As a kid, I remember my dad often hyping up a movie that he had seen years before. “I laughed so hard,” he told us repeatedly as we prepared to watch the 1965 western comedy Cat Ballou. My sister and I barely chuckled in the entirety of the 97 minute film. Yesterday, my girls had a similar experience with The Sound of Music. While they enjoyed the familiar music, they found the movie “too long,” “too romantic” and overall, “boring.”
What shapes our viewing experience? First, let’s look at pop culture products that have made it through the test of time (in other words, contemporary audiences still “get” them). Watch this clip from Charlie Chaplin’s 1928 silent film The Circus:
What happened in the scene? How did Charlie Chaplin respond? Can we relate to his reactions? Why?
Many older films and TV shows aren’t quite as easy to understand. Some just haven’t aged well, meaning that what was considered funny, relevant, or appropriate when the film/show came out, is not now. Culture and technology changes so what seemed new, exciting, and acceptable at the time doesn’t always work for future audiences and may be offensive.
What about movies that parents love but their kids do not? Why do we have these differences in our consumption experience? One reason may be changes in how stories are told. Films used to slowly build a narrative, using plenty of dialogue to fill in each moment in the story. Although the kid and singing scenes in The Sound of Music move along, the adult exchanges are pretty slowly-paced and over-dramatized.
On the other hand, our post modern films and TV shows are more fast-paced and fragmented, assuming that audiences can fill in the pieces or that they don’t matter. Fewer lines of dialogue convey about the same thing. What is a film you didn’t like that your parents do? Why do you think that is?
Generation gaps happen the other way as well. You definitely enjoy books, music, games, shows, and movies that your parents either don’t understand or don’t understand why you like them. Here’s an example from our house:
I am not a fan of the books or movies, yet my kids love them because they can relate to the characters and have grown up reading graphic novels.
How about in your house? What do you like that your parents don’t? Why do you like the product? Ask your parents why they don’t like it. What explains the difference in opinion?
What movies from your childhood will you want to share with your future children?