Bill and Ted Face the Music: a study of GenX and Millennial tension?

Have you seen the trailer for the new Bill And Ted movie coming out? It gave me an awful feeling. Not that it wouldn’t be fun– in fact I think it will be great fun, and I plan to see it soon after release.

But the trailer made me wonder if it’s a film about the fractured relation between GenXers (like myself) and millennials.

Here’s Bill and Ted, who when they were young thought they would save the world, and who find in their middle age that they’ve done basically nothing about it. They’ve been living by a perfectly wholesome and decent moral mantra: ‘be excellent to each other’ and ‘party on dudes!‘ But it isn’t working for them anymore. They’re feeling the pressure of the responsibility to save the world, and at least one of them is feeling disaffected by it.

They have two millennials for daughters, who are still energetic, ambitious, and adventurous, as their fathers were at that age. They’re old enough to be angry about things and to take responsibilities; yet perhaps not yet old enough to become jaded and cynical. And so they embark on a world-saving adventure of their own.

I have a feeling that this will be a film about how GenXers like myself fumbled the ball. There are lots of reasons for that– the small size of the cohort, the three different recessions that hit us as we entered the workforce, the boomers who screwed us just as hard as they’re now screwing the millennials, etc. Nonetheless, we fumbled it. Whatever we did to try and save the world, it wasn’t enough: we still have a climate crisis, income inequality, racism, sexism, homophobia, and the whole wild ride. And now, we have Nazis, too. Actual Nazis, marching in the streets again, armed, Roman saluting, and waving the American flag. No wonder the millennials are picking up the ball and running with it, and leaving us GenXers behind.

I gave most of my 20s and 30s to social causes and movements that accomplished very little, and now seem to want nothing to do with me anymore. My whole experience of participating in public life, in these last few years, has been coloured by this creeping feeling of being left behind.

So, Bill and Ted, like me and maybe other GenXers too, must face the music– a wonderful metaphor for facing ourselves and our ineffectiveness. I hope that while Bill and Ted’s daughters go on to save the world, Bill and Ted themselves discover they still have something they can do to help.

Something that being excellent and partying on can provide.

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