In 1967, “The Graduate,” “Bonnie and Clyde,” “In the Heat of the Night,” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” (along with “Doctor Doolittle”) were all nominated for best picture, with “In the Heat of the Night” winning. A potpourri of films that reflected iconic changes happening in the sociological landscape.
“The Graduate” distilled adolescent angst into a single word (“plastics”), and middle-class/middle-aged ennui into a single sentence: “Mrs. Robinson, are you trying to seduce me?”
“Bonnie and Clyde” depicted the gory violent killing of the anti-hero criminal with operatic grandeur and in so doing, opened up the cinematic floodgates for onscreen decapitations. “In the Heat of the Night” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” presented racism – one with visceral intensity, the other through romance, but both with the purpose of opening up small-minded prejudices. I did see “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” in 1967, but years passed before I saw the other movies because, back then, unlike now, movies really didn’t mean that much to me. And I was not at all attuned to current events, except remembering there was a big brouhaha when the first person of color moved into West Allenhurst.
Rather, I was absorbed in my pre-high school world, overjoyed that I was a cheerleader, and on the cusp of entering the big league of “age”: my teens! In my memories, I see me and a girlfriend boarding Bus #31 on Monmouth Road on a Saturday afternoon to head into Asbury Park. We would meet up with a bunch of other friends at Steinbach’s, which at the time, was a premier department store that ruled Cookman Avenue.
Then we’d make our rounds to Canadian’s across the street, The Villager, and Country Fair, a sort of ultra-preppy shop, known for its Scottish-like kilts, and matching cable knit sweaters. Were we all wearing our Bass Weejun penny loafers? Afterwards, we would go to The Pressbox for lunch. We thought we were oh-so-sophisticated, if not actually old. Whatever we may have been, we were definitely innocent, and felt eminently safe and supreme in our niche. Although the dissension and anger between black and white America was in the news, it took another three years before the rage descended on Asbury Park.
Amidst the reverie and pleasure of being a teenager, the age of 58 was unimaginable. Even my mother was only 39, and my grandmother, who was old, didn’t have a nameable age. It makes me wonder what it was like to be 58 in 1967. Did women fret over their wrinkles or did they benignly accept the change in skin texture with grace and a smile? (Collagen and Botox were non-existent.) While I definitely recall my old aunts and uncles discussing “health issues” (as I seem to do more and more these days), did they obsess over “growing old,” documenting every change in cheek and jowl? Was there a desperate quest to hold onto youth, or was their 58 our vision of 78?
Who knows. But I wonder what the world will be like for the 12 year olds of today in 2062, when they are 58. Will they look back fondly on the memories of their youth, and think how innocent it all was? Or maybe they will never have to look back because their entire life has been documented in real time online. And given that every generation gets “younger,” maybe their 58 will be the new 28.