Boomers Watched the Apocalypse on Screen

When COVID-19 first began its spread across the United States, very quickly people created lists of pandemic movies that were either eerily similar to our situation or a good distraction to the reality outside our doors. Mister Boomer checked out a bunch of them, and found that the vast majority completely ignored films from the boomer era. Most started their lists with films released in the 1990s and later, and almost all included the movie, Pandemic (2016). We’re talking about our generation here, so those lists aren’t of much use in these parts.

When Mister B put on his thinking cap and let his fingers do the walking through the Internet, what he did discover was there were very few films made during the boomer era of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s that pertained to bacterial and virus-related epidemics. There was the occasional zombie infection and all, but take a look:

• 1950s sci-fi films were often metaphors about the perils of nuclear war. All the giant monster films begin with radiation turning smaller creatures into gargantuan size. Others featured alien invasions of Earth, either the bad aliens out for their own gain (to gather slaves, food, people as food, our water, etc.) or the good aliens coming to warn us against using atomic weapons.
• The 1960s went far-out there imagining all sorts of ways for mankind to be on the brink of extinction. Many of these films were foreign-made and most were unmemorable. One has to wonder if the era of experimental drug use influenced the writing of films.
• The 1970s films were a bit more interesting. The one that Mister Boomer recalls and would like to recommend is The Andromeda Strain (1971).

First the Book, then the Movie
Michael Crichton published The Andromeda Strain in 1969. It was the first of his novels published under his own name. Boomers will recall he went on to pen the Jurassic Park series of books and films, among others. The Andromeda Strain was brought to the silver screen in 1971.

Just over a decade after the first men were launched into space, Crichton envisioned a time when the U.S. military would launch a satellite into space for the express purpose of discovering and gathering microorganisms. Their intentions were to seek out microorganisms that could be made into biological weapons.

As luck would have it, a meteor containing such a microorganism crashes into the satellite, causing it to fall to Earth in a small desert town in Arizona. The town’s population is wiped out within minutes. This organism clots human blood almost instantly.

Naturally, the military gets involved and tries to cover up the entire project while scientists discover the true intent of the military satellite and rush to identify, contain, and neutralize the virus. Suspense and drama ensue.

In the end, despite heroic means, the organism can’t be controlled by human science and escapes its containment facility to a level in the Earth’s atmosphere that is more an environment to its liking, leaving the question of, if it is still out there, waiting for the moment when it will return to devastate life on the planet.

It’s a suspenseful movie that mixed science and fiction in a way that made people wonder if it could actually happen. Now that we face an actual Earth-bound foe that is wreaking havoc around the globe, maybe it’s time for us to once again view those monster, disaster and apocalyptic movies of the boomer era to digest the overarching moral that ties these stories together: namely, it’s not nice to mess with Mother Nature, in any part of the Universe.

How about it, boomers? Did you read The Andromeda Strain or see the movie when it was released?

Marketing “System” Ignites the Wrath of Mister B

A little over a decade ago, Mister Boomer took a trip back to his home state to visit family and friends. After landing at the airport, he made his way to the line at the car rental. When he got to the front of the line, he was within earshot of a boomer-aged woman at the counter situated in front of him. The car rental representative was wrapping things up, and asked the woman, “Do you want GPS with that?” The woman, without skipping a beat, replied, “No thanks, I have M-A-P.” Mister B likes retelling that story because he feels it speaks to the practicality of the Boomer Generation.

This story came to mind this week when Mister Boomer saw a commercial for a man’s “shaving system.” That’s correct, a shaving system. Here was a man, a manly man, deftly manhandling a device that looked more like it could slice, dice and make julienne fries than shave facial hair. His firm grip guided the thing through the shaving foam and down his cheek, leaving a path of deforestation in its wake. The narrator explained how its umpteen blades and something and what not rigamarole makes this the ultimate shaving system! … It’s a razor, people! … it’s a hand-powered tool with one function, to scrape off the morning stubble!

Now, shaving ads have had an evolution all their own in our time. In the 1950s, TV shaving commercials spoke about what a man should look like, and clean shaven was the order of the day. The ’60s still highlighted the ability to get a close shave, but could imply claims of attracting a better job, or better yet, the opposite sex. The 1970s saw technological improvements in blades and razors, where being clean-shaven shared the marketing narrative with comfort and convenience.

The first razor many boomer boys were given came from their fathers, either as a gift or as a hand-me-down. Mister Boomer knows several friends who began their shaving life with the double-edged safety razor their fathers were issued in the armed services during WWII. Such was the case for Mister B. A couple of years later, Mister B’s father received a razor in the mail as an advertising promotion. Gillette, a leading manufacturer of the time, sent out razors to every male of a certain age in his area. His father, satisfied with the razors he had, gave the new razor to him. Once he turned eighteen, Mister B would get razor promotions sent directly to him.

The marketing thought was obviously, give them the razor, and they will continue to be a customer by buying the blades. Throughout the 1970s, this was how Mister Boomer acquired razors, first from Gillette, then from Schick. In each instance, the razor was the latest and greatest in terms of its technology of handle comfort, weight, and most importantly, ability to give a close shave. Toward that end, new razors often accompanied the introduction of new blades, from twin bladed cartridges to injector blades that had co-existed alongside the double-edge blades our fathers had used.

Slowly but surely, the twin-bladed razor became the standard until companies, into the 1980s, saw more competition than ever before, and felt the need to up the ante on the number of blades they could fit onto the head of their razors. At this point in time, three-bladed razors are commonplace, but razors containing up to five blades are making inroads. Apparently this is contributing to the bulky silhouette of the new “shaving system” Mister B saw on TV.

In the interest of full disclosure, here is the part where Mister B has to eat a small slice of humble pie. While researching this post, he discovered that Schick produced a commercial in the 1970s that described their injector-blade razor as a “shaving system.” Mister B received his Schick injector-blade razor through the mail in the early 1970s. As a point of order, the commercial described the process by which the blade cartridge was inserted into the side of the razor head, where operating a slider on the top of the blade cartridge injected a new blade into the razor, simultaneously ejecting the old. The used blade could then be placed into a slot on the bottom of the razor cartridge. One might see that as a system of sorts. Mister B will fall on the side of this process appearing closer to a system than a hand-held razor that has no interaction with its user outside of the act of shaving. Therefore, Mister Boomer still believes his righteous indignation at the use of the term in the current commercial is valid.

How about you, boomers? Have you ever had a shaving system and does such a thing sound practical to your boomer mind?