now in their forties have scarcely known a moment in ournmature lives when we have not been obliged to seek andnshape our identities in the face of enormous moral andnemotional pressure from the adolescent or preadolescentnyoung.” Observed Aldridge: “By now the young have sonintimidated us with the sheer weight of their physical andnmoral presence that some of us have almost been persuadednto believe that our primary obligation to society is to die asnquickly as possible, so that they can inherit the earthnwithout further delay.”nCharles A. Reich didn’t object in the least to thenever-increasing influence of youth in American culture. InnThe Greening of America—a huge best-seller in 1970 andn1971—Reich, then 42, made it perfectly clear that thenpeople he listened to with the most respect were peoplenmuch younger than himself In the tradition of Rousseaunand Oscar Wilde, Reich appeared to believe that agencorrupts, and that middle-age corrupts absolutely; thatnfrequentiy from the lips of the young come words ofnundiluted wisdom. He praised what he called “the newngeneration” for developing “a new consciousness” thatnemphasized “self,” impulsiveness, and play; for attackingn”authority and hierarchy”; for eschewing business suits forn”hippie clothes”; even for sparking a renewed interest inn”genuine, old-fashioned, unhomogenized peanut butter.”n”AH people,” Reich concluded, “must be helped to regainnthe condition of youth.”nDuring the I970’s, the sort of cliche-ridden politicalnactivism that Aldridge scored declined markedly, perhapsnbecause a large portion of the nation’s political Utopiansnwere themselves caught up in the great diet and exercisencraze. Indeed, during the 70’s, it often seemed as if allnAmericans over the age of 25 were not only suddenly—andnunderstandably—interested in maintaining good physicalnhealth, but were sweating hard to regain the very conditionnof youth. The 70’s and the 80’s will long be linked withnJimmy Carter in jogging shorts and Jane Fonda in leotards;nwith face-lifts, tanning parlors, and fruit juice bars; with annepidemic nostalgia for the 50’s and early 60’s, when thenpostwar Baby Boomers really were young and snug in anworld of teddy bears, tail fins, dungarees, and pompadours.nAs the English critic John Sutherland has pointed out, itnwas also during the 70’s that “the American persuasionnindustry” became even more skilled at inducing in adultsn”the appetites, enthusiasms, and loyalties of their kids,” andnin pushing products with “all-generational appeal.” Hencenthe high profits for the operators of “theme parks” and thenmanufacturers of candy bars, soda pop, and T-shirts bearingnslogans; for the producers of rock records and videos. (MTVnsays it shoots for “the 13 to 34” market.) Hence, too, thenenormous success of moviemakers like George Lucas andnSteven Spielberg, who concentrate on turning out suchnwidely hyped, cartoon-like vehicles as Star Wars, E.T., andnIndiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Indeed, Spielbergn—a man in his mid-30’s—stands as the perfect representativenof these youth-conscious times. In 1982 he told Timenmagazine that “his mental development stopped at 19” andnthat he “seldom turns off the TV set in his ColdwaternCanyon house.” He also happily reported that he “ownsntwelve video games and plays with them for an hour a day.”nNot surprisingly, children are consistently sentimenta­nlized in the films that Spielberg directs or produces. Thesenboys and girls are not only witty and cute, but are so astutenthat they simply don’t require adults for even minimalnguidance. In fact, in such Spielberg films as E.T. and ThenGoonies, we again see children taking it upon themselves tonsave the day. Nowhere in Spielberg’s movies do we find annadult character remotely like Lewis Stone’s white-hairednJudge Hardy, who lost neither his patience nor his bearingsnas he helped Mickey Rooney keep his nose clean throughoutnthe Andy Hardy series of the 30’s and the early 40’s. Norndo we see characters like Mary Poppins or CaractacusnPotts—the wacky inventor in Ian Fleming’s Chitty ChittynBang Bang—who manage to get along unusually well withnchildren without losing their status as admirable, if eccentric,nrole models.nBut then, since the early 70’s, mass market movies withndomestic settings or romantic themes have focused decreasinglynon interesting characters who are 35 to 40 or more andnwho look, act, and talk like grown-up men and women. Bynand large, Hollywood simply no longer makes moviesnlike—take your pick—Adam’s Rib, Gentleman’s Agreement,nRear Window, Executive Suite, The African Queen,nThe Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and The World ofnSuzie Wong. After the late 60’s it could provide few goodnroles for talented performers like Gregory Peck, JimmynStewart, Kirk Douglas, and Audrey Hepburn.nInstead, in such films as Porky’s, Glass, Footloose, andnFast Times at Ridgemont High, parents and teachers appearnas lechers or hypocrites or tyrants; in Secret Admirer and thenenormously successful Back to the Future, among others,nthey are clods and mumblers and suffer much whenncompared to their adolescent children, who know how to bencool-headed and socially deft in critical situations. Inndozens of other popular films that focus primarily on theninfatuations and sexual escapades of teenagers, adults playnvirtually no part at all. In Risky Business, for example, anhigh school senior converts the family Cape Cod into anprofitable suburban cathouse while his parents are convenientiyngone on a lengthy summer vacation.nAdmittedly, a strong case could be made that such filmsnas Risky Business and Secret Admirer are essentially accuratenin their depiction of the ways in which perhaps a majority ofnadults and their adolescent children interact—or fail toninteract—in the America of the I980’s. For as PaulnGoodman complained 25 years ago in Growing Up Absurd,n”our abundant society” does not abundantiy provide adolescentsnand young adults with “real opportunities for worthwhilenexperience”—with civilian roles that are responsible,nrespected, and conducive to “growing up.” Instead we herdneven the most restless and the least clever of them through anlargely inefficient elementary and secondary school systemnthat in most places probably stupefies far more than itnstimulates. Too, we are a nation in which the typical citizennnow spends around six hours a day staring at his televisionnset. In such an environment, communication between thengenerations is not likely to thrive.nCertainly television—with its constant barrage of tips,ntales, and bits of gossip—has been a key factor in diminishingnthe social role of the elderly. In primitive societies—nand in small-town America, once upon a time—the alertnold assumed the valued task of passing on their knowledgennnAPRIL 1986/23n