Boom Goes the Ego
The worst generation.
12:00 AM, Mar 20, 2008 • By KEVIN KUSINITZ
IF THE AMERICANS WHO lived through the Depression and won the Second World War were the Greatest Generation, then the Baby Boomers would have to be the Greatest Ego Generation. Pampered like no others before them, free to explore their own interests while their parents worked hard to put food on the table, the Boomers eventually pursued pop culture as their time killer of choice.
Being a Boomer myself, I'd like to think that, subconsciously, we were fully aware that learning to play guitar or storyboard a script didn't, in the end, compare to saving the world from Nazism. Therefore, we amped up the value of pop culture in order to make us feel important--all the while secretly giving thanks to our parents for providing us with the good life.
Yup, I'd like to think that. But I'd be wrong. We really do think that our contributions to Top 40 radio and Cinema have had a life-altering effect across the planet, and by God our kids had better thank us for it and, oh yeah, could you turn down that lousy rap music? Did I call that stuff music? Ha! In my day, we had real music . . . Music that drove our parents' crazy the same way their music drove their parents crazy. It's called "making way for something new whether you like it or not."
However, the Boomers utterly refuse to get off the stage (see Clinton, Bill and Hillary); they continue to think that nothing before their time mattered. Our parents might have had Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, but we had the Beatles!
Now, I take a backseat to no man in my Beatles worship (and I have the Paul McCartney tie tack to prove it). But as my eyes grow more jaundiced with age, I can only wonder who took honorary Boomer Timothy Leary seriously when he proclaimed the Beatles "evolutionary agents sent by God, endowed with mysterious powers to create a new human species." I mean, if God had indeed sent them on some top-secret bio-spiritual mission, the Men's Wearhouse would now be selling Sgt. Pepper uniforms, and al Qaeda would have realized all they needed was love rather than a one-way ticket into the World Trade Center.
Mistaking pop culture for epoch-making events came to a head in 1985 with the international Live Aid concerts. Organized with the best of intentions by Bob Geldof, the idea was to finally rid Africa of starvation, malaria, AIDS and, for all I know, restless leg syndrome. Frank Zappa refused to participate, declaring it the biggest drug-laundering scheme in history. Huey Lewis and the News took a pass as well, believing the whole thing wasn't very well thought out to do any good.
I can't vouch for Zappa's opinion, but the "Hip to be Square" boys were proven correct when the food meant for starving children wound up in the hands of corrupt African leaders and their equally-corrupt military--when it wasn't just rotting on the docks, that is. If a bunch of muscleheads like Huey Lewis & the News smelled something rotten in Ethiopia, why didn't anybody else?
The moviemakers are no better. While directing An American President in 1995, Rob Reiner boasted to friends that his movie would single-handedly get Bill Clinton re-elected to a second term. How a romantic comedy about a handsome, widowed president wooing a beautiful, soft-spoken journalist had anything to do with a pudgy good ol' boy and his harridan wife wasn't made clear. Moreover, while Clinton was re-elected, it was due primarily to Bob Dole's cranky demeanor. No matter--to this day Meathead probably thinks An American President was the Diebold polling machine of his day, insuring a victory for his candidate of choice.
Steven Spielberg didn't have as much luck when he opined that Munich, his movie about the 1972 massacre of Israeli Olympic athletes, would bring peace to the Middle East. I'm no history expert, but hasn't that little quarrel between Jews and Arabs been going on for, what, centuries? And suddenly the guy who directed Hook is the key to getting both sides to throw down their weapons?
Sadly, Steverino isn't alone. Last year saw the release of anti-Iraq war movies seemingly every week, all of which were supposed to bring peace in our time. Yet Rendition, In the Valley of Elah, No End in Sight, Grace is Gone and Lions for Lambs came and went like a kilo of coke at the "Vanity Fair" Oscar bash. As if channeling Reiner and Spielberg, director Brian De Palma went on record that his movie, Redacted, would finally turn the public against the war.
De Palma's prediction itself was redacted as his movie got yanked from U.S. theatres after grossing a beyond-paltry $65,388 over four weeks.