From Gen X anniversaries to all-star roles
There’s “OK, Boomer.”
And then you’ve got the “ … grumble … grumble … millennials … grumble.”
But it seems like we don’t hear all that much about my people, the Gen Xers. Those are the folks born from the early 1960s to the late 1970s. You may know us from such hits as “Reality Bites,” the defining movie of my early adult years that came out as I prepared to enter college in the mid 1990s, when I would FINALLY memorize my Social Security number.
I’d have to say: 2019 was a big year for pillars of my Gen X life. The cast of “Reality Bites” celebrated its 25th anniversary (as did my fellow members of Holy Name High School’s 1994 graduating class), Alanis Morisette got on Broadway and Stars Wars came back (again).
It appears Generation X is having a moment. And we’re having an impact on popular culture and the landscape of today’s entertainment industry. A few of my favorites:
The Mandalorian. Stick with me here: This series is the first really big ticket show from our new friends at Disney+. This is the latest in the “all over the galaxy” Star Wars effort, but the first Star Wars movie was released in 1977, which makes it a member of Generation X.
And “The Mandalorian”? It was created by two guys, including a pretty well known Gen Xer, Jon Favreau. I first met him as Mike Peters, the desperately lovesick, super awkward sidekick to Vince Vaughn, the coolest guy in the room, in 1995’s “Swingers.”
What I like about it:
1-10: Baby Yoda as best described by one my favorite new-to-me writers, Anthony Breznican: “The puppet, the realness of it, is a triumph of design. The inside of his sideways bunny ears is the color of a sunset on your happiest day. His supple green skin is the texture of pistachio pudding, and his bottomless black eyes are so massively dilated they can only see the goodness in us.”
12: It’s a western-meets-ninja-meets-space series with incredible writing that would make any wordsmith jealous, including, “I have spoken,” and “This is the way.”
Dolly Parton. Let’s be clear: Dolly herself isn’t a Gen Xer. Born in 1946, she may be among the coolest Baby Boomers around. I’m putting her on this list because her music is the soundtrack of my childhood. My friends and I would stick a handful of D batteries into a tape recorder, press play and belt out the lyrics to “9 to 5” over and over and over.
The song, and its still hauntingly relevant lyrics, is one thing. The “9 to 5” movie in which three female secretaries take on The Patriarchy? Something else entirely. I saw it years after it came out in 1980, as I was only 4 at the time, but the themes in that film stuck with me as a woman who has long known that “Girl Power” requires more than a good slogan.
It’s a rebirth for the song too as the shine starts to come off the buzzy concepts of “side hustle” and “gig economy” and the workforce in this country rubs its eyes, looks around and asks, “Is this all there is?” and “When do I get mine?” Those are probably the reasons for its regular rotation at rallies for Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Oh, and that podcast tho. If you haven’t heard of the “Dolly Parton’s America” podcast, now you have. The series, hosted by Jad Abumrad, is full of the music we love (and I don’t consider myself a country music fan) as well as delightful insight about the woman behind the boobs (and the boob jokes). I love its ability to bring the themes of Dolly’s life and her songs into today’s world.
Alanis Morisette. This queen tho.
Next year will be the 25th anniversary of her “Jagged Little Pill” album, which -- when came out in 1995 -- helped to show me that, as a new 20-something, it’s okay to be mad and to say that you’re mad. We didn’t know it then, but she was teaching us about being vulnerable and silencing shame before the gospel according to Brené Brown.
These lyrics helped define a generation of young women, including me:
And I'm here, to remind you
Of the mess you left when you went away
It's not fair, to deny me
Of the cross I bear that you gave to me
You, you, you oughta know
And now a new generation, one that is helping keep the #MeToo movement front and center, arguing that victims should be believed and fighting for improvements to our environment, will get to sing along with the artist herself at a series of anniversary concerts set for 2020. They also can watch the theatrical interpretation of that album on Broadway in New York.
It’s exciting to see the trends, people and music that played background music to different parts of my life are now playing a big role in today’s culture. Not too shabby for a generation that has grown up analogue and is growing old digitally.
Amy Bailey was a member of the Michigan Capitol Press Corps from 2000-2006. She lives and works in Green Bay, Wisconsin, with her husband, son and an easily excitable Australian Shepherd named Max. Amy's guest column, Something to Say, publishes periodically. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.