Cue the groan in one paragraph:
This past Sunday I had the sublime pleasure of sitting down with my partner, two brothers so close to each other they share a home, and a couple the other three had known a long time and I’ve been getting to know in snatches. It was a wonderful time with fun diverse people whom most important of all, were bursting at the seems to talk about Star Wars, but I politely asked if the only other people on the freezing patio had seen it and they had not. So we waited.
“Oh no,” I hear you complain, “not yet another article talking about The Force Awakens.”
Hear me out, this is a lot less about the movie, and a lot more about us, or should I say the generation it was made for. Let’s wind towards my point, you’ll see where I’m going.
With Star Wars a forbidden topic, this crazy group I was a part of – sitting outside the back of a pub in San Francisco in January – had to divert conversation for a while. And what resulted ended up dovetailing right back into what we really wanted to discuss anyway.
For those that are unaware, I squeaked by at the tail end of Generation X, but I spend most of my time around Millennials and for a very good reason. (We’re getting to that too) I was the only person there born before 1980 and most of the time these days I like it that way unless other pre-80’s babies hold the same attitude. This came up and the person I first sat opposite from told me a social theory of a four part cycle of generations that has apparently repeated in America pretty much since it began and was only broken by the civil war.
The theory we can see active in our lifetime. It starts with what we refer to as the greatest generation, you know those who fought World War II – our grandparents for some of us – they don’t take explaining. Most people consider them awesome. Sure yes, not those who were put in Japanese internment camps, they might have another opinion, also for good reason. Not everyone in great generations are perfect. But, in general, a mostly positive lot comes around and around again. And for our cycle, on the whole we have great things to say about those coming to rise just before and after the second war.
The generation that followed, typically called the lost generation in this social theory, are the baby boomers. Those were told all their formative years the equivalent of “we fought a war for you, now everything is perfect, don’t complain.” But things weren’t perfect. They were just better. They were born in lucky times and many veer towards selfishness which is how we got the high powered executive bullshit in the 80’s.
Then the person explaining this theory got to mine, the “what about us?” generation. Also known as the “we are so fucked” generation (my addition which was quickly agreed upon by the other conversant)
Let’s pause for a moment for where Gen X is in context; why we are called what we are. We are the generation that watches Millennials yell at baby boomers for fucking up the world. We were taught some of the problems in school, but some of the lies too. We were taught man made climate change was real in elementary school in CA. But we were also taught America was discovered by Columbus trying to prove the world was round. IN SCHOOL. Without the internet we wouldn’t be able to separate the truth from fiction. And some of us are still unraveling the lies that were systematized.
Gen X is also the generation that winces in shame as baby boomers, having been in power far longer than they perhaps should, yell at Millennials for having the temerity to be born into a warming globe baby boomers knew about but lobbied against fixing; college tuition that has not scaled with inflation, and is by comparison ridiculous compared to what previous generations went though; and in general label Millennials as lazy and selfish for daring to question a system entirely stacked against them by the people complaining.
I saw a joke about a rich Republican, a poor Republican and any Democrat going into a store with ten apples. The rich Republican takes nine and tells the poor Republican “Hey, that Democrat it trying to take your apple”. It’s kind of funny till you realize you are the socialist trying to convince that poor Republican that if they would just ever so briefly side with you, the rich Republican could fucking keep four as long as you both got three each. Fair Play, despite coming from a country of miserable assholes whom would agree with me about my homeland, is still a concept I believe in from my childhood and I can see it working here. And by the way, it’s pretty clear that the forefathers believed in fair play too… just what they saw as fair was broken. Indeed that which has been seen as fair has been so broken for so long, it’s taken the next greatest generation to really come forth with a concept of what social justice is.
Introducing Millennials. Oh sure, they’ve had Gen X watching over them, telling them “guys, guys, guys, there’s some really fucked up shit going on and we don’t think we can fix this alone, but we want to help.” Gen X were taught the problems, but we were also taught that the problems couldn’t be solved. Millennials know, just know, that’s fucking bullshit. You find Gen X social justice warriors. But it has been perfected by the ones who are really going to make a difference, just in time too.
