Home » (Gen)X Marks The Spot: Cold Start

(Gen)X Marks The Spot: Cold Start

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I’m well aware that we GenXers seem to complain a bit, yet I think we have reason to. We’re truly stuck in the middle: younger people mistakenly call us Boomers, and the Boomers themselves often look down on us as slackers or the “first generation that didn’t do better than their parents”. What’s worse is that in the nineties we had to endure television and film depictions of us that perpetuated these stereotypes.

Well, maybe not all movies. There were two movies in particular that could be tagged as GenX touchstones, namely Singles from 1991 and Reality Bites, released in 1994. One flick was rather sympathetic to the plight of our demographic while the other seemed to be a bit like a Boomer’s interpretation of “what these kids want.” Oddly enough, the “bad guy” in one film drove a car very similar to the one the “good guy” did in the other. Go figure.

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I liked Reality Bites at the time, but in retrospect the characters are a bit insufferable. The writers have pegged GenXers as having a pervasive need to “not sell out” in the film to the evil people that want money cash and the trappings of it. Winona Ryder’s leading lady is even annoyed that she is gifted her dad’s flashy old car upon graduation: a dope-ass early E23 7 series on black Ronals. She’ll get little sympathy from us Autopians:

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The ”good guy” in the film, played by Ethan Hawke, is kind of a please-punch-him-in-the-face too-cool-for-school asshole by any measure. Naturally, you’re supposed to root for him and not the employed Ben Stiller character trying to gain Winona’s affection. This so-called “bad guy” is an entertainment exec that seems like a pretty damn nice bloke, his only crime being his well-paying job and a yuppie-mobile in the form of a Saab 900 Convertible. It’s possible that the makers of the film, for whatever reason, thought that it was well-suited as an “obnoxious rich person” car.

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To me, Singles captures the GenX zeitgeist in a more appealing way. The soundtrack is good, even featuring the actual members of Pearl Jam as the musicians of Matt Dillon’s character’s band, Citizen Dick. Like Ethan Hawke in Reality Bites, Dillon has similar relationship issues with the main female character, but he comes across as a far more appealing, loveable schlub. You might remember him installing a stereo into his on-again/off-again love’s Gen 1 1978 Scirocco (and blowing out the glass):

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Dillon is not the lead character in Singles; Steve Dunne is, played by Campbell Scott, actually does have a reasonable job and very reasonable car even if it is, by the time of the movie’s filming, over ten years old. Actually, it’s an ultra-cool car: an early Saab 99 Turbo in faded Cardinal Red with the slick “Darth Vader wheels” (actually called “Inca” by the factory) similar to the one for sale shown below.

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It seems so strange that this “good guy” drives something that is nearly the same car under this skin as Ben Stiller’s in Reality Bites. The 900 is a very, very similar car to the 99; the nose is longer but from the firewall back to the average observer there isn’t a huge difference.

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There aren’t that many cars that can be portrayed as a symbol of ill-gotten gain while at the same time being shown as the chariots of the environmentally-conscious such as Steve was in Singles with his ill-fated “supertrain” concept.

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Honestly, the plight of us GenXers isn’t that different from that Saab. You can paint us as slackers disavowing materialism while at the same time grabbing the cast-offs of Boomers, or you can see us as innovators trying to make a difference but not afraid of money. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter to us.

Isn’t that what Anthony Micheal Hall said at the end of The Breakfast Club?

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Jim Stock
Jim Stock
18 hours ago

I am so GenX that my parents were born before ww2 and were both divorced twice and I was neglected and fended for myself. in high school (84-87) all the rich kids did drive a lot of SAAB 900s and other European stuff. In graduate school, I did own an old silver Scirocco. The cars I was around in high school and college tended to be 60s-early 80s garbage. It is a wonder that any GenXers are car people at all.

Cars? I've owned a few
Cars? I've owned a few
19 hours ago

I (a latter half Boomer) rented a Saab 9000 in Sweden back in 1988. It was (to my eye anyway) a gorgeous car and very pleasant to drive. One ergonomic boo-boo stood out like a sore thumb… In fifth gear, the shift lever blocked the ejection of the cassettes from the stereo.

Last edited 19 hours ago by Cars? I've owned a few
Chronometric
Chronometric
19 hours ago

Downshift, eject, insert, upshift.

Cars? I've owned a few
Cars? I've owned a few
18 hours ago
Reply to  Chronometric

Ten years later, I bought a used ’88 9000 Turbo. It was an automatic and didn’t share that ergonomic flaw. But the automatic took away a lot of the pleasure of driving that car and I sold it less than two years later.

