For all you young people starting new jobs this summer: here is a quick pop culture education, movie edition. I’ve helpfully organized the must know movies on a 2 x 2 matrix. Locate yourself among one of the four quadrants, and watch the movies there. Roll over the green hotspots for the must know quotes and scenes from each movie. For the older reader: if you’re surrounded by young people who don’t know what napalm smells like in the morning, pass this along to them. If we’ve egregiously overlooked a movie, let us know in the comments. Want to know why this is so important? Read on.
Recently, a friend was working with a 23-year-old colleague on a PowerPoint presentation about teamwork. On the obligatory slide about mentorship, my friend put a photo of Mr. Miyagi.
"Who is that?" asked the 23-year-old.
I know. I wish that I’d been surprised by this exchange. But I’ve worked long enough with the under-30 crowd that I’m all too familiar with the pop culture chasm between Them and Us. It’s both tunnel vision and a transience of memory. The pop culture references that the 30+ crowd takes for granted, and have shaped how we think and talk about things, too often invite blank stares from the under-30 set.
Blame it on social media-induced narcissism or the abundance of content that didn’t exist 15 years ago. I’m not here to study the causes of the disease. I’m here to offer a cure.
Like it or not, pop culture helps keep our social contract intact. It’s a shorthand language that keeps corporate life from being solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. It lets us say, "John, coffee is for closers" instead of "John, you fell short of your quarterly goals, and that will be reflected in your bonus." Isn’t that better?
A few notes: we’ve limited the movies to those released between 1970 and 1999, which is the primary overlap for Boomers and Gen X and the big blind spot for the under-30s. And you’ll find a lot of war, sports and gangster movies because that’s largely the language of business. It’s still a man’s world and I can only solve one problem at a time.