Hooray for Hollywood! Well … maybe; maybe not. Movies about rock stars’ journeys and superheroes (Is there really a difference?) may amount to no more than the latest money grab by motion picture studios and music labels (Is there really a difference?), but whether intended or not, baby-boomers like me who grew up on comic books and rock and roll have been handed some powerful ways to connect our stories to those of younger generations.
When I hear strains of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Elton John’s “Rocket Man” issuing from my teenaged daughter’s room, I remember buying vinyl copies of that music in the local record store and hearing it on the radio forty years ago. When we go to the movie theater to watch the latest Avengers or Ironman movie together, I think about the thousand-or-so silver-age comic books I sealed in plastic and put away before I’d even gone to high school. I recently attended a performance of The Ultimate Celebration of Queen starring Marc Martel where the auditorium was as full of young people as it was reminiscers.
Every generation has its own mythology: We had Star Wars. Today’s kids have Harry Potter. But the lines are blurred. Though the Star Wars franchise no longer captures the national psyche the way it did in 1977, young people know who Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan-Kenobi, and Yoda are—and the movie spin-offs continue to sell. I’ve attended my share of Harry Potter movies and read a book or two. And though, like most youngsters, my daughter listens to her share of musical crap (as if my parents never said the same thing about my own tastes), she has, on her own, developed a noteworthy familiarity with many of the “classic rock” artists who created the sonic backdrop for my generation.
Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide
No escape from reality
Would Spiderman still appear on society’s radar if the big movie studios hadn’t transferred him from the pages of long-forgotten comic books to the silver screen?
Would Luke Skywalker’s saga have any meaning to young people if Disney hadn’t decided to keep that story alive and progressing?
If not for the motion picture industry, how long would it be before “Goodbye, Yellow-brick Road” and “We Will Rock You” faded away with the aging audience for “classic rock” and the decline of FM radio?
It’s easy enough to follow the money: The rights to Queen’s music catalog and the Bohemian Rhapsody movie are both owned by Disney and its subsidiaries. Elton John still owns 50% of the rights to his own music. I won’t stray into celebrity gossip territory by speculating on the value of Elton John’s publishing royalties, his pay for his position as his bio-pic’s executive-producer, and whatever he was paid for his story, but I doubt that the entertainment industry is driven by a need to connect newer generations to older ones.
And still, despite big media’s self-indulgence, explosive special effects, enormous profits, and merchandising deals, I’m grateful to know that my heroes (both super and musical) are alive and well. I love the idea that some future grandchild may one day look at my 60s and 70s comic books, light up with recognition, and marvel at the early days of Marvel. I won’t complain if that same grandchild enjoys including a little “Bohemian Rhapsody” or “Dark Side of the Moon” in their streaming music library.
Open your eyes
Look up to the skies and see
Shared stories are the most powerful recipe for connection—and whether you grew up on my generation’s heroes or discovered them yesterday in the movie theater, we are connected in ways we might not have been. As we wait for the next rockumentary or superhero blockbuster, we’ll wait together and have something to talk about. That may be a story no one intended to write, but it’s a good one.