Fast Times is but the first of a whole series of 80s/90s-era movies that chronicled Gen-X like almost no other generation. You can literally watch the entire generation grow up on-screen.
- Fast Times was our freshman year
- Sixteen Candles was our sophomore year
- Breakfast Club was our junior year
- Say Anything was our senior year
And while there aren’t any particularly good movies of our college years (Singleton’s Higher Learning was more polemic than slice-of-life) there’s some excellent chronicles of our post-college lives, too, with Singles, Reality Bites, and Feeling Minnesota all deflating the sense of wonder with which we left high school, and Beautiful Girls and Grosse Pointe Blank showing us that you really can’t go home again, either.
Along the way, you also get to see our older siblings struggle through post-college life in St Elmo’s Fire and our younger siblings reflected through a movie you already mentioned with Clueless.
Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful, and Listen to Me are all right-guy-and-right-girl-finally-get-together fairy tales, while Heathers, was just the revenge fantasy on the flip side of the same coin. Ferris Bueller was the ultimate escapism for the children of absentee parents too busy trying to chase the greed-is-good bigger-is-better mantra of the 80s instead of raising their kids, bemoaned by ‘Jack’ in Fight Club (and cleverly connected by internet theorists).
All of those movies contain completely recognizable and relatable Gen-X characters, but are more concerned with telling a specific story than capturing a broader zeitgeist, that slice-of-life that you perfectly identified. Say Anything certainly straddles that line, but the background characters, coupled with Cusack’s stumbling forward beyond graduation, gives it a ‘wider’ feel than just a love story.
The Wild Life takes a stab at what life looks like right after high school, but ultimately descends into teen-sex-comedy-farce straight out the well-trod playbook already explored by Porky’s as well as Screwballs and Last American Virgin. Fresh Horses was the hard dose of reality we all needed whenever we thought we were capable of playing grown-ups, almost as the antidote to The Wild Life.
Sadly, while there’s a bunch of similar slice-of-life movies for other generations, they are almost universally one-shot flicks, with no spiritual connections to any other movies to carry the viewer along through ‘lifecycle’ of those generations. Can’t Hardly Wait, Easy A, Jawbreaker, 10 Things I Hate About You, Mean Girls, and Girl Next Door are all parts of what should’ve been an all-new niebelungen-cycle for another generation that never quite fully materialized. Similarly, Dazed & Confused would’ve been a perfect jumping-off point for broader family of movies that would’ve tracked Mitch’s generation through high school, but we ended up with That 70s Show filling that niche instead.
You’ll never tell those stories on-screen again, tracking a generation through their adolescence into early adulthood, and not just because current generations are glued to their screens. You can’t tell it because the big-screen movie format is no longer the way to tell those stories. That maturation is now chronicled on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, and the linear storytelling of a movie seems antiquated and incapable of accurately capturing the half-dozen (or more) multiple, simultaneous, often-asynchronous immediate interactions taking place all-day, every-day in their coming-of-age. Today’s kids aren’t sitting in detention having deeply personal conversations with a bunch of strangers because they’re already having multiple simultaneous conversations with other people who aren’t even in the room.
Someone will figure out how to tell the stories of post-millenial generations. The question is how well-chronicled they’ll be — an extended narrative that builds over 15 years and contributed to by multiple creators, or a series of completely-disconnected one-shots that only offer fits-and-spurts of visibility into what came after Generation X.