Hollywood, Honesty and The Millennial Generation


Movie historians credit Bonnie and Clyde with inaugurating a new era in American film in the late sixties which resulted in a Hollywood renaissance that reached its peak in the mid-seventies. Suddenly directors were the center of the American film making industry, and several studios, including Warner Bros. and Columbia, responded by creating low-budget production units dedicated to producing the work of exciting new talents like Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, and Peter Bogdanovich.

The adjective that was applied to this film was “honesty”. A true telling of an American story that stripped of glamour (even though it starred Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty) from the movies and reveled an ugly truth within the American psyche.

Believe or not, Millennial and generation z folks born between 1980 and the early 2000’s like going to movies. They actually like watching movies in a theatres. The kicker is that often there is not much in the theatre that attracts their sustained attention. Because of this, they have primarily taken up YouTube, iPads, and Kindles to supply them with the entertainment they crave.

On Friday March 4th, Netflix launched the fourth seasons of “House Of Cards”. In my house by Saturday afternoon the entire season had been consumed.

Some writers have stated that the new generation of viewers demand quick 8 minute clips and that’s it, then they move on. The fact is that that is not true. Younger audiences seem to be more than willing to sit down and watch hours upon hours of similarly themed stories. In the truth of the matter, when revealed, for the Millennials it is that that the length and structure of feature film that constrains and limits a story in their eyes and they are demanding a more immersive experience from their entertainment investment. It is because of this that they are drawn to YouTube offerings searching for hours of similar moments and visual anecdotes. They are looking for substance, they are looking for depth and in many ways they truly crave to be honest witnesses of what they are visually experiencing.

This is why many inhabitants of the world’s that generation Z and the Millennial reside in feel that the product that Hollywood produce is inherently false.

Marshall McLuhan, Canadian English professor and media sociologist wrote, “The medium is the message. This is merely to say that the personal and social consequences of any medium – that is, of any extension of ourselves – result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology.”

Because of the intimacy of new digital delivery system, its personalization and the intimate control of this technology Millennials are demanding that whatever them do experience have within it some level of truth. This is the lesson that Hollywood does not understand in the least. They really should revisit the quote by McLuhan and understand that media has not become a thing of detachment but an intimate experience for this emerging generation, a relationship they take more than seriously,

Consumers aged 13-24 spend 11.3 hours weekly watching free online video compared with 8.3 hours for regularly scheduled TV, according to a study conducted in the fall of 2014 by Hunter Qualitative Research commissioned by digital-media firm Defy Media.

A major factor driving Internet-video consumption among millennials, per the study: 62% of survey respondents said digital content makes them “feel good” about themselves vs. 40% reported for TV. According to the survey, 67% of millennials said digital delivers content they can relate to vs. 41% for TV, and6 6% said they turn to digital content to relax vs.47% for TV.

Younger viewers connect more strongly with YouTube and other digital-native content because it feels more real than what’s produced for TV, Defy Media president Keith Richman said. “Digital video is not as canned — it makes millennials feel better about who they are,”

Many have said that their are no more stars, on the silver screen that is most likely true but on YouTube it is not. Young men with odd monikers like PewDiePie, Markiplier, JackSepticeye are attracting hordes of teenage girls that would make the adulation shown Frank Sinatra and the Beatles as minuscule in comparison. PewDiePie alone has 42 million committed viewers subscribed to his YouTube channel. In comparison Netflix has 75 million subscribers globally, in the USA Netflix has 33.1 subscribers. PewDiePie and the developing star system emerging on the new media is something that Hollywood should take deep notice of.

This generation is abandoning slick CGI and one dimensional character development in favor of erratic camera work and honest spontaneity.

There is a craving for intimacy and honesty by the rising generation. I think cinematic-ally they would be more compelled to embrace the personal movies made by Bill Forsyth (Gregory’s Girl, That Sinking Feeling and Local Hero) that the overblown epics placed on screen by Michael Bay. Know that in a recent Poll “Pretty in Pink” made 30 years ago was named by Millennials are one of the top ten influential films. This film was made when a majority of the Millennials were not even born.

According to the Pew Research Center, fewer than a third of Millennials believe the U.S. is the greatest country in the world. For Gen-X and Baby Boomers, the number is about half, with almost two-thirds of the Silent generation holding that sentiment. More often that members of other generations, Millennials also expressed in surveys the view that the U.S. is one member of a global community, as opposed to the world’s dominant superpower.

In a recent Cohn and Wolfe study, In the minds of the Millennials generation, the qualities that they most admire are honesty and trustworthiness.

Bonnie and Clyde with its glorification of a team of bank robbers and depiction of the lawmen on their trail as villains, Bonnie and Clyde captured the imaginations of the counter-culture audience that existed in the late ’60s as no film had done before. Some historians credit it with awakening movie executives to the presence of a youth audience that would patronize films that reflected their own anti-establishment values.

If Hollywood wants to re-gain audiences it must embrace Millennial values.