“Damn the man! Save the Empire” has been a battle cry for me since I first saw Empire Records when I was 15. I remember my first viewing– my love for Lucas, admiration of Joe, confusion at Liv Tyler’s underwear choice to seduce Rex Manning, and new life goal to one day work at a music store with my best friends and have a concert on the roof to raise money in order to defeat corporate greed. Y’know, the basics.
Well, record stores barely exist anymore and the guys who work at the few remaining are aging stoners who probably have shrines built to Kurt Cobain. No family, no retirement plan, no liver – no future. I have been left with a void and a question of how to fill it.
Empire Records was a call for rebellion. The plot of the movie is completely anti corporate America, a record store struggling to remain independent with the villain of the piece being the only guy in a suit. Yeah, yeah it was the grunge generation but it was also a preview of things to come. As a whole, those of us who sit snugly between Gen X and the Millennials, are torn in two. We were influenced by our baby boomer parents to work hard and trust the financial markets yet just as we were gracing the age of financial responsibility the system failed us in 2001. And then just as we were getting comfortable in our adult lives, 2008 pulled the rug out again. So now we wander through life wanting inspiration from our careers yet tethered to traditional life and a desire for the financial success we require. We are all Warren (I know – his name isn’t Warren). Looking in from the outside to the eclectic group who work at the modern versions of Empire Records; Google and Warby Parker among them. Wanting to find work that satiates the soul but having learned from the past that financially stable is a requirement of employment. How can we achieve that balance of fun and productivity? When is Rex Manning Day??
I often wonder if I am “the man” or “the Empire.” I work in finance. But I don’t wear a suit. I listen to music all day at work. But my work involves budgets and bottom lines. I wonder if, like Mitchell, I would opt to sell to Music Town. Most days I’m sure I wouldn’t.