Boyhood, written and directed by Richard Linklater, is the story of one boy growing up during the turn of the millennium. It was filmed over the course of 12 years as sort of a period piece set in the present. Because of this, much of Boyhood feels like the story of every millennial. It traces pop culture, technology, and all things nostalgic through the past decade in the same time frame that many of us grew up in. It speaks to the authenticity of this movie how Mason, the young lead, owns the exact same pillowcase I had in 2002.
So let’s take a look at all those little tidbits from the last decade. Let’s experience the nerdy and nostalgic of the most unique movie of the year.
The turn of the millennium was a revolution of technology and we get to see the full development of computer science in middle class America. At the start of the film we see Mason doing what boys do, looking at pictures of scantily clad ladies. However, we forget that back then an internet connection wasn’t really a viable option so he is instead looking at a lingerie magazine. By the time we get to five years later we have advanced through playing Oregon Trail on an iMac to looking at lewd ladies on a laptop computer. It just goes to show how quickly technology spreads and becomes commonplace. And also what boys tend to use that technology for.
In addition to the previously mentioned Oregon Trail, Mason plays a slew of other video games over the course of his Boyhood. Like many of us, Mason started as a big Nintendo fan playing goofy skateboarding games on the Gameboy Advanced SP. Later on he would move on to the original Halo while using some of the first real wireless controllers. While over a friend’s house he plays some Nintendo Wii, but it’s clear that Mason prefers violent FPS games to Wii Sports.
Perhaps the most significant pop culture icon of the new millennium was Harry Potter, so it’s only natural that it became an important part of Boyhood. We see Mason’s mother reading to him and his sister and we also see them all dress up for the midnight release of the Half-Blood Prince. This truly was a book series that defined a generation. More than any one movie, book or TV show did.
Dragon Ball Z
However TV shows, especially cartoons were also a huge part of our childhoods. The late nineties and early 2000s saw an influx of so many violent and energizing Anime from Japan, and millenials were immediately entranced. Mason, was in particular a fan of Dragon Ball Z, the goofy Anime where muscle-bound, spiky-haired, aliens shoot lasers out of every orifice for our prepubescent viewing pleasure. We see Mason’s DBZ bed sheets, posters, and even see him watching an episode on TV. The episode is from a particularly ridiculous segment of the show, the Buu saga, which features a fat pink alien fighting people with his tongue. This is included because those shows, silly as they are, were almost univeral in their acceptance by sugar riddled kids at the turn of the millennium.
So Boyhood is less the story of one boy growing up in a post-9/11 world and dealing with that half of the social spectrum. It instead focuses on the deeply personal and the universals of pop culture. In doing so it taps into our nostalgia and our nerdy recollections of youth to make a story almost any millennial can relate to, regardless of their upbringing.