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Actors and Actresses Most Representative of Their Generation – MovieWeb

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Whether it’s Boomers or Millennials, we look at the past six generations and pick out two of the actors who are most representative of each.
Feature films have been delighting, shocking, scaring, and making the audience laugh and cry for over a century. In that time, thousands of actors and actresses have graced the silver screen. Less, but still a significant amount have gone on to superstardom, dating back to silent films when Greta Garbo, Rudolph Valentino, and Charlie Chaplin were all big stars. Incidentally, while Garbo (born in 1905) is a member of what's called the Greatest Generation, Valentino (1895) and Chaplin (1889) are members of the Lost Generation (1883 -1900) which is characterized as the generation of Prohibition and World War I.
Generations are a fairly new concept created by intellectuals in Europe in the 19th century and further defined at the beginning of the 20th century. The concept of generations is predicated by the belief that all humans alive at the same time have more in common than not. Dialing that down to roughly 20-year periods reveals that cohorts born within those periods have very similar experiences in life, technology, society, and advances.
We thought it would be fun to take a look at the actors who are perhaps most representative of the six main generations alive today. We left out Generation Alpha because the oldest of that generation is only 12, and it's too soon to say who is the most representative of that generation.
The Greatest Generation, also known as the G.I. generation (which stands for general issue or government issue) grew up during the Great Depression and World War II. Members of this generation either fought in World War II or provided the labor to support it. This generation grew up in a time of hardship.
Related: These Are the Best Marilyn Monroe Movies
Marilyn Monroe (1926) and Rock Hudson (1925), while just at the cutoff and thus very young for their generational cohorts, are the actors that best represent the Greatest generation because, for one thing, they were among the biggest, if not the biggest stars of their era. Monroe's pure sexuality and beauty and Hudson's masculinity and handsomeness were a salve for the generation that grew up in hardship. They were fantasies for this generation.
The Silent Generation earned their moniker for keeping their head down and working hard, not protesting the status quo, whether that's an exaggeration or not. They were influenced by growing up in a time when their parents told them children were to be seen and not heard. Members of the silent generation focused on having solid but modest careers and a healthy life at home with their families. Ironically, this is the generation who grew up with films that were talkies (the first talkie debuted in 1927) and who saw films change from black and white to color. This is also the generation in which home television sets gained popularity. The first one came out in 1927, and the 1939 World's Fair had televisions on display that were for sale.
Elizabeth Taylor (1932) and Elvis Presley (1935) are the actors most representative of their generation. Both Taylor and Presley were larger than life on film, whether they were seen in color or black and white (though Taylor benefited from color films when the world first saw her famous violet eyes). Both were groundbreaking and aspirational for their generational cohorts.
The Baby Boomer Generation, known as Boomers, refers to the big growth of the population (or population 'boom') in the years following World War II. There were 76 million Americans born in this generation, and they are known for rejecting the traditional values of their parents and grandparents and redefining those values for themselves and their children. Members of this generation experienced the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the moon landing, the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, the Cold War, and the civil rights movement. This was a generation that experienced huge change in both society and technology. In many ways, the Boomers represent the first truly modern generation. They are also the generation to experience the most financial security and the last generation that improved their station in life over what their parents and grandparents had.
Meryl Streep (1949) and Robin Williams (1951) are the actors most representative of their generation. Williams, in particular, presented his comedy in a way that, while genius and hilarious, would be considered outdated today. (OK Boomer, in other words). Streep definitely represents the Boomers in the way that she's secure with her lot in life. Boomers don't typically experience the angst the generation following them does.
Generation X is also known as the "Baby Busters" because the birth rate declined significantly (to just over 65 million) compared to the Boomers. GenX is the first generation to grow up with technology. They had home computers, gaming systems, and, as they entered their teens and 20s, cell phones. They are the original free-range latchkey kids who had working parents and were forced to take care of themselves at a young age. GenX turned 'whatever' into an emotion and were ruled by apathy, with the angsty Gen X cohort known for being resilient, cynical, nihilistic, reactionary, rebellious, and self-reliant.
GenX does not trust institutional authority. GenX is also the first generation to place a huge emphasis on education and cohorts of this generation enrolled in college at previously unprecedented rates. Key events in GenX life include the fall of the Berlin Wall, Tienanmen Square, the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, the recession of the 1990s, the Three Mile Island meltdown, the threat of nuclear war, the Lockerbie flight bombing, the energy crisis, and the Jonestown mass suicide.
Related: These Are Robert Downey Jr.'s Best Performances That Aren't Iron Man
Drew Barrymore (1975) and Robert Downey Jr. (1965) are the actors most representative of GenX. Both stars had well publicized battles with addiction young in life. Both exhibit the 'whatever' attitude their generation is known for. They are both simultaneously cynical, nihilistic, and hopeful, and each actor has made great comebacks, never letting their failings keep them down.
The Millennial Generation were the ones who reached adulthood at the turn of the millennium. They are also known as the Oregon Trail generation in reference to the video game of the same name. Those born early in this generation often refer to themselves as Xennials because they don't feel fully Millennial and have things in common with GenX. Cohorts of this generation are the first generation to have fully grown up in the age of the internet and such have a greater familiarity with the internet, social media, and mobile devices. They are often called digital natives. Millennials experienced the rise of the internet, remember 9/11 acutely from personal experience, and became adults as the global financial crisis of 2008 hit.
Kristen Stewart (1990) and Robert Pattinson (1986) are the actors most representative of their generation due to the fact that they co-starred in the Twilight films, which were a huge hit (the books and the film franchise) with the Millennial generation. Both Stewart and Pattinson are beloved by many of their generational cohorts.
Generation Z, or GenZ, is also called iGen due to the fact that this generation has had technology as an integral part of their life from birth. They've had personal computers, smartphones, and social media for all or most of their lives. GenZers are more racially and ethnically diverse than previous generations. They are also known for being more familiar with and comfortable with non-heteronormative self-identification than any previous generation.
Key events in the lives of the members of GenZ include the rise of social media, the climate change crisis, and the rise in mass shootings. GenZ is perceived to be the most depressed generation and also the one to take part in social activism. Due to the fact that they've grown up with the internet, they are stereotyped as being addicted to technology and social media. They are avid gamers.
Zendaya (1996) and Tom Holland (1996) are the actors who are currently the most representative of GenZ, though this is likely to change as time goes on. Zendaya's roles in the Spider-Man movies and Euphoria place her as the actress to watch in shows GenZ is obsessed with. Tom Holland began with incredible work in The Impossible and has gone on to star in Wolf Hall and In the Heart of the Sea before being the latest actor to play Spider-Man in the films with Zendaya, and is most representative of his generation for that.
Amy Lamare is a writer covering entertainment, pop culture, music, beauty, fashion, fitness, technology, and the intersection of technology, business, and philanthropy. You can find her on Instagram and Facebook.


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