Screen shot of Marion Cotillard in Midnight in Paris

When I grow up I want to be Marion Cotillard

A few nights ago I watched Woody Allen’s new film, Midnight In Paris. It’s about an aspiring novelist who goes to Paris with his future wife and in-laws and inadvertently stumbles upon the Paris of the 1920s. It’s warm and funny and has Adrien Brody in it as an excruciatingly charming Salvador Dali. What more could a girl ask for on a Saturday night?
Screen shot of Adrien Brody in Midnight in Paris

When I grow up I want to marry Adrien Brody

In the movie, the aspiring novelist is obsessed with a period of Paris history peopled by the likes of Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and his zany wife Zelda, collectively known as the Lost Generation, all of whom the character meets in some alt-universe Paris. In turn, he meets a young fashion student and mistress to Pablo Picasso who worships and takes him to an era of Parisian history called the belle epoque, a time when to her, everything was beautiful and perfect. But when they land in the belle epoque era and meet such luminaries as Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin and Degas, they are surprised to find these men yearning for the Renaissance era.

And it made me wonder about our generation and what we will or will not leave behind.

What will our generation leave behind? What will we be known for? What will the next generations call us? What kind of art or beauty or intellectual movement will be our legacy? Will our children’s children ever look back on our time with nostalgia and fondness, as a time and place worth living in?

Or will they remember us as a generation bowed down with debts and a grim economy, a darkening landscape of scarce jobs and government bail-outs, of protests and uncertainty and a lot of people who are scared. Obviously all these things are part of our generation, but I can’t help but wonder, are these really the things we want to be remembered for? The Renaissance era, the Lost Generation, the Beat Generation, they all left behind distinct identities and imprints on history, in terms of music and art and writing and advances in science and math and human knowledge.

While I’m self-aware enough to know the pitfalls of imbuing the past with romanticism and rose-tinted nostalgia, I still think it’s something of value to occasionally ask ourselves, what are we leaving behind? And is it of any worth? Have we created anything meaningful?

Maybe in the end, the only people who can tell us for sure, are the ones who will be born long after we are all gone.