After two decades of suffering through a culture of boundless Millennial over-confidence, Stranger Things at last came along and reminded us that Gen X’s more caustic view of humanity has turned out to be exceedingly more…correct. And of course, with America collapsing under the weight of a seemingly endless pandemic, as well as an almost unimaginably corrupt presidency (actually, Gen X totally knew that was coming), and an environmental crisis verging on the apocalyptic, a few “I told you so’s” are certainly in order.
One of those is in the form of the fascinating new film 18 to Party, which arrives in theaters November 6. It follows a group of teens around a parking lot outside a nightclub they’re not old enough to get into, one (probably summer) evening sometime in the 1980s. The kids riff thoughtfully but bitingly on all manner of sociocultural subject matter, with so much of the dialogue wrapped in a recognizably Gen X brand of seething cynicism.
A new trailer has just been released, which BlackBook premieres here. We also used the occasion to engage writer-director Jeff Roda on what it all means.
What does 18 to Party seek to convey about the internal value system of Gen X?
Well, I am a serious champion of the importance of Generation-X. It’s a hazy, lost generation in many ways, overlooked, bullied, neglected, and, to its credit, perhaps the better for it. I think in a very small way the film seeks to point at the tribal nature of that generation. It’s a small generation, comparatively, and I see it as a communal one. The values of Generation-X—and the kids in the film will age into this—come directly from observing and being deeply affected by the messiest parts of the Baby Boomers reign, including those born between around 1940-1945, who I like to call Beatle Boomers.
That’s a good one.
It’s a generation that normalized divorce and absentee parenting, and self-entitlement. Generation-X was the first line of defense in trying to make sense and untangle the Boomer world they were heading into, and changing it. Even Gen-X’s divorce rate has been drastically lower than their parents. It’s a more sensitive generation, more reflective, kinder. I think a lot of this came simply from seeing Baby Boomers as marauders in a way, taking and using and eating and wasting and buying and selling everything in their path. The bill is still being tallied and it’s become clearer that the Boomers intend to skip out on it. I mean, let’s be honest, Donald Trump can only be understood, if at all, as a Frankensteinian creation of the Baby Boomers.
The film is full of great lines—what are a couple of your favorites?
Probably moments that the kids just nailed, or made into their own things. Not one-liners or anything. There’s a back and forth about whether or not one of the characters should be considered Jewish or Catholic and, as a hybrid myself, I’ve had the same discussion well into adulthood more times than I can count. It’s funny but also points to the casual antisemitism that existed at the time in these outer suburban, all-white communities, without consequences. Another that is embarrassingly personal is one of the kid’s certainty that U2 stole their sound from The Alarm and will, because of this, live on forever.
Is the film something of a love letter to the last generation to grow up without intrusive levels of technology?
Generation-X is a clunky generation. And awkward. One of the many reasons is that it was the last generation that straddled both the digital and analog worlds. My first job in the city had me working on an IBM electric typewriter. Six months later little Macs were installed and I was utterly lost. It all happened like that. Half of us jumped into the tech world, the other half stayed back. I remember watching a commercial with a friend, a car ad, and at the end it flashed their website url, complete with the http…, and I looked at my friend and said “No way anyone will ever get on a computer and do that.” Meanwhile that same friend has been working at Google now for fifteen years.
How do you think Millennials or Gen Y would react to seeing this film?
I think they respond well. Especially as a taste of who and what their parents were and, sadly, how a lot hasn’t really changed. I also think it still blows minds for kids to see other kids without phones, etc., having to talk to each other. One observation is that lately it’s been cool for Millennials and Gen-Z to take shots at Generation-X, which is funny, but also, because of our hypersensitivity, it’s like what the fuck did we ever do to you? I’m dying to find out.