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Ed Driscoll

Easy Riders, Raging Banthas

March 8th, 2013 - 12:46 am

In the early chapters of Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, Peter Biskind’s beautifully written, if at times predictably establishment left 1998 look at the rise of the 1970s Hollywood Young Turks, a continuing theme is their youth and eagerness to buck the Hollywood studio system. By the late 1960s, Old Hollywood was on its last legs, and run by moguls who had been a part of that industry for the past forty years, who simply didn’t want to know about the youngsters who didn’t approve of their assembly-line product:

“It was not like the older generation volunteered the baton,” says Spielberg. “The younger generation had to wrest it away from them. There was a great deal of prejudice if you were a kid and ambitious. When I made my first professional TV show, Night Gallery, I had everybody on the set against me. The average age of the crew was sixty years old. When they saw me walk on the stage, looking younger than I really was, like a baby, everybody turned their backs on me, just walked away. I got the sense that I represented this threat to everyone’s job.”

Still, the studios, which seemed impregnable from afar, had been rotting from within since the late ’40s, when the judgments against them had made the industry more vulnerable to the onslaught of television. The old men who ran the studios were increasingly out of touch with the vast baby boom audience that was coming of age in the ’60s, an audience that was rapidly becoming radicalized and disaffected from its elders.

Flash-forward to 2013, and in many ways, things have come full circle. Witness an aging mogul who had been inside the system for over forty years, many of which were spent running his own studio, increasingly out of touch with the vast audience that had come of age amidst his earliest films, and found his more recent product wanting in quality by comparison. Like Norma Desmond, he’s not at all happy to hear that time and isolation have combined to pass him by:

The criticism got to Lucas. He found it difficult to be creative when people were calling him a jerk. “It was fine before the Internet,” he says. “But now with the Internet, it’s gotten very vicious and very personal. You just say, ‘Why do I need to do this?’ ”

As Moe Lane responds, “Well, the most obvious answer there is: you don’t.  Instead, you sell your intellectual property to Disney, which has this weird idea that you’ll sell more product if you produce product that people want to buy.”

(And oh to be a fly on the wall if Lucas ever typed the words Harry S. Plinkett into his Web browser…)

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