JDE
JDE
19 hours ago

Saab 900’s were the trope of the standard Yuppie Mobile of the 90’s. I think even the southpark dudes made a short movie with Dana Dachar expounding upon this trope.

Day One Dave
Day One Dave
22 hours ago

Andrew McCarthy had a yuppie E30 in Pretty In Pink.

Red865
Red865
22 hours ago

As an older GenX, I don’t feel like our crowd ‘complained’. Sarcastic? Hell Yes! We didn’t really care for those morose type movies. We were more like Bueller…live your best day everyday…Twisted Sister/Beastie Boys were more likely. Since we started driving in early 80s, we were more impressed by V8 muscle, not really into those ‘foreign’ cars…except maybe a Ferrari/Countach.
‘Reality’ would catch up to us later in the 90s 🙂

UnseenCat
UnseenCat
22 hours ago
Reply to  Red865

Older Gen-X here too.

The grunge movement is kind of a major dividing line between older and younger GenX. Older GenX is more punk rock and new wave, later is more grunge with Nirvana and Peal Jam reigning supreme.

Cars, too. Older GenX tends to have a fondness for big V-8 power and the pre-Malaise era cars that could be had for cheap as first cars in high school. Oh, and plenty of VW bugs and early Rabbits for good measure. Younger GenX tends to have an interest in the European and Japanese cars that were coming to define high-tech increasingly efficient motoring.

Our generation went through a period of a lot of accelerated changes, so there’s a pretty diverse range of cultural icons and touchstones. Maybe someday the young’uns will want to hear our stories — there’s a hell of a lot to tell.

Last edited 22 hours ago by UnseenCat
OttosPhotos
OttosPhotos
21 hours ago
Reply to  UnseenCat

Older GenX too, and interestingly I never thought of that, but my younger GenX brother (who thinks he’s an xennial) was more into grunge while I’m more into New Wave, so that makes sense.

Jim Stock
Jim Stock
18 hours ago
Reply to  UnseenCat

I am older genX and I was an anomaly in that I love gurnge and hated 80 music but I was a late bloomer in that I dressed grunge and listened to heavy metal in the 80s when everyone else dressed preppy and listened to new wave and pop.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
19 hours ago
Reply to  Red865

I’m old GenX (first year into the cohort, I’m told). We didn’t really pay much attention to pop culture. It didn’t speak to us so much. We did adopt the punk DIY philosophy, even if you might not consider what we were always doing ‘punk’. Most of the corporate pablum didn’t speak to us, let alone Reagan/Thatcher.

But for the record, I always preferred small and agile cars and by the time the 90’s came around would throw up in my mouth a little everytime I would hear any grunge music. I guess we are not as monolithic as the marketing types would like.

Also, these movies discussed here were just plain bad. But I would give a shout out to the poor cars that got cast against their will and to Winona Ryder. Her best role so far IMHO was a short in Night On Earth. A great movie and her performance was pure Zeitgeist.

Weddings/Birthdays/Whale Breachings
Weddings/Birthdays/Whale Breachings
1 day ago

Well, I saw those movies at the time. They were ok, I guess.

My world more consisted of aiming elbows towards Doc Martin skinheads at St. Andrews, or ripping 3 ft bong tokes listening to stuff like The Chronic, or Ill Communication, or DJs like Plastikman. Along with the other things of interest to a growing boy doing illegal things in abandoned warehouses and sticky floor live music venues. Or, out on the lake with “friends” working on their tans, lol.

Sure, Reality Bites/Singles had their place, but I wasn’t looking at Saabs back then, or getting emotionally invested in some whiny flannel dorks.

If you go back and wanna talk Weird Science or Ferris, that’s a whole other conversation. 🙂

Last edited 1 day ago by Weddings/Birthdays/Whale Breachings
Papa Bruyant
Papa Bruyant
20 hours ago

St. Andrews? Plastikman? Toss in City Club and Big Chief and you’ve captured the Detroit of my 20’s perfectly.

Weddings/Birthdays/Whale Breachings
Weddings/Birthdays/Whale Breachings
20 hours ago
Reply to  Papa Bruyant

Did you know this is happening tonight? Sure, it’s a political fundraiser, but either way…Fuckin’ Dave Chappelle doing a set at St. Andy’s is crazy.

https://www.metrotimes.com/news/dave-chappelle-to-headline-detroit-fundraiser-for-progressive-us-senate-candidate-hill-harper-36700140

Papa Bruyant
Papa Bruyant
10 hours ago
Reply to  The Bishop

He was! Landed at Power 96 for a few years after leaving JLB, then left town a few years. Came back in early 90’s and bounced around a few places.

