Lately we’ve been getting into Peaky Blinders (available on Netflix), a very artfully crafted period crime drama set in Birmingham, England in the 1920s. It’s dark and brooding, ruthlessly violent, and bristling with attitude. It has occurred to me while watching it that it exemplifies the qualities of Generation X, and may well reflect the peak of Gen X influence in today’s entertainment world.
Now, I realize that the show is British and therefore not technically Gen X, since that is a name for an American generation. And I realize that the creator, Steven Knight, would be a Boomer if he were American, and that the younger actors on the show would be Millennials – if they were American.
But the principal actors, the ones who make the show so tough and gritty, and so cool, are Gen X. I mean, they would be if they were American. They are superbly skilled and nuanced in their performances (particularly Helen McCrory, God rest her soul), portraying characters that are stylish and brash, with a hard shell of bravado that disguises a vulnerable soul.
The setting is the criminal underworld in an industrial town, just after the First World War. In fact, the older criminal gang leaders are all veterans of the war. In other words, their characters are from a generation that matches Gen X in archetype – hard-hearted survivors in a rough and exploitative social milieu.
The beautiful costumes and sets, and the brilliant cinematography, with everything shot in dark lighting with a gray and grimy color palette, contribute to my judgment that this show is an epitome of the new golden age of dark and harrowing television. On top of that, the show features a soundtrack of modern indie/prog/hard rock. It’s completely anachronistic, but it works, much better than in other shows or films that I’ve seen try the same thing. It just cements the affinity between the Lost Generation characters and the punk Gen Xers who play them, their archetype resounding across a hundred years of history.
That’s why I say Peaky Blinders isn’t just peak TV, it’s peak Gen X.