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Month: January 2022

Gen X Creatives in Film and Television

Gen X Creatives in Film and Television

Recently we’ve been on a kick of watching movies and series on streaming video that are made by two particular Generation Xers, just because we like their stuff so much.

The first Gen Xer is Mike Flanagan (b. 1978), probably best known for the horror miniseries The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix. He’s also done another great horror show on Netflix called Midnight Mass, as well as a couple of film adaptations of Stephen King stories: Gerald’s Game and Dr. Sleep. We’ve watched all of these. His work is moody and atmospheric, with brilliant technical design and camera work. It includes, as horror typically does, shocking and bizarre supernatural elements, and even some good jump scares, although the latter is not what Flanagan has a reputation for. Rather, he is known for his cerebral, character-driven stories and his creative themes. He’s like an indie darling of horror film, and his work has an unmistakable signature.

The other filmmaker we have been getting into is Jeremy Saulnier (b. 1976). He makes these gritty, gripping, true to life thrillers, set in ordinary run-down parts of America, featuring characters who are ordinary people you might recognize from your own life. His films are plot-driven, very tense and suspenseful, and punctuated with extreme violence. They always make me think of Straw Dogs by Sam Peckinpah (b. 1925). Like Flanagan, Saulnier has an unmistakable style. We’ve watched Blue Ruin, Green Room, and Hold the Dark, and they all come highly recommended.

I’ve noticed that a signature style tends to stand out in the works of Gen X auteur filmmakers like these, more so than for older generations. Boomer filmmakers like Steven Spielberg (b. 1946) are more likely to genre-hop and try their hand at different kinds of films. It’s as if they want to prove that they have the creative chops to do anything (a really good example of that is Ang Lee, b. 1954). Gen Xers, on the other hand, carve out a niche and cultivate a distinct, individualistic look and feel.

Probably the first Gen X filmmaker to make waves was Quentin Tarantino (b. 1963), with his break-out film Reservoir Dogs in 1992, followed by his instant classic, Pulp Fiction, in 1994. His work is famous for its dark sense of humor, its artful violence, and its plot twists that shift character loyalties. Tarantino has perfected the art of the lurid crime B movie. Another Xer who came on the scene early is Kevin Smith (b. 1970), of Clerks fame, who tends to make crass comedy films. He’s another B movie all-star.

In the decades since the rise of Generation X in the early 1990s, numerous film makers from that generation have made a mark, crafting bodies of work which have a distinctive style to them. Many have won Academy Awards, and some have smashed box office records in the current era of blockbuster sci-fi and superhero action adventure movies. For example, there’s Christopher Nolan (b. 1970) with his Dark Knight trilogy, and J. J. Abrams (b. 1966) with his Star Wars movies. There’s other big names, but I’m more interested in this post in bringing to light some of the (perhaps only slightly) less prominent Gen X directors and their idiosyncratic styles.

If this brief list leaves anyone out, it’s only because of my particular exposure and preferences. It’s interesting how their birth years are clustered in the late 1960s (same as me, hmm) and how so many of them got their start in the late 1990s.

Joss Whedon (b. 1964) created the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series, and the much celebrated sci-fi television series Firefly, among others. I think his writing perfectly captures the peer personality of Generation X – sardonic, scrappy, at once defiant and full of self-doubt, independent and fiercely loyal to their friends. He’s created many lovable ensembles of characters, caught up in implausible science fiction and fantasy plots, fighting the good fight with panache and a lot of witty banter.

Wes Anderson (b. 1969) has created a unique style that’s been called “deliberative,” with very literal narrative exposition, and acting which is intentionally stilted and mechanical, like the characters are clockwork toys methodically enacting the story. His movies are whimsical, bordering on absurd, but under their farcical surfaces lie warm and heartfelt messages. My favorite of his movies is Moonrise Kingdom.

Darren Aronofsky (b. 1969) makes very weird psychological films, with touches of both insanity and the supernatural. His debut film was Pi, about a number theorist with severe mental health issues. His best known work is probably Black Swan, but my favorite is The Fountain, with its conquistador subplot and its occult references.

The Wachowskis (b. 1965 & 1967) are best known for The Matrix movies. They’ve made a number of adaptations of comics and novels, and the original story Jupiter Ascending. They go for big production values, visual extravagance, elaborate settings and complex plots. They have a reputation for flair over substance, but personally I like their stuff. My all time favorite is Cloud Atlas, based on a novel by David Mitchell (b. 1969).

Sofia Coppola (b. 1971) has made more down-to-earth dramas and comedy-dramas than the other creators on this list, starting with the film The Virgin Suicides. Her work is influenced by her background in the fashion industry, and has even been accused of being “too feminine.” Her best know work is probably Lost in Translation.

Spike Jonze (b. 1969) has a relatively short director filmography compared to others on this list, but boy are his movies weird and creative. He is definitely a boundary-pusher, going for odd stories that make you think. You might have seen his intriguing interpretation of Where the Wild Things Are. For story idea and social commentary, I really liked Her.

