Let the Homelander Movies Begin!

With the oldest of the [Homelander] entering their tweens in the next few years, it appears that Hollywood is preparing for the new mythology for their generation. According to [S&H] the Homelander generation will be similar to the [Silent] in that they will be forced into a very conformist view of success through both parental and social pressures. This is definitely reflected in two different summer movie releases.

The first is “Divergent“, based on the 2011 novel of the same name. Here is the summary from Wikipedia:

It is a young-adult dystopian novel set in the so-called Divergent Universe,[1] that features a post-apocalyptic version of Chicago. The novel follows Beatrice “Tris” Prior as she explores her identity within a society that defines its citizens by their social and personality-related affiliation with five different factions. Underlying the action and dystopian focused main plot is a romantic subplot between Tris and one of her instructors in the Dauntless faction, nicknamed Four.

 

Divergent imagines a society where children are raised to become workers based on their aptitude, and secondarily, their choice. But once this choice is made it is set for life, and those that have multiple aptitudes are considered “divergent”. These “divergent” along with anyone that changes their mind about their direction after their choice are cast out of society. The goal of the society’s leaders is to avoid the suffering that occurred before their utopian system was devised.

The second movie is “The Giver” which is based on the 1993 novel of the same name. The plot here is similar:

It is set in a society which is at first presented as a utopian society and gradually appears more and more dystopian. The novel follows a boy named Jonas through the twelfth year of his life. The society has eliminated pain and strife by converting to “Sameness,” a plan that has also eradicated emotional depth from their lives. Jonas is selected to inherit the position of Receiver of Memory, the person who stores all the past memories of the time before Sameness, in case they are ever needed to aid in decisions that others lack the experience to make. Jonas learns the truth about his dystopian society and struggles with its weight.

In the movie the protagonist is 18 while in the original book he was a mere 11. But the story is very similar to the later Divergent in that the elders of society are choosing for the youth their path in an effort to preserve a perfect society.

The rebellion depicted in both films smacks of [Boom] rebellion, but the oppressor here is not the [GI] of from the Boomer’s youth, but rather a depiction of current [X] parents as stifling in their control of their children. Strauss and Howe predicted that the Homelanders would be sensitive, helpful and rule-playing because of how they are “carefully” raised by Gen X parents (I think this is a politically correct way of saying it).

Although there have been many books and movies on the theme of breaking away from uniformity of society (Fahrenheit 451, Gattaca, 1984 etc…) these two have a particular spin that is unique. The idea that society can be made perfect by each individual “choosing” (the amount of choice varies in each movie) their purpose is the central theme for both. That is the part that fits with the Homelander generation, who, like their Silent grandparents will have a life path that is sheltered and directed with close guardrails. The thing that struck me about these two movies is how they came out close together and with almost identical plot lines. 

This is somewhat of a contrast with the other dystopian blockbuster “The Hunger Games“. In that series the themes are similar but the governing powers are much more obviously corrupt and society is nowhere near equal. The societies in “The Giver” and “Divergent” are perfect and balanced but only if everyone does not question the role they are given at an early age.
Millennials were raised with excellence, cooperation and success as the goals. Homelanders will have safety,purpose and conformity emphasized in their youth. “The Hunger Games” feels more Millennial while “The Giver” and “Divergent” have a more Homelander character.

The business world is already moving in the direction of purpose as the driver for careers. Author Aaron Hurst has written a book titled “The Purpose Economy” on just this topic. He even provides a way to test your purpose with “The Imperative” (the definition of imperative? “of vital importance; crucial” and the second definition? “giving an authoritative command; peremptory“). These concepts are perfect for our time because they address the needs of [Mill] and Homelanders to have structure and a clear path to success or safety. The collective nature of both of these generations allows them to accept the categorization of their talents as long as they know that there is a guaranteed method for them to succeed (Millennial) or avoid risk (Homelander).

But 30-40 years from now there will be a massive backlash against these types of methods, which will be viewed by the Millennial’s children (Boomer’s grandchildren) as oppressive. That is where “Divergent” and “The Giver” are prescient in understanding the eventual rebellion.

P.S. The Giver was written by Lois Lowry, a Silent who has seen this path before in her youth, while “Divergent” was written by Veronica Roth, a Millennial who probably felt these nascent pressures growing up.

