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article imageOp-Ed: Hollywood Loves Exploiting Gen X Icons, But When Does Nostalgia Get Sickening?

By David Silverberg     Jul 19, 2008 in Entertainment
It’s bad enough we get remakes of 90s-era classics like American Gladiators and Batman. But with adaptations of G.I. Joe, Street Fighter and Beverley Hills 90210 on the way, how long will Hollywood pander to Gen X before it reaches critical spazz?
Digital Journal — I’m sick of Hollywood pandering to my generation. As a 28-year-old guy, I’ve already been bombarded with Gen-X nostalgia reeking of lazy creativity. It’s easy to remake the Transformers cartoon into a blockbuster film when imagination gets crushed by producers who just want box-office billions instead of smart film-making. Our culture needs more movies like Juno and less Iron Man; and while I enjoyed both films equally, it’s important for artistic talents to lend their pens to original scripts instead of recycling toys and cartoons from the 1990s.
If you need more examples of Gen-X relics making a comeback in the coming years, look no further than these resurrections: a new Beverley Hills 90210 TV show, a He-Man film, a Hollywood adaptation of the Maurice Sendak children’s book Where the Wild Things Are, a G.I. Joe movie, an X-Men spinoff on Wolverine, and a Street Fighter flick destined for the video store bargain bin. Plus, the epic graphic novel The Watchmen is coming to the silver screen in 2009, in an attempt to give Hollywood some street cred.
If producers are thinking about the bottom line, then they know mining retro icons could boost their profit margins: Transformers took $70 million on its opening weekend and raked in a gross of $319 million; Indiana Jones 4 has so far garnered $311 million gross; and Spider-Man 3, playing off an adult's love for all things comics, enjoyed a $336 million box office bonanza. Looks like it pays to play off heroes of yesterday's not so distant past.
The Dark Knight
The Dark Knight
Photo courtesy Warner Bros.
This weekend’s release of The Dark Knight is a blatant example of a Gen X cash grab. Estimated to rake in $66 million on Friday alone, the highly anticipated film has all the makings of box office gold. Yes, it looks intensely cool and stars the dead-but-not-forgotten Heath Ledger. My main objection is how the Batman film simply rehashes a similar plotline from the 1989 classic from director Tim Burton. It’s like The Dark Knight just wants to appeal to twentysomethings who fell in love with the original Batman film, simply as a means to rake in more money. Would it have killed the writers to dream up a new story starring the caped crusader? Oh right, that would require original thinking, which isn’t the territory of mass culture.
Author Tom Robbins once wrote: “Nostalgia’s nice enough in little bitty doses, it puts personal peach fuzz on the hard ass of history.” He might as well have been talking about my frustration with the entertainment’s lust for all things ‘90s. I don’t mind a bit of X-Men here, a smidgen of a Doogie Howser comeback there. But when summer blockbuster releases are replete with unoriginal sequels and cartoon recreations, it smells of brain freeze. In an ideal world, there should be a cap on how many old TV shows get artistically abused for the gains of today’s millionaire producers.
Milking the brand until it is dry shouldn’t be a sign of progress; instead, it displays greed and laziness, catering to a demographic too jaded to accept everything shoved in its face. Sure, Transformers did gangbusters at the box office but how long will the appeal last? Now that Transformers will be treated to a sequel, I predict a backlash that will see the sequel fail miserably and the public cry out for smart and relevant scripts for today’s arts-loving public.
Well, a man can dream, right?
The Dark Knight
The Dark Knight
Photo courtesy Warner Bros.
If entertainment honchos want to squeeze every reference from Generation X into today’s pop culture, expect more memories to be relived onscreen. Would it be too farfetched to conceive a future filled with Family Ties movies, Alf video games, Mega Man manga comics and MC Hammer biopics?
I feel sorry for the next generation. They would also feel the pain of seeing their cultural icons watered down for cinema and TV. As much as I may lament my present dissatisfaction with Hollywood’s brainless raping, their suffering may be amplified. Why? Let’s just say the pop culture of 2030 may look painfully cheesy:
“Coming to a theatre near you, from the producers of Jonas Brothers Take Manhattan, the movie event of the decade: Rock Band Mayhem stars Maddox Pitt as a rock-and-roll gamer just looking for respect at the Console Cup. But his rival Linux, played by Haley Joel Osment, has other ideas. And there’s a woman in between both of them. Introducing Lourdes, Madonna’s daughter, in her debut role, LionsAtlantis Films brings you the story of a gamer battling his competitors with an Xbox 720 and Harmonix’s Rock Band 21.”
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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