Growing up, there was nothing more eye-rollingly time wasting as being forced to sit down with the parents and watch old movies. We had no idea what our parents saw in those things with their slow plotlines, bland characters, special effects involving visible wires, and grainy black and white film. Perhaps watching the old stars in their prime made our parents feel a little younger, nostalgic, at least until we groaned “Yeesh mom! Is in black and white!!! Ugh!”
Black and white meant old, ancient, hideously passe to a generation who grew up on color TV, basic video games, cheap pocket cameras, and the big screen efforts of Disney and Warner Brothers. Life was living color and we were proud of it.
I’ve since developed a taste for black and white photography (which ironically my mother hates) and Fred Astaire movies. But what baffles me is my own children’s reaction to the movies of my childhood.
As I write this, my two youngest are playing Star Wars on the Wii. Middle boy should be getting back to his school work, but he’s using his break to wield light sabers at Darth Vader. Funny… minus the Wii, that’s just what little boys were doing thirty years ago.
Star Wars was released when I was three years old, younger than either of those two kiddos on the Wii right now. That would be the equivalent to my childhood of movies released in 1949, when my mother was three. Star Wars should be their Abbot and Costello, Little Women (Starring Liz Taylor), or maybe Sands of Iwo Jima. Harrison Ford is as old to them as Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra are to my generation.
So what’s the fascination?
I think the difference is that GenX is the first generation to be so totally raised on media that it has gained the familiarity of a family member. While my parents’ generation was charmed by remakes of their old favorites, X’ers get irate. Don’t mess with my Star Wars! The purist freaks out at Jar-Jar (okay everyone freaks out at Jar-Jar). People actually argue over whether the movies are best watched in chronological order by storyline or by release date. Media has become the new storytelling tradition. Our movies have become part of our culture identity. To question Star Wars would be like questioning the Pilgrims and turkey at Thanksgiving dinner.
It’s interesting, that in this age where everything from kitchen towels to cell phones are disposable, where media flashes in the pan come and go, that such an icon of the 80’s has become so entrenched. I wonder what the future of these modern icons will be. Will my grandchildren be playing Virtual Reality Hoth battles? Will “a long long time ago in a galaxy far far away” someday come to really refer to us?
After all, I don’t see anyone playing Gene Kelly video games.