Generation Meh’s embrace of the superhero movie is starting to get under my skin. The superhero movie is always about one man/god/alien whom the entire country relies upon to protect, defend and save them. If the pulse of a generation can be ascertained by the media it consumes, then our country may well be in trouble.
The films Generation X identified with always had a whiff of rebellion. Teens found ways to stand up to school administration and parents in Pump Up the Volume, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and even The Breakfast Club. Outsiders stood up to the popular crowd in Revenge of the Nerds, Heathers, Some Kind of Wonderful and The Karate Kid. Youth stood up to authority in Footloose, Good Morning Vietnam, Top Gun and even Dead Poet’s Society. Here’s the irony: we actually had nothing to rebel against.
Gen X’rs grew up in an era without war and a booming economy. We were mad at our parents who were at work all day, divorcing at incredible rates and seemed to value material wealth over us. Disgust of how money changes a person is the undercurrent in most of the ‘80s young adult films like Less Than Zero, Wall Street, Pretty in Pink…the list goes on and on.
By contrast, today’s teens have PLENTY to be angry about. Grown-ups have screwed up the world’s economy. Kids are shown they must to go to college for any hope of finding a job, but upon graduation no job greets them, just an outrageous student loan bill. They’re the ones joining the military, risking or losing their lives to fight our endless wars. Politicians and the media mouthpieces of both parties talk about the importance of “personal responsibility” while pointing fingers and stonewalling any progress, any bill, any change to help struggling American citizens.
Personal responsibility is, actually, the message of superhero films that no one seems to take away. My hope is that week’s The Amazing Spider-Man may finally hit home for teens. High school student Peter Parker learns that his actions – whether he’s being noble, selfish or apathetic – have a consequence. In the Spidey reboot, Uncle Ben never says the iconic phrase, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Instead, he delivers a message better suited to today’s youth, the motto of Peter’s father, “If there were things you could do to help people, it was your responsibility to do those things. Not choice. Responsibility.”
It may be too late for Generation X to get our act together, and heck, Gen Y chose to own the label "slacker" so don’t look to them. But Milennials, it’s up to you and it doesn’t look like we’ve left you a choice. Put down the PSP, get involved, rebel. In the words of John Keating, "Carpe Diem;" Seize the Day or don’t expect a pleasant tomorrow.
Besides The Amazing Spider-Man, here are the three more films best suited for families over the Independence Day weekend:
Katy Perry: Part of Me. Sure, the pop star sings about wild Friday nights and teenage hookups but her documentary, aimed at tween girls, seeks to prove Katy is the cool, big sister and a positive role model.
Brave. Princess Merida learns about personal responsibility the hard way when she learns that changing her fate also changes the fates of her family and her kingdom.
Madagascar 3. Summer vacation is all about travel! Your family may not get to visit Monte Carlo, Rome and London but you can see the sites in the most hilarious of ways through the antics of Alex, Marty, Gloria and Melman.
To read what kids think about these films, go to www.KidsPickFlicks.com, where all kids are movie critics.