Zach Snyder (b. 1966) has had considerable success making adaptations of comics, including several films in the DC Extended Universe, most famously Justice League (you’ve probably heard of the “Snyder cut“). His style includes extensive use of slow motion and speed ramping in his action sequences, making battle scenes into works of 3D art, like the comics on which so many of his movies are based. I really like Suckerpunch, which is based on an original concept.

Reviewing this list, it’s plain that I like sci-fi/fantasy a lot, as well as weird indie films. And I do think it’s fascinating that so many of these auteur directors are about my age. Is that a selection bias coming from my personal preferences, or is there really a cluster of highly successful filmmakers among my immediate birth cohorts? Patterns like that do happen. In any event, I hope you enjoyed this list and will consider watching some of the work by the creative lights of my generation.

Gen Xers and their Podcasts

Gen Xers and their Podcasts

As I noted in my previous post, of all the generations, it’s mine – Generation X – that has most ardently embraced its generational identity online. Compared to other generations, whether older or younger, there are far more Gen X branded accounts, sites, blogs and channels on the Internet.

In particular, there are a slew of Gen X branded podcasts. Podcasts, if you aren’t aware, are an audio-only format of Internet content, with themed channels publishing periodic episodes of about an hour in length. Sometimes it’s just one person basically lecturing, sometimes a small number of people (typically two or three) chatting in a more or less free-form manner. Sometimes they are up on YouTube, so they are not necessarily audio-only. It’s a flexible term.

Why do Gen Xers love podcasts so much? Perhaps it’s connected to anxiety about being neglected, forgotten. We want our voices to be heard. We want to be remembered, like we’re all singing our famous theme song from the end of The Breakfast Club.

I’ve found that Gen X podcasts can be broadly categorized into two groups. The first is nostalgia-themed podcasts, looking back at the pop culture which Gen X grew up with. Now that we’re middle aged, we apparently want to get together and reminisce about all the great music and TV from our youth.

The Gen X-tra Podcast
Pop culture, movies, music, trivia

Generation X Rewind
Music, films and TV

Toys and games


Pop Culture Preservation Society
Pop culture nuggets of the classic Gen X childhood

Project GenX Podcast

The Riff Radio Show

The Untitled GenX Podcast
Pop culture

The other kind of Gen X podcast has a theme of personal affirmation. They are about the Gen X experience or perspective.

Gen X Amplified

GenX Stories

GenX Voice

Gen X Woman

It really is astounding that there are so many Gen X branded podcasts, but none (that I know of) for other generations. I can understand how this format appeals to my generation – it’s suited for individuals who just want to work for themselves, and since video is optional, you can do it from the shadows, so to speak.

It’s not just that, though; it’s also that Gen X is so intent on being recognized as such. There are plenty of podcast-style video channels created by Millennials; it’s just that they don’t brand them as Millennial per se. They have broader scopes and subjects than the experience of one generation.

This phenomenon connects to an idea that I’ve expressed before, that in mid-life Gen Xers are using the Internet to fold the past back into their present experience. Maybe it’s because the future is so uncertain, so doubtful in this time of crisis. We need our past experience, the setting of our youth, as a bedrock on which to build the foundation of whatever we can make out of the rest our lives.

Generations on the Internet: 2022 Update

Generations on the Internet: 2022 Update

On this blog I often write about generations, and when I do I often find myself writing specifically about the generations online. For example, I have posts about social media, where I’ve observed how different generations experienced social media at different life stages, thus having a different relationship with the technology. It’s like what I really blog about is the Internet, and that’s not surprising given that I spend almost of all of my waking life there, whether at my paying job or working on personal projects like this blog.

It’s nothing new; on my old blog, I had a background section about the generations, and it emphasized their presence on the Internet. For example, I noted that the GI generation did not have much Internet presence, and that it was members of the Silent generation who were typically portrayed as the older people just learning how to get online. Meanwhile, Boomers and Gen-Xers were the Internet entrepreneurs, and the Millennials had their own unique online portals. I was writing all of this in the early to mid-2000s, so a lot has changed. If you go to my old site, you will find that some of the external links still work, but many, if not most of them, are dead now.

Back then, I focused on “the web.” Web 2.0 was young, and social media was still evolving as a concept. You might note that in my background section, social media makes an appearance on the Millennial page, in scare quotes no less. Twenty years later, I think it’s natural to associate social media and the ubiquity of apps and crowdsharing with that generation; it goes hand in hand with their consensus-seeking peer personality. Now that social media apps, with their relatively closed platforms, are supplanting the more open world wide web, what has changed about the presence of the generations online?

Well, for one thing, everyone is on the Internet now. You can’t really talk about any particular”online generation” when the Internet is part of the background of everyday life. At best there’s the idea of “digital natives” to cover all the people so young that they can’t remember when there wasn’t an Internet. But I think all generations from Boomers on down are comfortable with life online.

