Why ‘Nightcrawler’ is the movie that defines my generation

Nightcrawler is one of those movies that, if you haven’t seen it, you need to, STAT. It opens with Lou Bloom (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) pushing boundaries and ends in the same fashion, making for a nice full circle of storytelling. His character is desperate for a job away from petty crime, and his determination and focus is what sets him apart from everyone else. He begins a career as a cameraman, and after he sells his first footage to a news company, he goes to wild lengths to succeed with the help of his paid intern Rick Carey (Riz Ahmed). Sure, it sounds like the makings of a real uplifting, underdog story, but there’s much more to it than that; the audience sees Lou’s one-track mind become something incalculable and quite unnerving. As the movie progresses, Lou not only struggles for dominance in the competitive field of camera manning, but repeatedly makes ethical compromises.

Why am I talking so much about a seemingly-random movie? Because it’s not random at all. It speaks my generation in a really unique way and, as Lou’s tactics and motivations stem from troubles that are so, so relevant to young people today. Don’t believe me yet? Just keep reading.

Our generation lacks security

Lack of job security is a huge issue in our current economy, but for young people it’s especially problematic. With no experience to pad their resumes, making money and just supporting yourself can become almost an impossible task from the get-go. We’re expected to do unpaid internships, work long and excruciating hours, and take jobs (if we’re lucky enough to get any job) that are generally below our skill level. While everyone has had to suffer before achieving glory, Nightcrawler reminded me just how different the mindset of the younger generation is; we have become more self-reliant/sufficient than ever before, which has changed not just our behavior, but society as a whole.

Early on in the movie Lou vouches for himself, but essentially captures the situation of our entire generation:

“Having been raised in the self-esteem movement so popular in schools, I used to expect my needs to be considered. But I know that today’s work culture no longer caters to the job loyalty that could be promised to earlier generations.”

This quote perfectly illustrates our loss of security. A major theme of the movie is the idea that better work is always available by the guy next door, and this race for best product is put in hyper speed. As children, we were repeatedly told our value, but the realities of life become quite painful when realized that singular worth was vastly overhyped. This is not to say that being kind to your children will turn them into naive youths, but rather, that there is a new group of people of varying ages who are not equipped with any examples of how to succeed, given their development.

Today, we as a society expect the best, and nothing but the best. It has been ingrained in our minds that if we cannot find something in the store, look online. Not getting the “bang for the buck” in workforce? Outsource the job. We have more options than ever and so do our potential employers. 

Playing it safe hurts us all

Fearing unemployment and poverty, students decide to go for “safer” jobs, which does not always translate to passion for the work and, as a result, quality decreases. Quality will not go up just because more workers are available, and this watering down of product continues the cycle of the pursuit of that 100%. For example, well known companies such as Amazon and eBay enabled consumers to search easily for the best deal on any product. Many other companies have tried to squeeze into that niche, but in doing so, what used to be one or two reliable sources became lost in the sea of “possibilities.”

The power of the web

With all this in mind, we can look at Nightcrawler, and the way Lou approaches business and success. He, like others, recognizes the power of the Internet, and uses it for his benefit. He took classes, learned police codes, and honed his skill with the help of something that was hardly around in previous decades. While our grandparents and parents struggled to understand new technology and the Internet, we’ve grown up with it and it’s an inseparable part of our lives and future careers.

The Internet brings a lot of great things, but it also changes the game in significant ways. This is something I can personally testify to, alone with many other young adults. The Internet gives us instant access to an infinite supply of information and new trends. Each of these trends is exciting and great — until they become “too popular” and then become woefully unpopular. Popular opinion, which was once a gradual increase and decrease, is now on crack, and the window in which things are relevant, and therefore useful and valuable, is shrinking faster than ever.

Innovation and inspiration

But, with all this competition and struggle comes something truly great: Innovation. More than any other before, our generation has learned to innovate. We are able to tackle challenges and approach them in new ways that are totally different from anything seen in the past. In Nightcrawler, Lou makes many decisions, not all moral ones, but there is no question as to whether he takes risks. His payoff is greater than anyone else’s in the movie because of his wish to succeed, nay, need to triumph — and so many young people today share that same drive. My generation may not always be taken seriously yet, but more and more, we’re becoming a group that people realize is likely to make a big difference, and leave our mark. We’re going to do great things because the world is changing and we’re afraid like everyone else, but out of that fear comes victory and we have the tools to succeed.

(Image via Open Road Films.)

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