The trailer for the documentary ReGeneration has gone online. The film, produced and narrated by Ryan Gosling, argues that today’s generation of teenagers and young adults are far more apathetic than previous generations. The synopsis says the doc “takes an uncompromising look at the issues facing today’s youth and young adults, and the influences that perpetuate our culture’s apathetic approach to social and political causes.”
Hit the jump for the trailer and why I think this movie is going to be irritating.
Here’s the official synopsis from the movie’s website:
Beyond the labels of “Generation X” and “Generation Y,” the feature documentary film ReGeneration takes an uncompromising look at the issues facing today’s youth and young adults, and the influences that perpetuate our culture’s apathetic approach to social and political causes.
Focused on how today’s education, parenting, and media can shape us, the film follows three separate walks of life representing today’s generation. Each brings their own unique perspective – from an inspired collective of musicians working outside the corporate system, to a twenty-something conservative family about to welcome the birth of their second child, and a group of five high-school students from the suburbs looking for their place in society. Their stories are interspersed with the knowledge, wisdom, and personal reflections of some of the country’s leading scholars, social activists, and media personalities, including Andrew Bacevich, Noam Chomsky, Talib Kweli, and the late Howard Zinn, among others.
Within the film, the discussion of apathy found in today’s generation leads to exploration of technology, our disconnection with nature, how much we consume, our loss of history, and the economic factors holding many of us back from becoming more active participants in our communities. With such a varied and intelligent group of interviews, we come to a deeper understanding of the numerous influences shaping today’s culture where one universal feeling is shared – our society is at a crossroads, economically, environmentally, and intellectually – and we must change ourselves and the world for the better.
I haven’t seen the movie, so please note that I’m making these judgments based on the official synopsis and trailer. I have several issues with what ReGeneration is selling:
1.) Every generation believes that the latest one is the worst. This leads to the imagined past where we’ve lost site of “what was great” about our country. Specifically, the film is pointing to the 60s and how activism affected social change. I’m curious if ReGeneration will go on to mention how the baby boomers then transformed into the selfish Reagan generation where it was more important to feel good about America than actually changing America. Furthermore, when we refer to “The Greatest Generation” (the ones who fought in World War II), there’s no mention of America’s deeply engrained bigotry. If you can find someone who was a minority in the 1950s, ask them how their life was going.
2.) When you take aim at an entire generation and accuse them of being apathetic, it makes them even more likely to tune out your message. It’s not because they’re apathetic, but because no one likes being grouped in with every single other young person in America. No one wants to see a movie to be scolded. They want to be encouraged. If anything, this seems more like a movie to comfort those who look down on those darn kids today.
3.) The trailer presents an extremely vague notion of social activism. Should people rally around any cause? Is one cause as good as another? Or is it just good to write a letter or stand outside with a sign? Hopefully, the film will address what counts as meaningful activism because I think there’s a more thoughtful exploration there beyond “Consumer culture and video games have ruined today’s youth.” There’s also footage from the Occupy movement, which would seem to negate the argument that young people don’t care about what’s happening in the world.
4.) The movie’s website puts a Twitter hashtag in front of the title. I’m of the opinion that social media has ruined social activism. The effort of supporting something goes as far as a mouse click or a few key strokes. I could just as easily support #GayRights or #HealthCare as I could their movie. It’s all equal. The same goes for Facebook “likes”. Last year, people on Facebook changed their profile pic to a favorite cartoon character as a way to “protest” child abuse. It’s not apathy. It’s fake activism. I wonder if the filmmakers behind ReGeneration understand that distinction.
But I will say this about ReGeneration: I’m curious to see it even though I think it will infuriate the hell out of me, and not in the way it was intended.