Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I'm Getting Old: Kids and what they're watching

Today was the second meeting of the Intro Theater course I'm teaching this semester. Todays agenda: A set of activities that combines getting-to-know-each-other games with a system for taking a sort of cultural core sample of the students. The goal is to try to find cultural artifacts (plays, books, movies, TV shows) that all or most of the class is familiar with. This helps me figure out what kind of backgrounds students come from, and what common works I can use for examples until the students have read and seen some plays. In theory, it helps the students appreciate the diverse backgrounds that their classmates from from.

What did I learn today? Mostly that I'm out of touch. Movies that at least 80% of the class has seen: Wedding Crashers, The Notebook, Forrest Gump, Titanic, and Lion King.

I haven't seen Wedding Crashers OR Notebook, the two recent movies on the list. Conspicuously absent: Princess Bride, Indiana Jones, and the original Star Wars. movies. What did these kids watch at sleepovers? I know better than to even ask about Goonies. Classics like Wizard of Oz, Sound of Music, and Gone With The Wind did not come close to making the list. The kids mostly just gave me questioning stares when I mentioned Casablanca.

What makes a culture? In large part, it is information and traditions that all members of the culture have in common. Finding that common ground is getting harder and harder in America today. I applaud our society's diversity, but forces like media fragmentation, obsessive demographic targeting, and test-based school curricula are shrinking the amount of cultural material that we have in common, especially cross-generationally. I'm not even 30 yet, and already it's clear that the movies, shows, books, etc. that *I* grew up with are mostly unfamiliar to 19 and 20 year olds. Particuarly worrisome is the lack of familiarity with "classics" that usually cross generational lines. If eight years age difference means that my culture packet is almost separate from current 20 year olds, how much do they have in common with Baby Boomers? With the elderly?

I wonder if the next generational war will be sparked not by the draft, not by senior citizen entitlements, but by the simple inability of parents and children to find anything they can talk about.

*sigh* Far and away the best-known movie/show/book in my class?

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

I gotta go find a DVD set...


Blogger neophyte said...

Maybe you're too young for the geezer bus yet, but you're getting there! *grins* These kids today! When I was a kid, movies were shadows on the cave wall!

(I'm glad you're blogging again!)

11:45 PM  
Blogger Trillian DBB said...

I love Goonies. my sister is 5 years younger than I am and, while she likes Goonies, none of her friends do.

what's the world coming too

10:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I tortured wolfieniece once not long and made her watch Fawlty Towers. She's now convinced I'm on drugs.
I think this weekend I'll rent the goonies and make her watch it.
I *heart* the goonies.

12:13 PM  
Blogger Wurm42 said...

I'm not sure where the world's coming to, but it is changing- and one big way it's doing that is cultural fragmentation. America has an incredibly diverse society now, and advent of things like the internet and 500-channel cable systems means that sub-demographics within society get broken down more and more. The different segments of America have less in common than they used to. There's less cultural glue holding us together, both ethinically/geographically and generationally.

12:17 PM  
Blogger Kafaleni said...

I don't really like the Goonies
This is not a new thing, and I think I have watched part of the movie, a while back, when it first came out on video (or possibly just on TV). Not my sort of thing. Star Wars either.

Everything else, though... YES! The stuff on other people's lists also! Soooo many great movies and TV shows!

I bet those poor deprived kids didn;t have parents who let them watch Blazing Saddles, Spaceballs or Young Frankenstein, either.

8:26 PM  
Blogger Derek said...

A beacon of hope

During my senior year at KU, I took a course on popular lit, and one of the first classes was spent discussing what we considered the "best" books, films, etc.

Most of the films listed were probably older than you, Wurm. (Casablanca, etc.) Also, most of them I had never seen.

Also, I am barely 23, and I totally agree with your choices in movies. Long live Mel Brooks!

6:34 PM  

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