If you were ever part of even a mildly successful rock band in the 1960s and 70s, get back together again and get on the road as soon as possible: legions of ageing Baby Boomers are just waiting to buy tickets to your sell out concerts, reliving their youth and lathering themselves in nostalgia like its an anti-ageing cream. This much has been clear for a while. The best selling toys in year 2000 were Scalextric, Meccano sets and Hornby trains, for the same reason: Boomer dads all wanting to relive their own childhoods as they bought toys “for the children”.
But now it’s the Gen Xers’ turn. I was just 7 years old when Star Wars: A New Hope was released, but I remember it clear as day. Well, I remember the impact it had on my generation – my parents wouldn’t let me go and actually watch the movie at the time. But suddenly our “cops and robbers” or “cowboys and indians” schoolground games became “light side / dark side” battles. Gone were the bows and arrows, and in came light sabres and “the force” as our imaginary weapons of choice. And even today, if you give anyone in their 30s or 40s a 1m long stick, they’ll as likely take the Jedi fighting position, and raise the stick as a light sabre. It’s embedded in popular culture of this generation. And this generation are now parents.
Generation X have been labelled as the generation who came of age in the 1970s and 80s, shaped by a new popular culture that included grunge, punk and whatever it was Michael Jackson was doing. Our angst was captured in movies like “The Breakfast Club”, “Heathers” and “Clerks” and our aspirations shaped by “Trainspotting”, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “Back to the Future”. Just a few weeks ago, this generation actually arrived in its own future. On 21 October 2015, we looked for our self-lacing Nikes (Michael J Fox was actually given a real pair that day by Nike), our hoverboards and flying car.
And now it’s time to see the latest edition of Star Wars, on worldwide release on 16 December 2015. Early indications suggest it will break just about every record that exists for movies. And one of the main reasons is that this franchise taps into the Generation X psyche. Like our Boomer parents discovered before us, when you get into your 40s, you have money, time and desire to recapture the magic of your youth. And to share it with your kids.
Star Wars is for everyone, everywhere. It’s a tale as relevant today, with our battle against terrorism, as it was back in the 1970s when it was the height of the Cold War. It has eternal themes, a hero’s journey, and every other great story telling technique brilliantly woven together. But it is also especially a Generation X story. It’s the story of young people growing up in broken homes, consumed in large events beyond their control, with both good and bad intertwined in a complex web. The dark side seems to be winning most of the time, and the good guys are rebels. Gen Xers connect with it. And they’ve introduced their children to it too.
And that is why the new Star Wars movie is one of the most anticipated movie releases of all time. It’s more than a movie. It’s a generational statement.
May the Force be with you.