Gubbin
Gubbin
9 hours ago
Reply to  Papa Bruyant

Even in Seattle we could read all about it in Motorbooty!

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
1 day ago

Every generation shits on the next in line, especially in media. Just look at old movies and TV shows portraying Boomers (my generation) from the late 50s into 60s and early 70s beginning with the Beats through Hippies.

Apparently we all thought our parents were square; we all dropped out and turned on; stopped whatever we were doing to frug or watusi the instant that rock n roll started playing; grew our hair long; wore nothing but tie dye and bell bottoms; eschewed work; reveled in free love; burned our bras and draft cards; rioted in the streets and held sit-ins; had no respect for the “man;” believed in flower power and LSD trips; and ran off to Canada when our country needed us. At least, that’s how the “Greatest Generation” portrayed us.

In short, whoever has the power decides what we see. Gen X is in the barrel now and just look at the whiny, disaffected, EMO portrayals of Millenials propagated by your generation’s films and shows. Face it, when it comes to generational perceptions, revenge is a shit sandwich best served to the next person in line.

Why do we do this? It’s fun! And secretly we’re envious that the next generation has more life ahead of them than behind them.

Last edited 1 day ago by Canopysaurus
Weddings/Birthdays/Whale Breachings
Weddings/Birthdays/Whale Breachings
1 day ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

I only ever went to Canada to go to the “Windsor Ballet”.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
22 hours ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

In every generation’s defense, emo has always sucked.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
22 hours ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

Touché

Beasy Mist
Beasy Mist
1 day ago

I’m a xennial (geriatric millenial, if you will) and Reality Bites was my favorite movie for a long time after it came out when I was 13. I still like it, of course, but yeah the entire ethos of this movie makes no sense to me as an adult. Like at all. And if I encountered Ethan Hawke’s character as adult I would have absolutely hated him.

A. Barth
A. Barth
1 day ago

Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter to us.

Oh well, whatever. Never mind.

The Mark
The Mark
1 day ago

I grew up in metro Detroit so these VWs, Bimmers and SAABs don’t exactly stir up nostalgia. Where are the K-cars and the Cavaliers? Nobody had an Omni or a Tempo?

Beasy Mist
Beasy Mist
1 day ago
Reply to  The Mark

Yeah nobody in Toledo was driving around in an old 7 series I can tell you that.

Maymar
Maymar
1 day ago
Reply to  Beasy Mist

Everyone knows the singular 7-series shipped to the midwest in the 80’s was bought by Steve Harrington’s dad.

http://imcdb.org/vehicle_936554-BMW-733i-E23-1983.html

CTSVmkeLS6
CTSVmkeLS6
1 day ago
Reply to  The Mark

The Omni was busy being driven by the pizza boy in Home Alone

Anoos
Anoos
1 day ago

I didn’t like either of these movies. I think I more dislike Singles because every early 90’s college a-hole who I guess listened only to John Denver before they went away to school found some kind of musical awakening in the soundtrack and wouldn’t shut up about it.

They would never progress to buying the albums of the individual artists on the soundtrack – they would just play the soundtrack over and over.

Last edited 1 day ago by Anoos
10001010
10001010
1 day ago
Reply to  Anoos

The Singles soundtrack and the Crow soundtrack were both pretty damn good representations of music at that time.

Anoos
Anoos
23 hours ago
Reply to  10001010

Not criticizing the soundtrack, but Soundtrack Guy was a nightmare.

Along with Martin, Dutch Gunderson, Lana and Sally Decker
Along with Martin, Dutch Gunderson, Lana and Sally Decker
1 day ago

I’m Gen X but I’ve never seen Singles, and I only got through part of Reality Bites when it was screened outside the Student Union the night before the start of the Fall 1994 semester at the University of Connecticut. I thought the whole thing was a bit cheesy, but Winona Ryder’s character complaining about the free BMW was the last straw.

I always identified more with The Breakfast Club anyway…

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
1 day ago

I didn’t see The Breakfast Club until I was well into college, although our youth minister in high school kept nagging me to see it. Maybe that’s why I avoided it, I dunno. Anyway, seeing it for the first time through those oh-so-much-older-and-wiser eyes, I had a hard time imagining that we were really that stupid and melodramatic. Even though we totally were.

Along with Martin, Dutch Gunderson, Lana and Sally Decker
Along with Martin, Dutch Gunderson, Lana and Sally Decker
1 day ago
Reply to  Rad Barchetta

Let’s be honest, youth ministers can ruin anything.

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
1 day ago

Fact. Although she was kinda cute. Which also got ruined by her being a youth minister. So that tracks.

