Exploitation director Barry Shear, an exact contemporary of Norman Mailer and Paul Fussell, evidently shared their faith in the revolutionary potential of the generation born just before the Boomers. Like Mailer’s The Armies of the Night (1968), Shear’s AIP sci-fi flick Wild in the Streets (1968) dramatizes the alienation and contempt that led the Boomers’ immediate elders to organize an epic anarcho-pacifist march on Washington in October 1967; and like Fussell’s Class: A Guide Through the American Status System (1983) it celebrates the psycho-emotional space (Fussell’s “category X”) occupied by teenage mutant refugees from Cold War bourgeois status anxiety. In the scene shown here, Shelley Winters (who brilliantly portrays an avatar of bourgeois status anxiety) struggles to close the generation gap between herself and her son, rock star and future president Max Frost. The scene’s blocking tells us that Max (Christopher Jones, second from left) has embraced a new, tribal paradigm that doesn’t include her; he’s shoulder-to-shoulder with his band/family, an Argonaut Folly who will later serve as his Cabinet. Wild in the Streets is often described as dystopian, but it isn’t; instead, it’s anti-anti-utopian. Though Max ultimately cannot escape his parents’ (and culture’s) malign influence, his initial vision of an eroticized, peaceful and non-repressive America mustn’t be lightly dismissed.
An occasional series analyzing some of the author’s favorite moments in the positioning or movement of actors in a movie.
THIRTIES (1934–43): It Happened One Night (1934) | The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) | The Guv’nor (1935) | The 39 Steps (1935) | Young and Innocent (1937) | The Lady Vanishes (1938) | Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) | The Big Sleep (1939) | The Little Princess (1939) | Gone With the Wind (1939) | His Girl Friday (1940)
FORTIES (1944–53): The Diary of a Chambermaid (1946) | The Asphalt Jungle (1950) | The African Queen (1951)
FIFTIES (1954–63): A Bucket of Blood (1959) | Beach Party (1963)
SIXTIES (1964–73): For Those Who Think Young (1964) | Thunderball (1965) | Clambake (1967) | Bonnie and Clyde (1967) | Madigan (1968) | Wild in the Streets (1968) | Barbarella (1968) | Harold and Maude (1971) | The Mack (1973) | The Long Goodbye (1973)
SEVENTIES (1974–83): Les Valseuses (1974) | Eraserhead (1976) | The Bad News Bears (1976) | Breaking Away (1979) | Rock’n’Roll High School (1979) | Escape from Alcatraz (1979) | Apocalypse Now (1979) | Caddyshack (1980) | Stripes (1981) | Blade Runner (1982) | Tender Mercies (1983) | Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983)
EIGHTIES (1984–93): Repo Man (1984) | Buckaroo Banzai (1984) | Raising Arizona (1987) | RoboCop (1987) | Goodfellas (1990) | Candyman (1992) | Dazed and Confused (1993) |
NINETIES (1994–2003): Pulp Fiction (1994) | The Fifth Element (1997)
OUGHTS (2004–13): Nacho Libre (2006) | District 9 (2009)
READ MORE essays by Joshua Glenn, originally published in: THE BAFFLER | BOSTON GLOBE IDEAS | BRAINIAC | CABINET | FEED | HERMENAUT | HILOBROW | HILOBROW: GENERATIONS | HILOBROW: RADIUM AGE SCIENCE FICTION | HILOBROW: SHOCKING BLOCKING | THE IDLER | IO9 | N+1 | NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW | SEMIONAUT | SLATE
Joshua Glenn’s books include UNBORED: THE ESSENTIAL FIELD GUIDE TO SERIOUS FUN (with Elizabeth Foy Larsen); and SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS: 100 EXTRAORDINARY STORIES ABOUT ORDINARY THINGS (with Rob Walker).