHO. 

     

    • #19
  20. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    There can be no question what movie best represents Generation X. The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Howard the Duck.

    • #20
  21. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Economics has a lot to do with it. I graduated from college in 1973, so I never saw the postwar economic boom. I’d be part of the mini-depression generation of the mid-70s that would be depicted in movies from Mean Streets to Saturday Night Fever. That behind-the-8-ball mentality lingered as we got older. Reagan-era prosperity erased most of it, but like the Great Depression of my parents’ generation, it never quite fully left you. That separates me from later X-ers, who were teens in the Aerobicize years.

    But it also separates me from older Boomers, who had that easy confidence about plentiful jobs and constantly rising income that we lacked, but on the other hand did most of the Vietnam fighting (and most of the Vietnam protesting). Almost every man I knew who was even a few years older than me had been in the service.

    The Clinton years were pretty good economically–let’s admit it; it doesn’t mean he was responsible for it–the Bush years much less so. Anybody who graduated in the face of the 2009 recession can be forgiven some bitterness about the slug-like torpor of the slow recovery.

    In short, good times and bad times define generations as much as events like 9/11. IMHO.

     

    I finished my undergraduate degree in 1983, but I took the five-year plan because, at $700 a year and living at home my father was OK with it.  I worked for my Father for a year and then got an MBA, so I started work in the mid-1980’s boom.  That was good luck.  But therefore I have the feeling of good jobs easily available.

    And unlike many, I did not change jobs every two years which seems to be a a thing for the last 10+ years.

    And I will start another paragraph with “And.”

    • #21
  22. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    John Waters’ Hairspray.

    That’s a tough one because of when it was set. It’s an edgy criticism of a bygone era, though in that it also bears some likeness to Clark Griswold’s own nostalgia for his past – a nostalgia that overlooked a lot of faults.

    Compare the original to the 2007 remake – looking at the same era and telling the same story, but from different vantage points on the timeline.  There was something completely joyous about the original that I think the remake lacks – imho because it’s a little too careful about being ‘right on message’ while the original (because John Waters) was just fine with being politically incorrect and leaning into stereotypes to be funny.

    • #22
  23. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    Clavius (View Comment):

    The Commitments (1991)?

    The Snapper (1993)?

    Both early 1990s

    One of my favorites is All That Jazz (1979).

    Then there is one clearly out of range, Sorcerer (1979), but it is great. Tangerine Dream did the soundtrack. And was never heard from again.

    You have no idea what’s going on, do You?

    • #23
  24. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):

    Clavius (View Comment):

    The Commitments (1991)?

    The Snapper (1993)?

    Both early 1990s

    One of my favorites is All That Jazz (1979).

    Then there is one clearly out of range, Sorcerer (1979), but it is great. Tangerine Dream did the soundtrack. And was never heard from again.

    You have no idea what’s going on, do You?

    Apparently not. Please enlighten me.

    • #24
  25. D.A. Venters Inactive
    D.A. Venters
    @DAVenters

    I’m going to go with The Karate Kid, and the new series Cobra Kai, which is a very self-aware and hilarious continuation of the story, and which seems to be particularly aimed at Gen X’ers.  Middle aged Danny LaRusso and (especially) Johnny Lawrence are very relatable to our generation.

    I pick Karate Kid because I think just about everyone in our generation has seen it a couple of times, and I know we’ve all done the crane kick stance.  When I recommended Cobra Kai to my Boomer parents, they barely remembered Karate Kid, and I’m sure have little interest in Cobra Kai, so I think it’s safe to say it belongs to Gen X. 

     

     

    • #25
  26. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    I’ve never even heard of most of those movies, much less seen them.  But then, I am a boomer.

    • #26
  27. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk and
    @Misthiocracy

    • #27
  28. Gwen Novak Member
    Gwen Novak
    @GwenNovak

    Breakfast Club, Clerks, Goonies, Singles. 

    • #28
  29. Vince Guerra Inactive
    Vince Guerra
    @VinceGuerra

    I’m thinking for Gen-x it may be Armageddon or Independence Day.  Forget the aliens and asteroids and boil it down to problem solving and allegiances. 

    Gen-X has fierce loyalty to country and the classical values that so many boomers rejected. We’re disillusioned with government, and believe guys in blue jeans with soot under their nails can solve problems more handily than a pencil neck in a suit.  

    And Aerosmith is playing our soundtrack. 

    • #29
  30. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Misthiocracy got drunk and (View Comment):

    I wouldn’t watch that on a dare.

    • #30
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