We are the in-between generation - some say the 13th generation in American history - sandwiched between 80 million Boomers and 78 million Millennials, and nearly half their size at 46 million. Yet, much of the world we live in today was created by Gen Xers:
Jeff Bezos, founder of the retail giant Amazon.com was born in 1964. YouTube was co-founded by three former Paypal employees, Chad Hurley, Steven Shih Chen, and Jawed Karim, born in 1976, 1978, and 1979 respectively. MySpace was first overseen by Brad Greenspan (b. 1975), Chris DeWolfe (b 1966), and Tom Anderson (b. 1970). The creator of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, was born in 1976; and Wikipedia, the first collaborative, multilingual online encyclopedia was the brainchild of Jimmy Wales (b. 1966) and Larry Sanger (b. 1968).Gen X also includes novelist Brett Easton Ellis, Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, actors Rob Lowe, Robert Downey, Jr, Halle Berry, Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Uma Thurman, and Drew Barrymore, as well as musicians Trent Reznor, Lenny Kravitz, Tracy Chapman, Shania Twain, Kurt Cobain, Billy Corgan, Dr. Dre, and Ice Cube.
For a more realistic look at Gen X, see this site.
Nineties icons are ready to face adulthood after all
By Stephen Marche on September 12, 2014
Jennifer Aniston in Cake at TIFF and Ethan Hawke in Boyhood.
Read more of our dispatches from the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival
Generation X is famously the generation that wouldn't grow up. This week, A.O.Scott has written a New York Times obituary for American adulthood, identifying a well-established phenomenon that Adam Sternbergh noticed nearly a decade ago: the rise of adults who are not really adult, at least in the traditional sense. The trend has coincided neatly with the rise (or semi-rise anyway) of the children born to the Boomers. It began in the nineties and has continued to swell since then. Which is why the Toronto International Film Festival this year may actually prove to be something of a turning point. In 2014, several different icons from the nineties, who are right at the heart of Generation X, are trying desperately to be grown-ups. They're even succeeding to some degree. Ethan Hawke, Reese Witherspoon, and even — gasp — Jennifer Aniston have made excellent, deadly serious movies that are, for lack of a better word, mature.
Jennifer Aniston's movie, Cake, may be the event of the festival. Its reception here has been highly reminiscent of the reception Dallas Buyers Club received last year. Standing ovations. Industry people crying in their seats. Matthew McConaughey won an Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club, and it would not surprise me if Aniston repeated the act for Cake. It would certainly be weird if she weren't nominated. That's certainly why the movie exists. The story itself is classic suffering-redemption-porn Academy bait. Aniston plays a woman recovering from a car accident that killed her son. The emotional trauma is secondary to the chronic pain she must endure. Popping massive quantities of Percocet and OxyContin, which she sometimes has to buy in bulk from a Tijuana pharmacist, she doesn't kill herself mainly because she doesn't have the guts.
Much will be made of the "look" of Jennifer Aniston in this movie. She wears no makeup and is covered in scars, including her face. "Ravaged" would be the correct word. No matter what she does to herself physically, however, she's still going to be Rachel and everyone watching will sympathize with her instantly. That sympathy is a powerful weapon given the subject of chronic pain. The character's constant, unremitting discomfort, which is alleviated only by drugged stupor, makes the audience's skin crawl. There is not a moment to settle down and relax, not one. You feel bad for her the entire 98 minutes. The misery is compounded, and complicated, by the fact that Aniston's character is a bitch — a self-aware bitch, but a bitch nonetheless. It's a courageous position to take: This woman's pain does not mean that she is a good person. Rather the opposite: The pain just makes her already nasty traits nastier. This is much, much braver than any other attempt by Aniston to recreate herself. She is willing to trade in on her strengths as an actress while pushing the audience as far as they can go. In other words, she is acting like somebody who wants to make something truly great and is willing to make personal sacrifices to help achieve it. In other words, she is acting like a grown-up.
Ethan Hawke, too, is doing some maturing this year, a year that may also turn out to be McConaugheyesque for him. He was in Boyhood, of course, one of the greatest films ever made about the nature of maturity and immaturity. And he has come to the festival with two great follow-ups. The most unlikely is a documentary about Seymour Bernstein, a classical pianist who teaches lessons in his single-room apartment in Manhattan, as he has done for nearly 59 years. It is a quiet, contained portrait of a single eccentric individual that nonetheless reaches far enough to ask questions about what the nature of art may be, what qualifies as a successful life, and where craft and ecstasy meet in the psychology of the artist. It is a film, really, about what creative work means. And it eschews the usual banalities about authenticity and personal expression in favor of a straight look into the minutiae of the business. Apparently Hawke had finally, mercifully abandoned the bullshit of Dead Poets Society and (shudder) Reality Bites.
Then there's Reese Witherspoon in Wild, which is most explicitly about maturation. The film version of Cheryl Strayed's memoir about hiking the Pacific Coast Trail, it is literally a pilgrimage away from the bad behavior of her youth — heroin, screwing random guys — and away from her grief at her mother's death, into a new life, into as she says "becoming the woman my mother thought I could be." In other words she had become an adult. The woman who was Tracy Flick in Election has finally grown up. The woman from Legally Blond has finally grown up.
All these actors are, or were, icons of the grand Peter Pan syndrome that has generally gripped culture, and which A.O Scott is the latest to identify. But I wonder if Scott may have spoken too soon. Adulthood hunger is starting to rear its head, although it's also possible that his piece is a symptom of the desire for maturity as much as an identification of its reality. At least these three actors show a kind of reprieve in the onslaught of kids' stories being the only stories. Eventually, acting like a kid gets boring. One of the most unexpected results of growing up is that everything gets much more interesting, even as it gets much harder and much more complicated.