Romantic Comedies From Past Decades as a Source of Cultural Insight
Reddit is one of my go-to sources for reliable laughs and links, but is routinely full of surprises -both pleasant and unpleasant. While browsing the /r/Movies subreddit the other day I was fortunate to have an experience with the former.
User Fire_away_Fire_away wrote a post rich with cultural insight, analyzing a late 1998 film as a reflection of American life pre-9/11, and our evolving relationship with technology. That film? The AOL-inspired rom-com starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, You've Got Mail.
Excerpts from their post below, "You've Got Mail is one of the most accurate pictures of pre-9/11 life I've seen" (Emphasis my own.)
While it was surprising in many ways (including how easily the characters shrugged off internet infidelity) I think the most shocking was how strongly I was reminded of pre-9/11 life. It's not just the nostalgia factor of dial-up or AOL screen names or the concept of chatrooms (which I never realized completely disappeared). It was that the Yuppie lifestyle was in full-speed-ahead mode. Starbucks was still trendy; that little bit about defining self through the coffee you order? That was true. Hipsters have absolutely nothing on the 1990's high-powered executive. Back then, Starbucks introduced the very idea of your coffee being a part of identity Now we're so saturated with personal choice that no one cares what monks picked your coffee beans from which mountain range under what cycle of the moon. It's almost passe now.
There was no weary cynicism towards capitalism. In fact, it reads like a love letter penned to it. The executive gets the girl in the end. He steals her from a pointedly leftist columnist who in turn finds HIMself attracted to a philanthropist that is part of the New York bourgeois. This is after Hanks shuts down a shop that was her family's business so his father's superstore can cut a tiny sliver more profit. If that plot doesn't seem like a Libertarian fantasy, I don't know what does.
It just struck me as odd that this was life only 15 years ago. While technology has obviously advanced I think the culture of American life has changed as much, if not more.
Quite a lot to unpack there, and I'm sure a post diving into capitalism and the dot-com boom would exceed my word limit.
Admittedly, I haven't seen the film (I'm a Sleepless in Seattle man) but having grown up in the 90's, I have my childhood memories to compare against. But two primary takeaways for me: First, it's fascinating to think how rapidly the world has changed in my lifetime, but I love that as we look back at the past, we can learn more about where we are today. And second, it's another example of why I love the internet - there's a wealth of vibrant communities having thoughtful discussions, and it's just a matter of finding them.