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Marshall Fine

Marshall Fine

Posted April 24, 2009 | 11:14 AM (EST)

Revenge of Gen-X: What Movies About the 80s Mean


In case you needed proof that Hollywood is dominated by and aimed at people in their 30s and early 40s, look at all the movies about the 1980s currently on screens.

Talk about revenge of Gen-X.

Both Adventureland and Is Anybody There? are set in 1987 - what are the odds? Lymelife is set in 1979 - and you can already smell the fumes of the Reagan era. The Informers is set in 1983 - perhaps the most vapid and dangerous part of the decade, when MTV and USA Today were permanently altering our genetic make-up to shrink our collective attention span.

The '80s was a decade snowed under a blizzard of cocaine and Republicanism. If the '70s was the Me Decade (and I'm not sure it was), the '80s was the Greed Decade - sowing the seeds for the George W. Bush decade of irrational exuberance.

What does it mean to set a movie in the '80s? We know what movies set in the '50s mean: innocence and ignorance, a time of conformity and repression. It was the Eisenhower era, the Cold War, McCarthyism, the rise of suburbia and mass media.

Set a movie in the '60s and it means something else entirely: turmoil, upheaval, awakening. The rise of youth culture, civil rights, Vietnam, counterculture.

Movies about the '70s, by comparison, are about the mainstreaming of and hangover from the '60s. They're about the aftershocks when the '60s hit all the places that were still mired in the '50s. They examine the unexpected, unintended side effects of that same cultural wave on the mainstream. It was, after all, the decade that spawned both disco and punk.

If anything, the '80s had even less substance than the '70s.

For the rest of this post, click here to reach my website, www.hollywoodandfine.com.