Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Showing my age

This post contains spoilers about This is the End, but not for a few paragraphs down. You'll get another warning.

I'll be 40 in four months.

I'm feeling it pretty acutely when it comes to the sports world. I'll soon be reaching an age that serves as one of those absolute cut-offs. Professional athletes over 40 -- in the four major sports, anyway -- are few and far between, and in not too many years, I'll be older than all of them. For now, each sport does have at least one athlete who's older than me.

I don't feel it in the entertainment world, though. Many of Hollywood's biggest stars are over 40, and some are over 50. Age alone does not make you irrelevant in Hollywood, as numerous over-the-hill stars have been given the chance to continue doing things they started doing in their prime, back in the 1980s (or even, in some cases, the 1970s). Forty does not feel like such a daunting milestone in Hollywood.

Except in situations like this past Sunday, when I watched This is the End.

But let's back up again.

One way in which Hollywood has kept me feeling comfortably in the correct demographic is that the writers have tended to be my age. Since they're my age, they write references that I get ... even when those references are incongruous with the characters they're writing. A good example of this was something I posted here a couple years ago, about a television show I only ever watched a couple times. On an episode of Cougar Town, a show set in the present day, a character who was supposed to about 20 was talking about having an Emilio Estevez movie marathon with his friends -- an Estevez Festivez. This despite the fact that someone born in 1990 couldn't give a squirt of piss about Emilio Estevez.

That was the big change that I felt at the end of This is the End, a movie written and directed by 31-year-olds Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. These guys are probably on the young end for Hollywood writers, even though they've already been writing for quite awhile now. They're nearly ten years younger than I am, and this past weekend, I felt that for the first time in one of their movies.

Okay, I'm finally getting to the spoiler part. Avert your eyes.

What's happening in This is the End, a very funny movie that loses steam at certain key junctures, is The Rapture. Near the start, blue beams of light come down from the heavens to save the righteous from the impending apocalypse. Eventually, the characters start to realize that the key to their salvation is to be better people, and so they make various attempts -- both genuine and not so genuine -- to accomplish that. It works for a couple of them, and they get in to heaven -- a white and puffy paradise in which everyone's having a great time lighting joints off the heat created by their halos. (This is Seth Rogen we're talking about here.)

In this version of heaven, you get to have anything you wish, and all you have to do is think of it. One character (I'll stay vague) wishes for a Segway, and bam, he's riding on it. Another wishes for a performance from one of his favorite bands, and suddenly, we're seeing them from behind, just the backs of their heads, as though an epic reveal is on the horizon.

Except the reveal wasn't so epic for me, because it revealed ... the Backstreet Boys. All decked out in heavenly garb. (Heavenly garb = hip clothing that's all silver and white.)

I was already in my late 20s when the Backstreet Boys hit the scene. Goldberg and Rogen, however, were in their late teens. In other words, that's right in their nostalgia wheelhouse.

That moment when the Backstreet Boys start singing "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" -- yep, I had to look up the title, which speaks to the point -- is supposed to be a rush of kitsch awesomeness for the audience. If you're digging on this movie's groove, it's supposed to be a cathartic "Yeah!!!" And you're supposed to be taken back to the moment in your life when you experienced the guilty-pleasure thrill of boy band goodness that this song is supposed to indicate in this moment. (It's also a callback to earlier in the movie, when the song plays during a montage of stoner activities between Seth and Jay Baruchel in Seth's house.)

Except, I never had a moment like that with the Backstreet Boys, because I was too old. There was no part of what they represent that spoke to my experiences, so it didn't give me a genuine thrill or even much of a kitschy thrill. The resulting scene is executed with enough evident joy that I appreciated it on that level, but it didn't speak to my own life.

If this movie had come out ten years ago, the band that appeared in heaven at the end would have been something like Duran Duran or maybe even Bon Jovi. But it wouldn't have been New Kids on the Block, which would have been my era's version of the Backstreet Boys. See, there's another generational shift. The generation ten years younger than me actually thinks it's cool to ironically reclaim the Backstreet Boys. Today's 40-year-olds would never reclaim New Kids.

So I guess this really is the end, or the beginning of it anyway, for me being the demographic that receives these cultural references in their intended manner. The writers are going to keep getting younger -- relative to me, anyway -- and I'm going to keep heading north of 40.

Still got four months more, though. I'll live 'em up, and listen to as much Duran Duran and Bon Jovi as I can.


Nick Prigge said...

This post - which I rather enjoyed - made me think of seeing Damsels in Distress and Greta Gerwig saying "an oldie but a goodie" when she heard Another Night by Real McCoy. I'm pretty sure I cried.

Vancetastic said...

I think I remember that moment in Damsels. However, I'd have to assume that Stillman was sort of making fun of the character ... right? I mean, he's 62 years old.