Hollywood has an illness that affects it right in the mindset.
It’s sort of like senile dementia, where the vicissitudes of old age can muddle thinking and memory.
However, this illness not only muddles thinking and memory, but the imagination as well, but it’s not caused by old age.
This disease is caused by youth, or to be more exact, an obsession with youth.
You see, the marketing gurus tell Hollywood that the youth market is the only target worth aiming for. This is because the experts say that they have not yet locked into the buying habits that will guide them for a lifetime, and once you have sold them something, you will have them hooked for life.
So Hollywood aggressively pursues not only the youth market but the idea of youth itself.
Maturity is considered akin to cancer, something to be avoided at all costs, and if it does happen to you, then you must fight it with Botox and cosmetic surgery, which is the Hollywood equivalent of chemotherapy, until your face is not only devoid of all signs of age, but of human expression as well.
Now it wasn't always like this.
Which means we're going to get a little history. I provide more than rants -- I dole out an education.
For a good chunk of the 1930s one of the top box office stars in the world, the entire freaking world, was Marie Dressler, a chunky 60-something vaudeville actress from Canada who could never be mistaken for the sylph-like yet mysteriously buxom nymphettes Hollywood tries to insert into stardom these days.
Dressler's appeal was based not only on her talent for comedy and drama, but her ability to make her characters, even the unpleasant or outlandish ones, sympathetic and human. At her peak she put more bums in theatre seats the world over than anyone else in show-biz. This appeal was amped up when she was teamed with frequent co-star Wallace Beery, who was no one’s idea of a youthful sex-symbol.
Dressler was just the tip of the iceberg, any deep study of the Golden Age of Hollywood's star system shows that it was populated by people of different ages and looks, their status and success was based on their ability to connect emotionally with the general audience.
But when World War II ended everything began to change. Unprecedented economic prosperity coincided with a massive explosion in the population called the Baby Boom, and it would reshape society for both good and ill.
The 1950s saw the origin of a teen culture that was, for the first time, wholly separate from the once predominant adult culture. This new youth culture was founded on rock & roll, mild rebellion, and youth-oriented movies fuelled by the simple fact that kids were packing serious money. Many not only had allowances from their freshly prosperous parents, they also held jobs that paid pretty well because unemployment rates were often at lows not seen since the 1920s.
This separation got even more profound in the 1960s when the Baby Boomers started feeling their oats in a haze of pot smoke, trippy music, bad hair, and ugly clothing.
During the late 1960s and 1970s the first baby boomers started to infiltrate the aging closed shop of Hollywood, thanks to a back door opened by successful independent producer/director Roger Corman.
This generation was different from the "Greatest Generation" that preceded them who endured the Great Depression and fought in World War II. The Baby Boomers generally lived a life of comparable privilege, never knowing the hardship their parents knew when they were their age. Boomers also defined themselves by their youth, summed up with the rather pointless slogan, "Don't trust anyone over 30."
They took this ethos with them into the Hollywood mainstream, driving out the old guard bit by bit, and putting their own particular stamp on popular culture -- a stamp which elevated youth from a demographic into an idol fit for worship, specifically the themes and ideals behind their own youth.
You would know this intimately if you grew up in the 1980s and survived the near constant inundations of 60s nostalgia.
Of course, the folks that followed Boomers really didn't care about that shrill pointless decade of the 1960s, putting the Boomers in the same position of the Hollywood old guard they themselves had rebelled against in their own youth. Everything now had to skew young, young, young, not only to protect and perpetuate their reign, but to hit that magic money-making formula the marketing gurus told them to look for.
Which creates the quandary Hollywood is in right now.
One part of that generation of 60s-70s kids wants to be the kings of the sandbox forever, while another part, usually the part in power, wants to shed what they consider the dead weight of history in order to make themselves feel "hip" and "with it."
So the middle aged folks in power dump the middle aged folks below them, and bring in what they think will be young and hungry talent. (Specifically young and hungry enough to work cheaper and with a weaker understanding of their rights as creators since sometimes the money drive and ego drive work hand in hand.)
While this new talent may be young, hungry, & cheaper, the blood ain't always as fresh as it should be.
Their relative inexperience, both in running businesses, and with the real world leave them completely under the thumb of their elders in the head offices. Elders whose idea of connecting with youth is to slap together some trend chasing, catchphrase spewing, abomination completely devoid of creativity or originality.
So in their pursuit of youth, they end up driving youth away to things like video games and the internet. I wouldn't criticize this approach that much if it worked, but it usually doesn't work at all.
My advice? Well, kids don't really care about the age of the person telling them the story, because that info isn't usually included in the credits. All they really care about is a good story that entertains them. Also once they pass the prime Disney demographic we’ll-take-any-fad-you-give-us age, they're usually repulsed by such shameless pandering.
So perhaps Hollywood should judge stories and the people telling them not on their age, but on their merit. I know it's a lot of work, but it does makes for a better product.
And when looking for fresh blood, look for real fresh blood, I'm not talking about hiring younger and younger folks. I'm talking about recruiting way outside the narrow confines of the Axis of Ego, for folks who don't follow the Hollywood mindset that was locked in during the 1970s.
Who knows, Hollywood might start creating trends again, instead of chasing them.
READ Gavin McInnes' "gut-punchingly hilarious" memoir, The Death of Cool.
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