We moved from sunny Wolverhampton (in the West Midlands of the UK) to Stuart, Florida in 1984 (I was 9), which was just in time for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and The Neverending Story, shortly to be followed the following year by The Goonies, and then in 1986 by Stand by Me and Spacecamp.
I remember my memories of my first week in America being that of discovering the existence of Cheerios and watching The Empire Strikes Back with my two brothers and three American cousins. Then, as now, movies were the backdrop against which our childhood was constructed, block by block, day by day, scene by scene.
The point of all this is that Generation X grew up in a time when we genuinely believed we could have an Adventurous Life. The characters in The Goonies were dysfunctional kids (like us) from broken homes (like us) who spent entire summers riding their bikes around the neighbourhood getting into moderate mayhem (like us).
There’s an amazing anthemic song by Ed Harcourt called ‘Born in the 70s’ that has a verse that really sums up this childhood urge for adventure :
“And like my daddy said, I’ve tried to be myself
Sometimes daydreaming for hours, wishing for a dangerous life
Cut the leash some slack, run into the morning light
Race the trains by the track, until my mouth feels dry”
I should clarify that in these fantasies of danger there was never any imagined GENUINE threat – things were always going to be okay (bad guys were always thwarted by bands of plucky kids if those kids stick together, etc.) – more like what the BBFC or MPAA would deem to be ‘Mild Peril’.
But either way, I wonder if it is this that caused the famous ‘disenfranchisement’ of Generation X: that the reality of growing up into an ‘ordinary’ life after the seeds of lust for adventure were sewn so deeply in us at a young age left us disappointed.
Its funny how this was my landscape. A landscape painted by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas (and to a lesser degree by Stephen King and John Hughes). And it’s not one of those you-had-to-be-there things (Like when I made my husband watch The Princess Bride and he thought that really you’d have to have seen it as a child to love it so fervently!)… If you watch Stand By Me now, it still has that #LucasBerg (there you go, internet, you can have that one – you’re welcome) magic. It isn’t just the nostalgia for my childhood. These were and still are really great films.
By the early 1990s, the era of Coming-of-Age-Kids-Adventure films was well and truly over. Though Generation Y /Millennials have had an amazing cinematic landscape – Jurassic Park, Jumanji and Harry Potter to name a few, they simply don’t have the wide-eyed innocence of Flight of the Navigator or ET (Though School of Rock comes very close!). Until…
In 2011 JJ Abrams made my year when he released his homage to exactly those 1980s films: Super 8 (Which you can watch on Netflix and if you haven’t seen it, you really, really should do that today). Now, the thing with Abrams is that he has the touch – he has the ability to create new, fresh and effortlessly RELEVANT (colour me Simon Cowell) work, while uplifting his source material with the highest amount of warmth, respect and just a touch of nostalgia. Look what he did for Star Trek. Flawless.
So I am so very excited for ‘the kids’ this year. I trust Abrams to #LucasBerg the heck out of the new Star Wars.
As for me and my childhood fantasies of a Dangerous Life, it’s safe to say that my brothers and I survived the 1980s, and the most ‘mild peril’ we encounter (blissfully often!) these days is airline food.
I may still be a typical disenfranchised Gen-X-er, (Weirdly, the world is ours now – and won’t it be weird when we’re OAPs in care homes, still listening to Nirvana, Metallica and the Pixies?), but I find my adventure every day, and thankfully it doesn’t involve kidnapping, finding underground pirates, dead bodies on railroad tracks or aliens in my wardrobe.
Anyway, so looking forward to Star Wars is what I mean…