10001010
10001010
1 day ago

I know I’ve seen both at some point or another but I only vaguely remember small scenes from both of them and don’t remember the plots at all. Mallrats was much more to my taste.

Along with Martin, Dutch Gunderson, Lana and Sally Decker
Along with Martin, Dutch Gunderson, Lana and Sally Decker
1 day ago
Reply to  10001010

That’s another one I never saw. I also wasn’t one to hang out at malls, so just the title wouldn’t have clicked with me.

Lightning
Lightning
11 hours ago

Gen X here too and never seen either film, though I eventually saw Breakfast Club (on TV or VHS. . . I’ve only gone to theaters a handful of times in my life). I’m more a mostly don’t-pay-attention-to-pop-culture, DT type though.

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
1 day ago

I watched Singles so many times just to hear the music and see Bridget Fonda at her best (looking). That Supertrain thing always stuck with me. It’s a great representation of how our generation wasn’t taken seriously by our elders, but at the same time shows how naive we were. The train really was a stupid idea that had been tried before and continues to be tried by every generation that has come since. And it has yet to be feasible. Keep trying, Gen Z or Gen Alpha or whatever you call yourselves. We’re GenX and we’re not into your so-called “labels”.

Rapgomi
Rapgomi
23 hours ago
Reply to  Rad Barchetta

I can barely remember the movie Singles – but I totally remember Bridget Fonda in Singles!

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
23 hours ago
Reply to  Rapgomi

She was, in that movie, the quintessential hot grunge chick.

OM613
OM613
1 day ago

I grew up in a Saab household so we always picked up things like this where in one show or film the “thinking man”, maybe a surgeon or architect, drove a Saab and then another show had a yuppie prick driving almost the same car.
I suspect most other families didn’t discuss things like this.

Vb9594
Vb9594
1 day ago

I wish I could post picture comments here because this is a great opp for me, as a Gen Xer, to show off my ’88 Saab 900T convertible, but alas.

Mark Tucker
Mark Tucker
1 day ago

I hated Singles – because of that Scirocco. That movie came out mere months after I had to send my own beloved ’79 Scirocco to the junkyard for terminal rust, and seeing a completely rust-free one (same color, even!) get trashed by Matt Dillon (whom I’ve always thought was far more punchable than Ethan Hawke) just ruined the rest of the movie for me. I don’t actually remember anything else about it.

Last edited 1 day ago by Mark Tucker
Mark Tucker
Mark Tucker
1 day ago
Reply to  The Bishop

Front left lower control arm mount, yeah.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
1 day ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

Same for my brothers 78 model. Left it in a swamp in lower Lousiana one night at 3 am. Never went back for it.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
22 hours ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

Never having seen either of these movies, I’d go with Matt Dillon as more punchable myself. Throw in the fact that he was clearly dunking on you, a guy whose comments I’ve replied to probably literally severals of times, and it’s a solid lead for Dillon.

If only there were some sort of regular feature that ran on this site, maybe something centered around choosing the least bad option of two bad options, and you could – I’m really getting crazy with it here – have some kind of poll or something to really put numbers to it. Then we’d really know where things stand.

Oh well; a man can dream.

Mark Tucker
Mark Tucker
18 hours ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

Hey now, that is a good idea…

Six Inna Row Makes it Go
Six Inna Row Makes it Go
55 minutes ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

Same here. I also had a 79 Scirocco in college that rusted away to a pile of iron oxide. I think this is why I wasn’t really into the Singles movie either. I really loved that car, electrical gremlins aside.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
1 day ago

I’m ground zero for Gen-X, but neither of those movies appealed to me. Maybe it’s because I did do better than my parents? I mean, I earn less than my dad did relative to inflation, but he was drowning in debt and obscene interest rates.
I like the cars, though.

McMike
McMike
1 day ago

LOL, Mrs McMike made me watch both of these movies last week.

MEK
MEK
1 day ago

You just reminded me how much I want an old 900 Turbo. There is something about the lines that has always spoken to me. I’d rather have that fabulous 99 pictured, but unfortunately those have crept up out of my price range. The 900 is still doable on my merger budget. Well, mostly doable. Kindof… sortof…

Gerontius Garland
Gerontius Garland
3 hours ago
Reply to  MEK

You better hurry. 900s have gone up in price quite a bit the last few years.

Slower Louder
Slower Louder
1 day ago

I totally feel the ambivalence toward the Saab and I loved my base model 900 in that way. The steering, the controls, which I still think about. So beautifully simple. A friend, who was driving the new high-winding Integra, drove my car and said, “It feels like it was made by socialists.”

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