The Explosive Generation (1960)



Do not be duped by the film’s sensationalistic title or advert.  I was really sitting on the fence about The Explosive Generation.  It has everything to hate about message movies; it’s heavy handed, obvious and sentimental.  But, what annoys me most about the film is that the first conclusion – there are two and I’ll spoil both – completely undermines the entire purpose with a HUGE plot hole.

It is only worth watching to see a dapper, charismatic William Shatner in an early role.  He does a great job portraying the understanding, liberal teacher who is up against an antiquated school system which is focused on the “children should be seen and not heard” mentality.

Let me start with the plot.  After an alcohol fueled celebration, a group of kids wakes up with the events of the night before made not quite clear.  During the course of the film, it’s implied that all four main teens had sex – in their respective couples, not an orgy unfortunately.  The film is from 1960 so, when the film insinuates sex, it’s so subtle that I thought the whole “we spent the whole night together” thing meant, “we had sex” and I’ll get to that.

So, the next day, in class, during a “bull session”, the teacher, Mr. Gifford (Shatner) asks what the kids are *really* interested in.  The main girl Janet says, “sex” and expands that she wants to discuss why girls have to put out so guys will like them and why guys have to “get some” in order to be cool.  At first I thought, “hey!  That’s topical AND relevant!  Maybe this movie is going places!”  But OOOH NO!  Then, it all goes to hell…

I forgot how, but word gets out that the teens might have had sex and that, through the discussion Gifford might have encouraged this and then the parents and kids go into a “they might have had sex” tizzy with copious amounts of melodrama.  The question of “what are we going to do now that THIS happened?” is asked a whole bunch of times.  The answer of course is have more sex but I didn’t write this piece of crap.

Then, all of a sudden, the entire plot changes from “oh my god, did they have sex???” to “Mr. Gifford is going to be fired and we need to save his job!”  And for the next 40 or so minutes, the kids use their wit and resources to protest on the behalf of their teacher.  They save his job and send the message that the youth are the future and you need to fight for what you believe in.

But, the thing that annoyed me the most is that it’s also revealed that the kids NEVER EVEN had sex!  So, then why all the secrecy and controversy in the first place?  Why go through all of that if nothing actually happened?  The little “revelation” Janet makes to her mom – complete with “we’re waiting to get married” – leaves a gaping crater in the plot that made the previous 80 minutes a complete waste of time.

The one bright spot is the single father who is a likeable insurance salesman and lets his kid do anything he wants.  He only “gets tough” when other parents get involved and gives his son the car keys back in order to placate his being upset over the teacher.  Furthermore, upon leaving class to talk to the dad, the teens catch him at home “in the act” with some random lady.  Oh youth.