Film Culture in the Time of Recession

by: Sean Hunter
July 31st, 2011

So I was thinking about my parents. Thinking, more specifically, about the era they grew up. Both my mom and dad were born in the early 1960s, a time I often think would tragically appeal to some hipster tendencies I wear proudly today. Everyone's got to have a clique to call their own, right? Well, the thing that really messes with my mind is that for upwards of 40 years, my parents lived in an age without the Internet. I know this makes me sound juvenile, but it's really fucking hard for me to imagine living without the Internet. The only memories I have of non-Internet life involve sandboxes and Ahh! Real Monsters. I tend to get overwhelmed by this; by how integral the Internet and social networking are in my understand of day-to-day life. Though recently, I wonder if it's not such a terrible thing after all.

My parents didn't have DMs and "pokes," they didn't send thousands of text messages to communicate with each other when apart. I like to think that romance, in its purest sense, can be found just about anywhere regardless of the era you grow up in. However, there is something much more romantic about falling in love in a time when privacy existed. It's hard not to believe there was a lot more romance in society before the internet came into existence. People knew their neighbors and in-person conversation was less antiquated. My parents fell in love this way, face-to-face.The world was a place for them to share together, the real world and not AOL. I often wonder if I could handle that kind of pressure nowadays.

I'm a film guy. That's a label I've attached to myself over the years and I wear it proudly. I sometimes find myself quoting and relating movies to everyday situations at embarrassing levels. Films are something I feel like I can tangibly understand but the way I have fallen in love with movies also feels "sterile." I didn't grow up in a time where films played in theaters for more than a month or two. Instead of relying on the romance of a theater to present all my film experiences, like my parents did, I could buy and download the entire history of cinema with the click of a button. I feel like a fraud sometimes. Like maybe my love for film is just something I've tricked myself into believing. Compared to my parents and their parents it's not really that difficult for me to be a "film fan." I don't have to make the trek to a theater every time I want to see a film. Hell, I could explore the entire history of cinema without ever having to talk to another person at all.

But that is where I feel like I'm not a complete fraud. I have a massive desire to talk about film and to write about it. I would rather go to a theater with a crowd of strangers to see a new release than download it online. I guess in that way I'm a romantic, much like the film fans of the era during which my parents were married. However, I'm aware of the difference in my generation. We can be static and overly manic, I embrace that for some of the wonderful things it brings but there's often little soul to be found within our ranks...until recently. The years in which my generation shapes themselves into adults also happen to be the years in which our country is on the decline. We're in a recession and it's changing the way I see the world.

I'm 21 and in the years during which most people spend their days sitting around contemplating what they're going to do with their life, I'm stuck. I'm stuck because I'm growing up in the goddamned recession. During the height of this recession I stupidly decided to drop out of school and move home with my mom. My dad, I'm sorry to say, passed away some years ago so it's been my and my mom for some time. We have a strong understanding of each other, helping someone through a mutually difficult time in their life can do that to a person. I'll admit, dropping out of college was a pretty typical twentysomething decision but I'm not sure what's happening now is quite as "average." Because of this recession, my mom lost her job and she'd probably kill me if she knew I was spreading that news around online. Too late.

I've been home now for almost 2 years and this is mostly due to "being stuck." I'm working off student loans that I had to pay off early and I'm paying off normal bills because finding a job in this climate has proven more than difficult for my mom. I'm not going to lie, it sucks. But these are times that suck for a lot of Americans and I don't consider myself of the caliber to deserve any different than them.

Here's the silver lining though; I found you guys. The people who are reading this right now, you guys are the ones who've kept me sane during the recession. Film lovers. People that come to a website like Gordon and the Whale because they love film and they love people who love film. I found Twitter. I follow people who also love film and I talk to those people enough to call some of them friends. Writing for something like Gordon and the Whale has provided me a renaissance-esque romance with film and the culture surrounding it. I feel 2 legit 2 quit.

I take my mom with me when I go to the theaters now. She was never a big film person growing up, but there's something about the escapism of a theater that provides a warmth to both of us. I can honestly say that film culture is saving me during these times. Having something to talk about other than being stuck in a shitty town or hunting for a job makes the days seem better. What's even better is that films have given me hope. I feel like I've found my calling during the recession because of film culture. I'm going to be attending film school soon and I'm only able to do this because the passion of the people around me provided inspiration. In times where so many people feel a lack of happiness, I've never felt better.

There's a lot of talk about how film is dead and that "the Internet is killing the romance of cinema." I used to feel like my generation was comprised of frauds. I wished so desperately to live in a time when things "mattered" and to experience the era in which my parents were able to fall in love without the corruption of technology. I'm starting to think that might have been a bit dramatic.

Without technology, a kid from a small town in Colorado never would've been able to chat with his favorite director all the way in South Korea. I never would've had the opportunity to find the films that appealed to my mom's sensibilities and deliver a truly enjoyable theater experience when we needed it most. Sparking arguments with film lovers all across the world has reignited a romance in cinema that flickered out a generation ago. Where would my hope be without these things? The recession is changing a lot within our society. I know a lot of people aren't lucky enough to find the kind of solace I've found within the film culture in their own lives.They should only be so lucky to find such opinionated and passionate people. My time here at Gordon and the Whale is ending but it's only the beginning of a new chapter for me. This thing has taken on a life of it's own and I hope that some of you reading this feel like you share in a part of that. We live in strange times, and I'm glad you're here with me.

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