Monday, March 05, 2007

Musings on age, nostalgia and, uh, size

--While watching "Batman Returns" this morning, I realized that probably 90 percent of what we like is based on nostalgia. I say this because most people prefer the first Tim Burton Batman to the second one. And I can't blame them for that; Batman was a terrific movie. But I actually like the sequel better. I like a lot of sequels better than the originals: Lethal Weapons 2 and 4, Child's Play 2, Short Circuit 2, Superman II, Austin Powers: Goldmember, etc., with honorable mention going to Jurassic Park III for running circles around Lost World. I suspect that people (subconsciously or not) don't give sequels a chance, both because of hype and because they've grown so fond of the original.

But I suspect that the reason original movies get such a pass is because there's no basis for comparison. If it grabs your attention, then that's one thing going for it right there. Conversely, sequels are inevitably pulled upon to deliver a standard by which the first was never judged. That's almost a free pass to a letdown. But, when judged strictly on their own merits, a lot of sequels actually fare decently. But, like I said, nostalgia for the past often trumps that perception.

The same goes for life. Most Greatest Generation folks will wax nostalgic about the 1940s and 1950s and how postwar America was the greatest time in the history of civilization. Likewise, baby boomers will hail the 1960s and 1970s as the pinnacle of society, the perfect time to come of age, a time that no one else will ever understand. Generation Xers and everyone since are buried deep in 80s/90s nostalgia at the moment. And, hard as it may be to believe, today's young people are going to look fondly back on this decade (once they figure out what to name it) and pine for the good old days of iPods, Jessica Simpson and terrorism.

And I will say, tsk-tsk. Why? Because I will be old. And I will contend with every iota of my being that the post-9/11 kids never knew what growing up was, that they missed out on all of the greatest times and that their generation is headed straight for disaster. Just like my dad tells me and like his dad probably told him.

Nothing's perfect. I'm sure the 1940s and '50s were great times, what with postwar prosperity, huge cars and Archie Comics. But there was also the ongoing subjugation of blacks, women and possibly suspectable Communists, and not a seat belt in sight. The '60s had free love, but also free syphilis. The '70s? Sure, there was the Nixon resignation...but there was also Nixon. The 1980s had great music, movies and video games...but then there was everything else. The 1990s were great, because that's when I really came of age. Nothing bad happened, so why can't we go back to the good old days?

So let's all agree on this point: everyone is mostly nostalgic about the past, because that's what shaped them. As they get older, they see more, quality is perceived to have diminished and they cannot comprehend the tastes and beliefs of subsequent generations. Naturally, they think that the future must be doomed because the kids are going wild. It's happened in every single generation in the history of the world ("Ug no like son's learning! Son need be hunter!"), and it will continue to happen until all of humanity shares a single brain. And it had better be mine, because the old fogeys are too old to understand and I've lost hope for the kids. So let's all get along!

On that note, twice today I've been mistaken for a teenager--first by a younger guy, then by an older woman with a grandbaby. See? They just don't understand!

--Today a black Chevy Avalanche blew by me while I was speeding. I looked over at the behemoth vehicle and saw a guy who couldn't have been much larger than I was. His vanity plate--I'm not making this up--was "XXXXXL." No, man, you aren't.


V'ron said...

The chevy Avalanche story (is there really a vehicle called the "Avalanche") reminds me of one of my favorite commercials evah -- the snickers ad where this jerk is driving his enormously obnoxious compensation vehicle oblivious to the world, and then smashes into his garage, (to the glee of the annoyed onlookers) and the voice over says "Looking for a more satisfying crunch"? I fantasise about Avalanche-driving blowhards meeting a similar end, while I casually take a bite off my snickers bar....

Cajun Tiger said...

Nothing else is the 80's...nice selective memory there...Communist Soviet Union is gone thanks to Reagan despite attempts to forget that.