Three things have converged to make the rise of Millennials the most exciting thing I could hope to witness on this planet in all of known time.
First we have a technological advancement so big it’s going to change our society over the next few HUNDREDS (Plural) of years in ways we can’t even imagine. We don’t know where this is all going because the only previous thing this big to ever rock society was the printing press. Just google how much shit that changed. But one thing we do know is that communication itself is changing. (Yes this is eventually getting to Star Wars, bear with me)
I’ve said this elsewhere and I will say it again. 2015 wasn’t the year of outrage. People made angry in 2015 would have been made mad by what they saw anyway. They just might not have seen it. Maybe the information is very much more easily gained. But that isn’t why we noticed. We noticed because 2015 was the year of critical mass.
More people have a voice than ever before, thanks to the internet, and that’s just one of the many powers of this new communication medium we are still figuring out. Warring voices can be heard, and all I really want to shut up are the calls for it all to be silenced. Fight it out, this is how progress is made.
Fight about words, because words have power. Take back, re-define, make up new ones. Make it so.
I was raised to detest “they” as a singular pronoun until my genderqueer partner taught me that attitude left far too many out in the cold. People I didn’t know about because the message hadn’t reached me yet. I spent our first month together practicing twice a day during a fifty minute drive to adapt my language. (I lived some distance away) A few of my Gen X friends accept it so easily I don’t have to explain, but no Millennial I’ve met even flinches. They is now singular gender neutral in most younger circles and it’s a matter of time before the Oxford Dictionary and high school English teachers catch up. You don’t know if the Morgan someone is talking about is a boy, girl or neither? Use they. Someone in a dress introduces themselves as Brian? You ask what their preferred pronoun is. They won’t mind. Most Millennials get this shit while some Gen X and most of Baby Boomers are bitching about it.
Part two: I also firmly believe they have neuroscience and evolution on their side. Hard science is kind of neat. In most fields people believe in the ideas of facts, (what can be learnt or discovered) and knowledge – the ability to interpret information. In Mathematics they believe in creativity and knowledge. In some realms of physics they believe in either one. But the fuzzier and more out there they get, the more they align with neuroscience, wherein they know that it’s all confusing as shit, and they still know fuck all compared to what they have even figured out there is to know, and they know they are wrong about that. But they’re trying to figure it out anyway.
One of the things they actually have figured out is, some time in the middle ages the prefrontal cortex (aka the social brain) began developing and slowly evolving. After years and years of very little change to cave man brains, things were growing. Feelings like love and empathy existed before of course, but developing in the prefrontal cortex was more of it, stronger depths, and a sensitivity that by gosh would have annoyed our ancestors.
The kind of GOOD sensitivity that baby boomers spend a great deal of bandwidth bitching about.
Let me briefly present what I would want to say as a modern college student. “I’m sorry, is my desire not to have rape flashbacks offending your itty-bitty feelings? Are you made to feel smaller because you’ve been forced to realize that the world is a lot darker at a younger age than you want to admit in your ivory tower? Have I made you feel bad because you have to either admit you were ignorant, or insensitive, or both? Boo Hoo for you. Put a fucking trigger warning on your syllabus and stop whining.” Please feel free to share that opinion, oh, fucking everywhere.
As for myself, what would I like to say to professors as a 37 year old whom has “been there and done that” quite a bit? I grew up around academia, I know what kind of people you are. You have been over-protected by your institutions too long and it’s time you grew up. But your collective griping has served it’s purpose. It’s convinced me we have reached the tipping point. More people are being born with a better developed prefrontal cortex than ever before. I spend 99.9% of my social time around a huge variety of people just younger enough than me to have me convinced they really are more sensitive – and it’s a fucking godsend. I’ve been waiting for them my whole life. Literally. Now please reread the previous paragraph.
