What defines a generation?
The 2010’s have struggled to find their own distinctive identity. Although social media has become more influential, politics are in turmoil and celebrity culture is more prevalent than ever, there doesn’t seem to be anything particularly unique about this generation. Everything seems to just be an intensified version of the tensions of previous eras. However, hindsight could eventually reveal the identity of the 2010’s. So, for now, let’s take a retrospective look at what movies encapsulated the atmosphere of the 2000’s:
American Pie (1999):
Whilst coming of age movies have always been around, with films like Stand By Me and The Goonies major examples, the aftermath of American Pie in 1999 was huge. What followed was a whole new comedy genre in the 2000’s. There’s often a huge cultural hangover from the previous decade, and the trends set in the 90’s still leaked into the noughties. The coming of age genre was turned on its head by introducing traditionally American gross-out humour, profanities, sexualisation, drugs and alcohol into a previously rather innocent genre. These aspects had tended to be sidelined beforehand, but this look at teenage life, whilst sensationalised, captured the new form of adventure for teenagers in our less censored society. Whilst by no means a critically acclaimed, highbrow film, American Pie sums up the coming of age shift that oozed into the noughties.
The Matrix (1999):
Here we go, the second film on my noughties list made in the 90’s. But, like before, cultural hangover took its place. Everything in the early 2000’s seemed hellbent on emulating The Matrix. Whilst now aged and far less cool than it used to seem, this film had such a huge impact on the action movie genre. Every movie had people in dark black clothing, leaping around in slow motion and shooting CGI bullets at each other. Alongside momentarily changing the trajectory of the action movie genre, it also tapped into people’s Y2K fears. The fear of technology combatting those who made it isn’t a new concept, but with the new decade approaching people thought the Y2K bug would contaminate computers and turn them wild. This didn’t happen, but The Matrix embodied these concerns right on the brink of their advent. The Matrix may not belong to the noughties, but my oh my did it change the terrain of the new centuries cinematic landscape.
The Dark Knight (2008):
Superhero films, whilst at times gloomy, have traditionally been fun, fantastical films. However, the 2000’s, or more specifically The Dark Knight, has caused a huge shift in the genre. Now it seems more common to see the dark and gritty superhero aesthetic. Arguably the best superhero film ever made, The Dark Knight incorporated elements of the crime, noir, and superhero genre into one tightly constructed, haunting, tense and masterful whole. It proved that superhero films don’t just have to be men in spandex slapping each other in the face, it can be something more profound, human, realist and nightmarish. On top of revolutionising a major genre, The Dark Knight also summed up the growing fears of terrorism post-9/11. The Joker’s scheme centres on stirring mass hysteria, something prevalent in today’s unpredictable world of terror. This fear reached its boiling point in the noughties, as emphasised by this film, and left an irreversible mark on the political world.
The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
We’ve been conscious of environmental damage for decades now, but the 2000’s saw an intensification of pressure on governments to kerb the damage. The disaster film franchise started to focus on issues like pollution and global warming, with The Day After Tomorrow summarising the changing attitudes of the era. Whilst an eccentric, overly dramatic, scientifically illiterate film, it emphasised people’s concerns, delivering this through a blockbuster in order to appeal to a wide audience. Whilst films like An Inconvenient Truth take a more credible approach to the issue of environmental damage, incorporating real science, less critically lauded films like The Day After Tomorrow and 2012 definitely had a greater cultural significance due to their widespread appeal for audiences of all kinds.
Mulholland Drive (2001)
Whilst on the surface a classically ambiguous Lynch tale, Mulholland Drive is a tale about our obsession with celebrity culture. The media has never given the famous an easy ride, constantly harassing them. However, this escalated in the 2000’s. With the popularisation of the internet and a lessening of censorship, celebrity culture has taken over the world. The cult of celebrity is inescapable, and Mulholland Drive perfectly exemplified the shift in societal attitudes. Also, regardless of being a vital message about our society, this film was voted the best film of the century. When people think of classics they almost always automatically delve back to the advent of cinema, but there are groundbreaking, phenomenal films still being made. Mulholland Drive is a classic which won’t be forgotten anytime soon, and nor should it be. Although it summed up the birth of an intensified celebrity culture in the 2000’s, it seems even more relevant to the social media generation.