I would say that, as a rule, different generations tend to congregate in different platforms. Facebook and Twitter, and what’s left of the old world wide web are where you find the older generations, while Instagram, YouTube, Reddit and TikTok are where the younger generations are. This assertion is based on no data at all; it’s just my impression. While all of the living generations are on the Internet, they have different reputations online and different presences as a generation. Let’s call the sum total of all that a generation’s Internet profile.

First, for the Boomer generation and older, I’d say their Internet profile doesn’t looks so great. There’s not much around specific to the Silent generation, except for pages that amount to encyclopedia entries. Boomers as a generation have a terrible social media presence, since they are mostly the butt of jokes. As I noted in an earlier blog post, there’s a Facebook group devoted to making fun of Boomers. And we all know about “OK boomer.” As individuals, plenty of Silents and Boomers are in command of their social media presence, particularly celebrities and prominent and powerful officials. I imagine that many elder leaders actually have teams of younger people managing their social media accounts.

The Millennial generation’s Internet profile is a bit of a muddle. For one thing, younger Millennials would prefer to disassociate themselves from their older generational peers and call themselves Generation Z. Articles about the gap between Millennials and Gen Z are generally silly fluff, but the real story here is that there is a reluctance among Millennials to embrace their generational moniker. Despite the fact that the term “Millennial” has become a commonplace and is ubiquitous in online discourse about the state of society, Millennial individuals are not keen on taking on their generational name as a brand.

This takes me to my generation, Generation X. Of all the generations, Gen X is the one which most willingly – eagerly, even – embraces its identity online. Gen X’s Internet profile is like a bold statement – don’t you forget about us! There are so many Gen X themed YouTube channels, podcasts, social media pages and accounts that I am not even going to list any here. Instead, I’ll pick that up in a future post. Suffice it to say that many Gen X individuals see themselves in terms of belonging to their generation, and a lot of what Gen Xers obsess on in their online content and sharing is nostalgia for their past. You know, that time before there was an Internet.

Mr. Pope, Meet Our Cat

Mr. Pope, Meet Our Cat

Here she is – the most precious creature on Earth. She is Princess Sashimi, the ruler of our house. The whole reason we exist is to support her needs and give her the highest possible quality of life.

It’s not too hard to do, because she spends most of her time sleeping. How can a creature sleep for so many hours in the day? It boggles my mind. But it’s her prerogative. She can sleep all day if she wants. It’s not my place to say otherwise.

The important thing for us humans is to be attentive, and notice if there is any problem that requires an adjustment to her routine. Once, when she was having trouble pooping, it completely discombobulated the household dynamic. There was no tranquility here while we dealt with the changes in her behavior and her obvious discomfort. We changed her litter and we changed her food, and only when she returned to her normal pooping habits was peace restored. Her wellbeing is central to the normal functioning of the household.

Is it so strange that humans, supposedly the most evolutionarily advanced beings on Earth, should devote themselves to pampering a creature from another species? I think it’s only proper. We humans have achieved unprecedented levels of comfort and security in our easy First World lives, and we should extend the possibility of that mode of existence to other beings.

Of course there is the question of the morality of pampering a cat when there are humans on Earth who don’t experience the same degree of affluence as our family. Not that we’re particularly affluent, just that there are masses of humans in poverty and precarity, even here in our own First World country. But of course, as an ordinary middle class American family, we don’t command the resources to uplift the teeming masses of the underprivileged, so what could be expected of us?

We do have the resources to take good care of a cat, which is what we do. And as we’ve approached the empty nest phase of life, with one son out of the house already and the other one growing up too fast, I’ve noticed that Sashimi the cat is getting more attention lately. It’s like we’re transferring our nurturing urges to her, the one creature who won’t grow up any more or ever leave us.

Now I heard that the Pope was chiding people for putting pets ahead of children. I can’t believe he would really begrudge us the joy we take in loving and caring for our precious cat. Just look at how adorable she is!

I think the Pope is naturally concerning himself with his spiritual duties, in the light of his traditional religion. Possibly he has in mind the first commandment in the Bible, Genesis 1:28. But what does that command us to do? To be fruitful and multiply, but also to have dominion over every living thing – which I take to mean to care for them lovingly, even if they are just a cat.

It’s a well known fact that as income increases in a country, fertility declines. Perhaps this reflects different reproductive strategies for the wealthy versus the poor. Perhaps when a certain level of affluence is reached, life can be about more than reproduction, despite what the Pope says. What it means to be human can take on more possibilities that what tradition has dictated in the past. Naturally, some people who are childless are going to want companionship, and domesticated pets are there to fulfill that need.

These days I spend most of my time at home, and as I go through my rarely changing routine I am grateful for the opportunity to serve sweet Princess Sashimi. What does it matter in the long run what I am doing with my time? All human effort is in vain. All my aspirations and accomplishments will amount to nothing in the end, but if in the meantime I have the energy to make a cat’s life perfect, then I should. What matters in life is the joy and love in immediate existence, and to embrace the nonhuman creatures of the world with that love is only righteous. Surely the Pope can understand that.