- God Bless America: Tin Pan Alley Goes to War (review)
- Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies
- Center for the Study of Film and History
- Volume 33, Number 2, 2003
- pp. 90-91
- View Citation
- Additional Information
Book Reviews | Regular Feature and violence, political issues, and finally the future (science fiction ). For clarity, he includes two useful appendices: briefbiographies of the key filmmakers and a listing of notable films. Hanson identifies the onset of Gen X films as the 1989 release ofSteven Soderbergh's sex, lies, andvideotape. While viewers were not ready for Soderbergh's innovative techniques in the late '80s, films like Tarentino's Pulp Fiction in 1994 helped accustom filmgoers to the new styles and by 2000 when Soderbergh released Traffic, this type of work had gained mainstream acceptance . Explaining their decade-long transition from trendsetters to cinematic authorities, Hanson catalogues "the myriad ways in which Gen X filmmakers illustrate their roles and society." He succeeds admirably by mixing social and cinematic history. Many people think of Generation X's role in society in terms of "slackerdom." But, Hanson explains, slacking comes not from laziness or perversity but from the bombardment of TV, the rise of infotainment, accelerating commercialization, deepening political dysfunction, disappointing education, and social upheaval in the home—all factors from their childhood that have left this generation profoundly skeptical, cynical, and despairing. This causes some of them to abandon the society they find "unspeakably cruel" or unspeakably consumerist, like the characters in Fight Club. Others, having little respect for the social institutions they believe have failed them, feel the need to exert some degree of control over their worlds. But, we might ask, if this generation is so dissatisfied with the society it inherited, why do not its films demand or, at least, recommend change? Hanson does not answer this question directly (although he poses it), but he hints that the answer may lie in the generation's narcissism. As Hanson admits: "Gen X characters often spend so much time analyzing their own lives and troubles that they sometimes are blinded to the world around them." Retreating from the "combative arena" in which they were raised and doubting the legitimacy of social institutions, Gen Xers' movies shy away from overtly political, religious, and racial issues while charging headlong into issues of drugs, violence, and sexuality. Looking at the body of work as a whole, though, it becomes clear that these directors feel comfortable raising questions that they will not or cannot answer. On the whole, Hanson lauds the directors ofhis generation, criticizing only theirtendency to treat "the petty crises ofthe privileged as high drama." He defends their avoidance of most political , racial, and religious issues, asserting that they were so turned offby the societal hypocrisy oftheir youths that they can have no faith in the ability of institutions to make headway with difficult problems. Even "slacking" becomes somehow romantic since those who "slack" do so from a higher purpose, refusing to participate in a corporatized, homogenized, cruel society. Hanson has written an engaging book about Gen X cinema, but as the subtitle suggests, this is a "critical study" of a group of films. Those hoping to find answers to some ofthe more perplexing questions about Gen X cinema from the directors themselves will have to look elsewhere. Hanson has focused on the films and their context, but has not interviewed the filmmakers themselves, instead relying on published interviews in magazines like Premiere . Still, The Cinema of Generation X is immensely readable and comprehensive. I will not keep this book on my shelf. Rather, I will keep it in my car for ready reference whenever I happen upon a video store. Laura Wittern Keller University at Albany Kathleen E. R. Smith. God Bless America: Tin Pan Alley Goes to War. The University Press of Kentucky, 2003. 274 pages; $45.00. Music and Patriotism On the evening of December 7, 1941—just hours after the Japanese sneak attack had jolted most Americans from years of uncertainty, apathy, and complacency—many groups quickly gathered to formulate plans for the next few days. The armed forces, of course, stood at maximum alert ready for any encounter while law enforcement officers, following J. Edgar Hoover's afternoon dictum, started rounding up potential saboteurs and enemy agents. Newspaper editors, determined to keep the nation informed, bellowed orders to pressman, ordering these printers to stand by their equipment, ready...