May 21, 2017

KYLE SMITH ON WHY SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER WOULDN’T BE A BLOCKBUSTER TODAY:

Instructing young adults that they couldn’t always get what they wanted wasn’t the main purpose of 1970s filmmaking, but it was a side benefit. The movies amounted to a generational warning about the perils and setbacks of adult life. We learned that the system was hopelessly stacked against us, that dreams rarely come true, that people are flawed and life will wear you down. Movies today, though, are calibrated to reach an audience raised with the certain knowledge that self-esteem is the most important trait, that young people will lead the way, and that you can have anything you can imagine, as soon as you can imagine it. Kids identify with childish superheroes who rule their environments. Deadpool, Iron Man, and Harley Quinn kick butt and crack jokes. Harry Potter can come up with a spell for any occasion. Katniss Everdeen is fierce and unbeatable.

Even when today’s movie heroes are in extreme danger, such as Matt Damon’s stranded-on-Mars Mark Watney in The Martian, they’re so cool and confident that quips never stop flowing out of their mouths. Successful movies reflect their audiences, but they help shape them as well. Kids imagine themselves getting lost in space a million miles from home and they think: That’s me in any situation — I got this. We’ve raised a generation of little superheroes. Small wonder that the intern in your office seems surprised that she’s assigned boring tasks, or expects a promotion after three months, or offers you advice on how best to reorganize the company.

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