I said there were three things, and I said this was about Star Wars. Let’s dovetail them. Millennials also have J. J. Abrams – okay yes, it’s a hook. Because it’s not just him, they have Gen X. We might be fucking irrelevant to most of the internet as far as who is bitching at whom, but I watch enough TV (despite not watching much) and know the references they use and the style of writing well enough to know the writers are all my age or slightly older. As far as I can tell, modern popular movies are filled with Millennial/Gen X actors reading Millenial/Gen X written scripts with Gen X directors and producers (Some backed by Boomers who actually get it). Though honestly, I mostly get into a movie theatre for a marvel movie or something offbeat and that’s it.
That same conversation about generations included a commentary on the kinds of film and television that reflected shifting attitudes about the generations they were or were not being written for. Sometimes they are one generation, subconsciously communicating to the next generation. Then after a few topic jumps later we asked our new neighbors if they had seen Star Wars and the reply was, “four times” – and the lifting of a hoody to reveal a Kylo Ren T-shirt by the tallest of them. Sweet, it was on.
One thing came up over and over again, we were so relieved we loved that film, that film felt made for us.
Before hand, we were so afraid that it would be shallow, or too CGI heavy, or the chemistry of the actors would make us wonder if a casting director was even asked for advice. In short we were worried that they would let us down like the prequels did for so many of us. They had already wiped the E.U. Were they in it for the money? Or were they in it for the fans?
Fuck yeah, the fans!
Gripes were made and debated all out of utter love. And one thing came like a shining beacon above all as an agreement. It almost felt like a modern retelling of a episode Four, “A New Hope”. One that reflected the growing modern culture. That being, the culture of Millennials. And we liked that!
Oh don’t get me wrong, I know there are Gen X fans. For all I know there are just as many as the younger group. I haven’t paid attention. (Sorry, I know, part of the problem) But this was clearly in keeping with a generation whose ideals resonate through most of them like a warm glow, whether they think hyperspace should have been longer, or that Rey and Finn both have force powers. This film reflects social progress in ways I barely need to point out. Just look at the people who complained before hand, and complained after without actually watching it, and trace upwards.
People who are afraid of social progress are afraid of this film. Meanwhile, those of us gathered at the pub, two women, three men and one caught between, all gushed over the very idea that Disney could be ready for a gay main character and maybe, if the fans want it badly enough, it could really happen, it was in a recent new Star Wars book after all, wouldn’t it be wonderful? Run on sentences intended because that was the level of excitement. So much renewed hope, so much passion for what it said about society and where social acceptance was going. Ideals were changing and the film captured them perfectly.
There is more to this though. An ant-feminist group recently boasted to accounting for a four million dollar loss in revenue for the film. They literally didn’t see the film because it was clear the main character was a woman. It’s a bit silly really, but therein lies the hope. Putting aside what an insignificant number that is compared to how much the movie has already made, that means there are people who haven’t seen the film who really should. And if they are capable of being silly and can admit to it, a) they are going to already be better than baby boomer professors who complain about trigger warnings. And b) neuroplasticity is on their side.
Back to the neuroscience. Brain’s are plastic, malleable things that can rearrange themselves at any time. Sure it may not be instant. But we know for a fact it can be done. People don’t have to stay locked in hatred of a film they have never seen because of an idea that isn’t even really original. I mean woman hating is pretty old and tired.
So, here I lay my challenge, my anti-feminist, MRA, “whatever you want to call yourself” friends: watch Star Wars. Then watch other movies and TV with bad-ass female heroes. Watch Jessica Jones. Read up on what feminism is on blogs written by actual, mainstream feminists, not people complaining about feminists. Dive in and explore. What are you afraid of? If you are right, nothing will change your mind. If you are wrong? Then you can join the rest of us in enjoying episodes 7, 8, and 9 without hesitation. Then, when my group next sits down and checks to see if you have watched the film before announcing spoilers, you too can lift up your hoody to reveal a fan shirt without us ever knowing you were once afraid of the unknown. Leave it in your past and embrace the future with the rest of us.
Because times are changing, Star Wars is proof of that. The lip bite that launched a thousand ships is part of that. (Wish that was my original joke, saw it on twitter). Rey. Finn. Kylo Ren. They are all part of a future that we are all deeply confused about, but some of us have high hopes for. Don’t hold out on ideals that are outdated and only hurting yourself. Dive in and enjoy it for what it is: