I had an impromptu movie night some days ago and watched two movies which exemplify perfectly the transition from Generation X to Millennial in attitudes about risk and individuality.
The first one was 2008’s Wanted, starring Gen-Xer James McAvoy as a bored office drone who gets recruited into a super secret league of assassins. As in earlier Gen-X movies that start the story the same way (Fight Club, The Matrix), the protagonist ultimately finds his destiny by breaking out of conventional society and embracing a singular role. It also has a lot of graphic, bloody violence.
Wanted is a cusper movie, and by the end of it the main character has crafted a career for himself which is not unlike being in a real world first person shooter. McAvoy is a late wave Xer, but I imagined he was living the dream of the video game addicted Millennial beta male – perhaps the target audience.
I followed that by watching 2016’s Nerve, in which Millennial Emma Roberts is a shy high school student who decides to court notoriety by joining an underground Internet game of truth or dare – really just the dare part with obligatory smartphone recorded proof. It’s an action movie like the previous one but not murderously violent, rated PG-13 instead of R.
In Nerve the lure of a high-risk, action-packed life isn’t a call to destiny but a trap, and the characters must ultimately test rivalry against loyalty in their quest to find a way out. I also thought it was the better of the two films, with more likable characters and a more sure-footed plot. It belongs in the ranks of films based on juvenile literature in which Millennials band together against a hostile externally imposed system (The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Maze Runner), but with the notable twist that the system isn’t some sci-fi dystopia but rather a plausible creature of our own social media-driven times.
In summary, they’re both flashy action flicks, but in attitude and message represent the difference between the brassy, individualistic Gen-Xer and the group-oriented, approval-seeking Millennial.