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May 16, 2008
Tom, Meg and the 90s

Enough serious stuff -- let's get frivolous!

This post is a cross-post from this AskMeFi thread where a user asked:

It seems like at least once a decade, there's a hugely successful movie that taps into the contemporary social zeitgeist that shapes a large part of how people remember an era. Back to the Future in the 80s. Saturday Night Fever in the 70s. Easy Rider in the 60s. Rebel Without a Cause in the 50s.

What film will future generations look at and say "Now that was the 90s"?

Here is my response, lightly edited, mostly for blogginess

I'm going to go counterintuitive here. This movie summed up the 90s in that:

  1. it was not serious. The 90s was perhaps the most unserious decade in American history.
  2. it centered around yuppies. Yuppies may have surfaced in the 80s, but the 90s was their decade
  3. it had an anti-corporate message. The 80s gave us Wall Street ("Greed is Good"); the 90s rebelled -- yuppies embraced the BoBo lifestyle and we saw a slew of movies that had corporations as the enemy or that embraced the notion that capitalism was unfulfilling -- Fight Club, The Insider, City Slickers, The Firm and Philadelphia come to mind.
  4. it's plot revolved around computer technology. The 90s were the dot-com decade.
  5. it was awful. The downside of the dotcom decade -- the Internet was hyped to no end and disappointed many people once they realized its limitations.
  6. it starred Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. The actor and actress who are iconic of the 90s.

That last one should have given it away. You've Got Mail captured the 90s better than any other film. It's a bland Hollywood movie about how awful bland corporate-mono-megaculture is. And much like the Internet, the movie was egregiously over-hyped: it was a can't miss -- Tom Hanks! Meg Ryan! Nora Ephron! And if that doesn't convince you, most of the movie takes place either online, in bookstores or in coffee shops, for goodness sake!

Runners up:
Thelma and Louise: feminism, suicide and Brad Pitt.
Jerry McGuire: narcissism, materialism, Tom Cruise, a woman with low self-esteem falling for a jerk

Posted by Papa-Lu at May 16, 2008 12:51 AM
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