A film and a nation come of age.
Thanks for this "Fifty Years of American Graffiti" post! I was in High School in 1962 and remember the time fondly. Sadly, it was in 1962 that prayer was taken out of our public schools. The United States Supreme Court ruled that school-sponsored prayer in public schools violated the First Amendment and was unconstitutional. It has been all downhill since then. 1962 was the last good year, but then 1963 marked the JFK assassination, followed months later by LBJ's decision to send combat units to Vietnam... leading to the chaotic mess we are in today. I just restacked this post!
A poignant reflection. A treasure from the lost and found.
Great essay Jenna.
I was a young teenager when the '60s nostalgia craze, powered by "Happy Days," hit. I didn't get it then, but I do now.
Pair this film with 1993's "Dazed and Confused." I am of the generation D&C was about. In fact, I would be one of the rising sophomores in that film. Richard Linklater gets the mood and feel of that time exactly right. After Watergate, we really didn't care about much, and lost the confidence in the government and the nation portrayed in "American Graffiti" (and alluded to in "Happy Days").
Of the two films, I like "Dazed and Confused" much better.
Great essay. You have a knack for analysis and explanation.
Where else is this piece besides here? Because it belongs in The Atlantic or New Yorker. It’s time to reckon with American Graffiti. Your essay is so well done.
A thing that came up for me: I’m constantly searching for a definition of home, whether the pristine, ever fleeting home, the curb-appeal home, the over the next hill home, or this home I’m in right now, to feel its actual weight. You seem in search of an American definition. I liked the White Nights quote.
Hey, have you farmed this out anywhere?
Saw your post early this AM. The title made me want to wait until tonight when I had more time to savor your considerable writing skills. I really enjoyed this essay. I “lived” a lot of that movie in real life. (I still have the grill shell from my 1932 Ford roadster. I hope my kids don’t throw it out.) Like most things in life, you don’t realize what you have until it’s gone. (There’s a song lyric there somewhere.) I made the mistake of reading many of the posted comments that followed the American Graffiti trailer you included. Many comments were written by people born after the movie was released. Most were sorry they missed those days. Most likely that is a natural phenomenon.
Today — we live in a world that is a far cry from the era of American Graffiti. Many think our best years are behind us. The news is full of gloom & doom. Few reading this have a frame of reference — before the teenagers in that wonderful movie got their driver’s license they practiced getting under their school desks in case of a nuclear attack. So far we’ve survived. We are constantly under attack. It started with some tea & a king in England, some unfortunate internal divisions & followed by a number of tyrants over the years. Recently it seems, even from our fellow citizens. As someone who has been around awhile it is important to remember — at some point our patience runs out & we respond. With a few good men & a few good woman, we right the ship. We are Americans. God bless America.
Thank you very much for telling great stories.
Nice post, Jenna. I listened to “Fast Car” as I read it (not by design) and it went perfectly.