In comparison, a man who was twenty in 1928 would have almost nothing in common with a man of twenty in the year 1968. Those intervening years saw great social and technological change (that drove a lot of the social change). A switch from mostly horse-drawn or electrified street car local transportation and trains for long distance travel, to the private auto for local transportation and cheap jet air travel for long distance transportation. Travel from New York to Los Angeles did not take days but hours. Radio was replaced by Television as the entertainment of choice in the home. Recorded music at home went from expensive, and fairly bad sounding novelties, to cheaply available. Telephones went from novelty to ubiquity. Social attitudes about race, sex, women, and more changed drastically as people moved from cities to suburbs. In 1928 women had the vote (nationally) for only 8 years, by 1968 it was nearly half a century old. In 1928, the world was stable, with no threat of sudden destruction of cities imaginable, the US protected by wide oceans, and the idea of war and destruction visited upon the US simply inconceivable..
Yet the world of 1968 is at least as different from today as 1928 was to it. Computers have gone from corporate data rooms, costing tens of millions of dollars, and the size of refrigerators, to commodities sold in Warehouse stores. Mobile phones capable of recording and playing video are common. The Internet, cable and satellite TV, laptop computers, and free wifi have all made unimaginable amounts of data and media accessible almost anywhere, any time. Jet travel is even cheaper and more available (if far less pleasant). Attitudes about gays (including Gay Marriage) unimaginable in 1968 are routinely discussed today on Daytime Television.
Why is it, then, that our culture remains stuck in 1968?
One reason might be the men who shape it, versus the men who shaped culture previously. Using IMDB.com, I used the data to construct the following tables. First, the culture that was replaced by the Youth Culture of 1968, the major cultural creators from roughly 1935-1954:
|Previous (1935-54)||Age in 1954||Year of Birth||Years before WWI End|
|J Lee Thompson||40||1914||4|
There are some interesting things about this table. First, you'll note how Old these key movie makers were. The Average Age was 56, they were on average, born in 1898 and had twenty years before the end of WWI (when the public found out just how bad the debacle in the trenches was, and how many were lost).
For the most part, these men were men of the Nineteenth Century, not the Twentieth. It showed in the movies they made. More leisurely, with more adult content, less desire to use shock to cover up lack of ideas, and a focus on making films for all ages, older (past 20, anyway) and young alike. Remember, back in the era of 1935-54, as Ed Driscoll points out, men were supposed to act (in public at least) like adults. Not overgrown boys. And women, well acted like women. Not overgrown girls.
Therefore, even men of 21 were expected to conduct themselves as adult men. Not as lightly supervised boys. It's hard for people to understand, that in that era, it was common for men to wear hats, and jacket and suit pants, for nearly everything at hand save hard manual labor. Women wore dresses unless out on some picnic or working at manual labor. This included young men and women as well those in their forties.
While some might quibble with a name or two, in the list above, I think it's fairly representative. There are one-hit wonders (but what a wonder) like Charles Laughton's "Night of the Hunter" and those who churned out film after film, like Howard Hawks or John Ford.
Compare with those of today:
|Person||Age in 2008||Year of Birth|
|Joss Whedon||44||1964||Steve Soderberg||45||1963|
An average of nine years younger, and the birth age of 1969. Instead of the formative years in the Nineteenth Century, today's movie and television producers and directors and writers came of age in the 1970's and 1980's. Is it any wonder that the attitudes of those eras still persist.
In some ways, it's not always 1968. It's always 1979. Carter, Disco, and the depressing "certainties" of the late 1970's reign supreme. In film, the collective efforts of the men above seem mostly to want to remake "the China Syndrome" or "All the Presidents Men" instead of creating something new, or at least adult and mature. Middle aged men avoid risk, and that these men largely do. Without, sadly, making entertainment that is truly adult. There is nothing more pathetic than powerful and middle aged men engaging in posturing against the man when they are, in fact, the man.
The creative class of today, if the table above is any use at all, is neither adult and mature enough to create timeless entertainment, for adults of all ages, nor young enough to challenge the status quo and create something exciting and new. Instead movies and television recycle the entertainment of their youth. Which wasn't new then, and has gotten more dated since. If past history is any guide, we're in for at least ten to fifteen more years of this rot. Until the above group is simply too old to make movies and television any more.
Thus, the reasons why it's always 1968. Or perhaps, 1979.