Millennials and Online Filter Bubbles

Eli Pariser recently spoke at TED about how social media, search sites and other online entities are creating “filter bubbles” that remove opposing views from users results. As a [X] I agree that this is worrisome, but I wonder if [Mill] will agree. The Millennial generation is much more willing to participate in group-think and less worried about individualism. Eli’s first quote is from a famous Millennial: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

While it may concern Gen X’ers (and [Boom]) that people might tend to polarize around ideals, that fits right in with what the Millennials are all about: picking an ideal for the group and sticking with it. After all, isn’t that what they were taught by Barney for all those early years?

Generation X: Fight Club Revisited

This interesting article from Huffington Post suggests that the movie Fight Club was “prescient” by showing just how cynical our society has become. It’s great to see this movie (one of my favorites of all time) to receive credit for capturing the spirit of [X].

And watching Fight Club, ten years later, with all  that we have available to us, it seems even more prescient. For better and often for worse, we’ve become even more disconnected from ourselves. And even more narcissistic. People text, they twitter, they communicate online instead of talk on the phone or in person.

Fight Club is one of my favorite movies of all time and I think many Gen X’ers (males especially) feel the same way. It captures both the survivalism and nihilism that were the bread and butter of those times. One particularly strong theme is how the young men in the movie are so emasculated that the only way they can feel alive is to beat each other senseless.

The author of the book that the movie was based upon, Chuck Palanhiuk, is the proto-typical Gen X’er himself (he is a Portland native). Check out his wikipedia entry.

He worked as a tech writer (for an old-guard technology company in Portland) for many years, and I think many of the scenes in Fight Club are drawn from that experience. He is a pretty twisted guy, and he definitely goes for shock value. Note this part of the Wikipedia entry:

While on his 2003 tour to promote his novel Diary, Palahniuk read to his audiences a short story titled “Guts”, a tale of accidents involving masturbation, which appears in his book Haunted. It was reported that to that point, 40 people had fainted while listening to the readings.[14] Playboy magazine would later publish the story in their March 2004 issue; Palahniuk offered to let them publish another story along with it, but the publishers found the second work too disturbing. On his tour to promote Stranger Than Fiction: True Stories in the summer of 2004, he read the story to audiences again, bringing the total number of fainters up to 53, and later up to 60, while on tour to promote the softcover edition of Diary. In the fall of that year, he began promoting “Haunted”, and continued to read “Guts”. At his October 4, 2004 reading in Boulder, Colorado, Palahniuk noted that, after that day, his number of fainters was up to 68. The last fainting occurred on May 28, 2007, in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, where 5 people fainted, one of which occurred when a man was trying to leave the auditorium, which resulted in him falling and hitting his head on the door. Palahniuk is apparently not bothered by these incidents, which have not stopped fans from reading “Guts” or his other works. Audio recordings of his readings of the story have since circulated on the Internet. In the afterword of the latest edition of “Haunted”, Palahniuk reports that “Guts” is now responsible for 73 faintings.

David Fincer did an amazing job directing the adaptation of Fight Club. If you read the book you would swear there is no way they could make a movie out of it. But I wonder if Fincer can capture the [Mill] theme with The Social Network. The author of this article seems to think that the Millennials are the ones living out the Fight Club nihilism, when it is in fact the X’ers heading into middle age.

Fantastic Site: News from 1930

There are many correlations between present day US and the 1930’s. Although I don’t want to get into the argument of recession vs. depression, the parallels between these times goes beyond just economic strife. According to the theories of Neil Howe and William Strauss, we are going through a generational shift that is similar to the one experienced in the 1930’s (they call it a “The Fourth Turning” and wrote a book about it in 1997).

According to Strauss and Howe, we are entering a time that is analagous to Winter: a time of hardship and scarcity. Eventually we will arrive at “Spring” (they call it the “High”), probably between 2020 and 2025. For more explanation of their generational theories, see my “Start Here” section which has a few short tutorials.

I recently discovered a blog that provides a wonderful service: summaries of the news from the Wall Street Journal from 1930. Each day the author reads through the news from that day in history and summarizes it, along with weekly highlights. Some of them are eerily similar to today’s headlines. Definitely worth a read:

News from 1930

Generation X: Bad Parents?

The over-scheduling, over-achieving and stressed-out parenting style that has been the hallmark of the Boomer (born 1943-1960) generation may finally be coming to a close now that Generation X (born 1961-1981) is fully taking over as parent of young children. There is a backlash developing in the form of the “Bad Parent” who isn’t willing to sacrifice everything to be the perfect Mom or Dad. And, like everything suggested by Generation X it was initially reviled but now starting to gain acceptance. This short (2.5 minute) video on CNN give a quick picture of the shift:

While they seem to understand that the parenting style so dominant when the Millennials (born 1982-200?) is coming to a close, there is little awareness of what comes next. The Boomers dove into parenting like everything else they did, with idealism and righteousness. By the time that Gen X’er started to have kids they got overwhelmed with the expectations (that were unrealistic, especially for Moms) and are finally starting to rebel.

All of this makes sense in generational terms, but the thing that is being missed is the parenting style that will dominate for the next 20 years. According to Strauss and Howe’s generational theory, the next “cohort” or generation began a few years ago, perhaps in 2003, perhaps in 2005 (that will become clearer in time). The next generation (that they have named “Homelander” for now) will be raised very differently than the previous generation (the Millennials). The Homelanders will be raised during a massive crisis, much like the Great Depression and WWII that was faced 80+ years ago. This period of crisis is known as the “Fourth Turning” (the title of one of Strauss and Howe’s best, but  most difficult, books). We are at the start of the Crisis/Fourth Turning right now (they call it the Millennial Crisis) and it will likely last until 2025.

So how will Gen X’ers (and eventually Millennials) parent during this Fourth Turning? Probably in the same way that the Lost Generation (born 1883-1900) and GI Generation (born 1901-1924) did in the 1930’s: by protecting the children from the chaos in the world. This protection will go completely overboard in the upcoming years and the kids will end up in ridiculously cloistered environments (“They stroll in sidewalk versions of sport utility vehicles, learn to swim in U.V. protective full-body suits.” from a recent NYTimes article) and will probably turn out much like their grandparents, from the Silent Generation (born 1925-1942). As usual, most institutions (schools in particular) won’t be prepared for this shift and will assume what worked for the previous batch of kids (Millennials) will work with this bunch as well. The result will be a very challenging time for schools (and eventually companies) as these stifled, conformist and compliant kids move up through the years.

Of course, as I have mentioned before, their parents (Gen X’ers) will be entirely different (and more difficult) matter…

Sarah Palin of Generation X: No Jokes About My Kid!

What happens when a Boomer (born 1943-1960) makes fun of a Gen X’ers (born 1961-1981) kid? Watch what happened to (Boomer) David Letterman made jokes about (X’er) Sarah Palin’s daughter.

As Al Gore discovered a while back you can bash Gen X’ers, but DON’T mess with their kids.

Made for the Millennial Generation: Barney and High School Musical

This post is potentially more embarrassing than my commentary on the American Girl Dolls. Last week we watched the first “High School Musical” and I was struck by how similar the themes in the film were to the old Barney and Friends shows. Then I realized that they are made for the same generation: the Millennials, born 1982-200?.

Check out these lyrics from Barney:

You’re remarkable – you really are
You’re the only one like you
There isn’t another in the whole wide world
Who can do the things you do
Because you are special- special
Everyone is special
Everyone in his or her own way
Yes you re special -special
Everyone is special
Everyone in his or her own way!

And from “We’re All in this together” lyrics from High School Musical:

Everyone is special in their own way
We make each other strong (each other strong)
Were not the same
Were different in a good way
Together’s where we belong

The message from both is consistently about specialness and teamwork, both characteristics often ascribed to Millennials. This is definitely what the Boomer Generation (born 1943-1960) wants their kids (the Millennials) to be about, and these shows are like a pop culture love letter between generations. Of course, most of us Gen X’ers (born 1961-1981) almost puked when we saw Barney for the first time (even if our kids loved it). And, believe me, High School Musical is no different in that regard. If you were born from 1961-1981, I dare you to make it through this entire clip without rolling your eyes:


(in case you’re counting: that video has 38 Million views on Youtube)

Or how about this one:

Millennial Generation Teamwork in Video Games

A viral video of a gaming session that went around a while ago that is interesting to watch from a generational perspective. It is a recording of a “World of Warcraft” session showing the group strategizing before a battle that ends up a disaster. The thing I find interesting is the amount of discussion going on before they go to battle. I don’t play video games anymore, and when I did we never had this level of teamwork. Is this the Millennial (born 1982-200?) training ground?

I realize that most gamers today are in the mid-30’s and older (Generation X, born 1961-1981), but I bet that the younger gamers are A LOT more teamwork focused.

PS. If you have never browsed www.collegehumor.com, you should. It is the funniest Millennial research you can do…

The 10 Best Gen X Movies, Revised

Pop culture often defines a generation. In recent times movies have been a big part of that definition. The Graduate was a movie that defined the character of the Baby Boomer Generation (born 1943-1960). But what are the movies that define Generation X (born 1961-1981)?

A few months ago I put together a list of “The 10 Best Generation X Movies Ever” and got lots of comments both for an against my choices. I have taken some of those to heart and created a new list of movies. I tried to focus on films that caught the character of Generation X at various stages of life. There are some very recent films that capture the spirit of our mid-life, but I don’t think they are popular enough to really rank on the 10 best yet.

  1. Breakfast ClubJohn Hughes (boomer) at his best. All the characters are here. The slacker/stoner, good girl, etc… but each is an individual and all are uncomfortable with being part of anything.
  2. Swingers – Dating was a minefield for Gen X’ers and this LA based movie has all the embarrassing comedy about the 20-something dating scene. And it introduced the world (or maybe just me) to Vince Vaughn in what was perhaps his funniest role ever (“You’re so money and you don’t even know it!”)
  3. Fast Times at Ridgemont High – This movie has it all, the jocks, stoners and geeks that made High School in the 70’s such a painful experience. Cameron Crowe does it again (this time as the writer). From Jeff Spicoli (“People on ‘ludes should not drive! “) to Brad Hamilton (“Jeez. Doesn’t anyone fucking knock any more? “) this crew knew how to party. Time to put this one on my Netflix queue again.
  4. Singles – This list would be nothing without a film from Cameron Crowe (another Boomer who gets Gen X). Life as a 20 something Gen X’er in the center of it all: Seattle during the Grunge movement. I never much liked Curt Kobain, but everyone else seemed to. Pearl Jam has a role the band members of “Citizen Dick”.
  5. Office Space – This one replaces Reality Bites from my first list. The humor here is darker, closer to Brazil with the pointless job in the massive corporation. Probably every Gen X office worker in the US had heard a real life version of: “We need to talk about your TPS reports.” during their working life.
  6. Say Anything -Again, Cameron Crowe nails the angst of the young Gen X’er. John Cusack (he’s on this list more than once and I left out “High Fidelity”) is fantastic as the loner trying to find love in a tough world. Go through the Memorable Quotes for this one and it will all come flooding back to you: “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.
  7. Reservoir Dogs – This film was not about Gen X’ers, but it was made by Quentin Tarantino (an early X’er) and features some of the key elements of our psyche. The world in the film is brutal and the group that comes together are a bunch of independent mercenaries, willing to collaborate (as long as the get a cool name) but ready to turn on each other at any time. The movie is all about being cool and surviving, both of which define Gen X.
  8. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – Okay, I realize this is the second John Hughes film on the list, but the guy really gets Generation X. I wished I could be Ferris and I am not even sure why! He just seemed to make things great wherever he went.
  9. Fight Club – the book was written by an X’er (Chuck Palahniuk) and it definitely has the feel of the nihilistic world that is unraveling. The closest thing these guys get to community is kicking the crap out of each other. One of my favorite movies of all time, although because of the rules, I can’t talk about it.
  10. Buffy the Vampire Slayer – (quoted from Matthew E who commented on my last post) Didn’t have the depth that the TV show did, but the central concept – out-of-her-depth California teen forced to fight unspeakable evil – was already there.
  11. Clerks – Ultra-slacker film by the ultra-slacker bunch. I think this one represents X’ers well because of the way it was made. They put the production costs on a credit card and filmed it all with a few buddies. No big studios to help and a “fuck it, who cares” attitude. If that is not Gen X in action, I don’t know what is!

Once again, the list goes to 11, and they are not in any particular order. Any suggestions of films in the last 5 years?