American Graffiti

I watched this movie last weekend. It showed what was in my opinion a very idealized look at the youth culture of the ’60’s. Set in 1962, it was still an age of innocence: before the JFK assassination, before the Viet Nam war, before the British invasion, before all the race riots, before Woodstock, before Easy Rider, etc.

In other words, it is set just before my generation. I would’ve been in Grade Nine when this movie was set.

But it was an enjoyable watch none-the-less. It showed hot cars, had actors in it dressed like we did in the sixties, at least the early sixties. It brought back many memories of an earlier time. Today this seems like another life time ago. Of course, it was set in California, which I imagine was vastly different than Lincoln, Nebraska, where I grew up. Not many kids had hot cars like shown in the movie. There were some, but they were not prolific. Most of us drove rather prosaic, ordinary cars, at least in my circles.

But I enjoyed the movie, despite all my criticisms. Filmed in 1973, it was George Lucas’s look back at his own youth in central California. So for him, I would imagine this is how he remembered his teenage years.

One thing this did for me was to point out the incredible changes my generation has lived through. Following the time period depicted in this movie, there were so many huge events, life-changing, society-changing, earth-changing happenings. Beginning with the JFK assassination, of course, but then the rise of the Viet Nam war (which my generation fought), the race riots, the anti-establishment ethos which very quickly developed during the sixties, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr, and Robert Kennedy. These last two deaths affected me personally more than the death of President Kennedy. I had heard RFK campaigning in person in Lincoln. I was so much more aware of the wider world around me than I had been when JFK was killed.

And of course, the Viet Nam war affected us extremely deeply. I served two years in “civil service” as a conscientious objector to the war. One brother-in-law spent four years in the air force. Many of my classmates went to fight and never came back. Many of my generation came back deeply scarred from their experiences.

What a time it was!!! And American Graffiti helped bring up many of these memories. If you haven’t ever seen it, I would recommend you watch this movie, either to recall this era if you are close to my age, or to help understand this era of an earlier generation.