Generation X is dead — as a subject, that is. The people who purportedly constitute it are still around. They’re young and all that; they’ve got their whole lives ahead of them, God bless ‘em and good luck. But enough already. All the books, articles, dissertations, satires, and wisecracks intended to illuminate what this mass of post-boomers actually represents are old news — and they haven’t added up to a whole lot.
If the sociology that is meant to explain Generation X has been lame, then the entertainment that’s being aggressively marketed to that generation is lamer still. Take, for example, the awful 1994 X-oriented movie Reality Bites, with its user-friendly ensemble of flip cultural stereotypes — one’s a slacker, one’s a player, one’s a trollop, and they all know the words to the Brady Bunch theme song. Unfortunately, Reality’s poor performance at the box office hasn’t stopped other distributors from trying to cash in on the X factor with such twentysomething releases (all recently out on video) as S.F.W., Clerks, Floundering, and Don’t Do It!.
The slick, briefly-seen-on-the-big-screen, Generation X tale, S.F.W., is a dire example of what happens when filmmakers try to use generational politics as a launching pad for a Statement. Stephen Dorff plays Cliff Spab, a directionless wiseass who becomes a national celebrity after being held hostage at — hey! — a convenience store for over a month. (The terrorists videotape the proceedings and demand that they be aired on television.) Quite conveniently, the only survivors of the initially multicultural crew of prisoners are the cute white girl and the even-cuter white guy (Dorff’s wounded-fawn look is more convincing than his flip-jerk look), and while S.F.W. nominally huffs and puffs over the ramifications of Spab’s favorite catchphrase, ”So f—ing what?,” the movie’s more audience-friendly mission is to get these two kids back together again. In the meantime, Spab is confronted by so many obnoxious caricatures that you keep waiting for the caption reading ”Satire” to pop up, but it never does. Cowriter-director Jefery Levy, speaking in the most condescending postgraduate tones, told a TV interviewer that the movie was all about ”discourse” (talk to me, Jacques Derrida, tell me all about it), and, if anything, S.F.W. demonstrates that such university pretensions should never be allowed within 50 yards of a movie studio. D