You know how these films work. The story begins with some normal middle class young man, like Benjamin Braddock. He’s going about his life, being bullied by his father and manipulated by his mother. They don’t care about him, they care about appearances.
This normal young man, however, isn’t sure he wants to fit into this conformist world his parents have built. He believes in art and literature and beauty, unlike the troglodyte society around him. He believes in twue wove, er, true love, not passionless marriages of convenience, like his parents have. He wants freedom to run his own life. And he feels morally superior to his repressed, racist, conformists square parents.
As he meanders through the film, he learns that his parents are messed up. Yep, that’s dad in panties snorting coke off the belly of a male gigolo as mom deep throats the biker gang. How disgusting they are! All these hypocrite conformists are secret perverts!
Then he meets the beautiful, clean, well-educated, smart hippie chick. She's the one who clues him in that he just needs to do something anti-social to find his freedom. The moment he does, of course, the authorities grab him. They will not tolerate a man breaking petty rules! If Nazi-lite society is to succeed, then everyone must follow every rule to the insane letter, regardless of how unjust or stupid the rule is. They put him on trial, where a room full of white, boring, conformist males knowingly refuse to accept the truth and they punish him for being different.
That’s when the movie usually ends.
This is all hypocritical bullsh*t, and that bothers me. Observe.
First, keep in mind that none of these actors/writers are really normal middle class young man. Most came from upper-class NYC families and attended elite schools you never will. Many turned out to be homosexuals or communist fellow travelers. Almost all were drug addicts. So them pretending to be normal middle-class people who've soured on their own world is as fraudulent as if I claimed to be a normal black woman and then I wrote a scathing critique of black mother-daughter relationships.
Next, the 60’s generation claimed to be attacking the white, conservative conformist world of the 1950’s. But the 1950’s was when the Civil Rights Era really began as a white American project. It was a time when vast numbers of people started going to college, left the farms for the cities, left the cities for the suburbs, when Americans began traveling the world, when America became an idealistic world policeman and neutered the British and French colonial empires. A highway system was built to connect every backwater in the country, planes and television connected the world and world culture. It was a time of surreal and abstract art, and the adoption of black music as Rock and Roll by the public. Books were written attacking every institution. Tennessee Williams and a dozen others were already well on their way by the early 1950's to slandering all normal people as crazy perverts in stifling familial or marriage relationships. It was a time of massive upheaval, the shattering of ancient taboos and laws, a massive expansion of personal freedom, and the adoption of a new worldview. The only conformity was massive change everywhere.
Moreover, while this group of 60’s armchair heroes claimed to be inspired by art and literature and beauty, their generation produced very little of it that was worth remembering. The reason was they were happy to shout about their need for "freedom," but they got very lazy when it came time to actually exercising it. And by the time this generation hit the 1980s, they became ultra-conformists.
No doubt, I don’t need to mention the irony that a supposedly Nazi-like society of conformists should sprout a generation of “free thinkers” and support them through their silly childhood tantrums. Not a gulag, a re-education camp, or a column of tanks to put down protesters in sight.
And speaking of loveless marriages, what do these people know of love? The 60’s generation has a divorce rate that is more than double every other generation before and since. So you can look at all that talk about being against the passionless marriages of their parents as just that... talk. Marriage to them was entertainment and their spouses were just rentals.
Speaking of their parents, doesn’t it bother anyone that they attack the “conformist generation” for being secretly kinky –- gays, drug users, perverts -- when this is who they were themselves? Pot calling the kettle black much? What's more, weren't they calling for these things to be accepted? How can you mock someone for doing what you claim should be acceptable?
Finally, we come to the last bit of hypocrisy... the trial. This scene typically involves boring, white, conformist males refusing to see the truth which was so heavy-handedly jammed into audience faces and wanting to bring down the gavel of justice like a sledgehammer. But is that truly reflective of the prior generation? Hardly. The 1950's was the beginning of the era of the over-the-top, insane expansion of criminal rights and the shattering of government regulation of morality and petty crimes. Free speech was broadened to include whatever the hell you wanted, including graffiti, flag burning and anything else. Obscenity was made legal - Playboy was formed in 1953. The regulation of sex was essentially banned in any form.
This was the era where petty criminals were returned to society with a hearty handshake and an apology for being inconvenienced. It got so bad that films like Dirty Harry were written in response and a nationwide campaign began to unseat these judges and undo the damage they had done. It was a time when a single dissenting atheist could destroy decades old Christmas displays, when adultery was legalized, when psychology replaced morality. It was never what gets portrayed in these films.
That's why these films bother me. To put it simply, a bunch of rich-kid drug addicts were pretending to be straight-laced Americans shocked to find "their" values to be so oppressive, while making films attacking a totalitarian America that never existed and smugly demanding changes that were already long-since underway. As their reasons, they cited ideas they never believed themselves and which they would disavow once it no longer suited them.
Hypocrisy is truly ugly.