Generations and Risk-Taking: From X to Millennial

This is a review of two movies that were watched together in one movie night.

The first movie is 2008ís Wanted, starring Gen-Xer James McAvoy as a bored office drone who gets recruited into a super secret league of assassins. As in earlier Gen-X movies that start the story the same way (Fight Club, The Matrix), the protagonist ultimately finds his destiny by breaking out of conventional society and embracing a singular role. It also has a lot of graphic, bloody violence.

Wanted is a cusper movie, and by the end of it the main character has crafted a career for himself which is not unlike being in a real world first person shooter. McAvoy is a late wave Xer, but I imagined he was living the dream of the video game addicted Millennial beta male Ė presumably the target audience.

The second movie is 2016ís Nerve, in which Millennial Emma Roberts is a shy high school student who decides to court notoriety by joining an underground Internet game of truth or dare Ė really just the dare part with obligatory smartphone recorded proof. Itís an action movie like the previous one but not murderously violent, rated PG-13 instead of R.

In Nerve the lure of a high-risk, action-packed life isnít a call to destiny but a trap, and the characters must ultimately test rivalry against loyalty in their quest to find a way out. It is the better of the two films, with more likable characters and a more sure-footed plot. It belongs in the ranks of films based on juvenile literature in which Millennials band together against a hostile externally imposed system (The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Maze Runner), but with the notable twist that the system isnít some sci-fi dystopia but rather a plausible creature of our own social media-driven times.

In summary, theyíre both flashy action flicks, but in attitude and message represent the difference between the brassy, individualistic Gen-Xer and the group-oriented, approval-seeking Millennial.

Year: 2008
Starring: James McAvoy (Generation-X peer, born 1979)
Angelina Jolie (Generation-X, born 1975)
Year: 2016
Starring: Emma Roberts (Millennial Generation, born 1991)
Dave Franco (Millennial Generation, born 1985)

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