A new kind of film emerged in the late ’80s and first half of the 1990s to as an alternative to the mind-numbing noise of the Boomer Blockbusters. Smaller studios like Miramax rose to champion independent films. Generation X auteurs shaped by obsessive home video viewing – Quentin Tarantino, P.T. Anderson, Robert Rodriguez, Kevin Smith, and Darren Aronofsky – passed on the Hollywood path and instead built careers through low budget, DIY productions. “Reservoir Dogs,” “Sydney,” “El Mariachi,” “Clerks,” and “Pi” launched careers that would lead to Academy Awards and some of the most exciting films of the 1990s and 2000s.
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These filmmakers’ origins are true to the generational temperament of their peers.
Children born in the ’60s and ’70s did not grow up in the affluence and tranquility of the 1950s consensus. Instead they took a backseat as the Consciousness Revolution of the 1960s raged. It was now when the younger Silent and Boomer Generations rose up to challenge the cultural institutions built and maintained by the GI Generation who fought World War II.
The children of this era were forced to become independent, entrepreneurial, and innovative early on. Unlike the Boomers growing up in the ’50s and the Millennials in the ’80s and ’90s, Gen-Xers were not protected. The adults were too busy with the cultural chaos of the ’60s and ’70s to be the parents they should have been. Thus, Gen X knew that they had no one to rely on except for themselves. According to William Strauss and Neil Howe in their histories of American generations, this is standard for “Reactive” generations – and equips them for crises come middle-age. George Washington, John Adams, Ulysses Grant, Dwight Eisenhower, and Harry Truman were all part of “Reactive” generations too.
We can see how this mentality applied itself to Gen-X filmmakers. When these future auteurs wanted to make a film they maxed out their credit cards (Smith,) or volunteered for medical experiments (Rodriguez) and shot with the cheapest supplies available.
For Andrew Breitbart the path tread has been comparable. How can one reform a corrupt media complex that’s in the Democrats’ back pocket? Become the Media. Control of NBC is not necessary to launch stories that result in the defunding of ACORN or a congressman’s resignation.
Breitbart was born in 1969 – almost the middle of Generation X. The first 100 pages of Righteous Indignation, his hybrid memoir-manifesto, trace a trajectory not uncommon to others now in their mid ’30s to late ’40s. Breitbart’s college years were a time of high grade slack, irresponsible gambling, chemical self-destruction, and Marxist indoctrination. Emerging out of the haze with a worthless degree Breitbart set about rising from the bottom of the Hollywood pecking order.
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His job as a script deliverer meant shuttling packages around town while listening to the radio. This drew Breitbart into politics and the media, with the first blow to his anti-intellectual Hollywood leftism dealt during the Clarence Thomas hearings. The coup de grace came in the subsequent search for alternative answers when Breitbart dared tune his radio dial to someone he thought was a “Nazi,” Rush Limbaugh.
Then began a media voyage through the late ’90s and first half of the ’00s including apprenticeship with Matt Drudge during the Clinton years and constructing The Huffington Post while George W. Bush was in office. Righteous Indignation then shifts into manifesto form with two chapters that should be released as stand-alone pamphlets. Chapter 6 is “Breakthrough,” an accessible summary of the Left from Rousseau through Marx to the Frankfurt School and Saul Alinsky. In chapter 5 Breitbart lays out his rules of political warfare in his “Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Revolutionaries.”
The remaining chapters tell Breitbart’s narrative putting the Rules and the Breakthrough knowledge into practice to fight ACORN and defend the Tea Party.
What won’t you find in Righteous Indignation? Some manifesto of Breitbart’s political beliefs.
Breitbart is not driven by creating some “right-wing” utopia. He’s not obsessed with Liberalism vs. Conservatism as David Mamet is. He’s focused on disrupting and exposing the practical and concrete effects of the Left.
The takeaway from Righteous Indignation is that citizen journalists now have all the tools needed to bring down corrupt politicians, bad laws, and destructive organizations. Breitbart has bypassed the mainstream media gatekeepers just as his Gen-X cinema peers overcame the boomer blockbuster mentality.
The endowment of Generation X Hollywood Apostates is pragmatic independence: Ideology is not important. Dealing with the problems themselves in an effective way is what matters. Results matter. New institutions can and should be built.
In Part 5 of the Hollywood Revolt, we’ll conclude with a look at the future of both film and politics as a new generation rises and an old one is reincarnated.