Among the many contributions to the history of post-1960s film that "American Graffiti" made was the introduction of an epilogue to the end credits that detailed what happened to the characters after the end of the movie. Although "American Graffiti" was a comedy, the brief biographical sketches were not a laugh riot. Writer-director George Lucas used his innovation as a means of showing that his characters were living on the cusp of a societal shift with the power to have consequences both joyous and tragic.
A handful of equally famous movies followed up on George Lucas' lead and almost as a rule these films have also been comedies, although some very dramatic films based on true stories have included additional information on what happened to the characters following the fade-out. Where most of them differ from "American Graffiti" is in maintaining the strict adherence to comedic intent. "American Graffiti" concluded with a sober account of quite realistic lives to be led by the characters. The general trend since then has been to move increasingly away from any nod toward realism and to use the closing credits capsule bios as one last opportunity for a joke.
The most famous case of closing credits containing a written biography in the Whatever Happened To model after "American Graffiti" for most people is probably "Animal House." While the subsequent death of a character in Vietnam in Lucas' movie provides a bit of tragic juxtaposition to the freewheeling episodes of teenage vibrancy and lust for life seen on screen, the revelation that a villainous character in "Animal House" died in Vietnam is utilized purely for humorous purposes with the additional information that he was killed by his own troops.
Less well known than these two examples but still firmly entrenched in the genre of comedy are the titles that indicate what happened to the main characters in "9 to 5." The Whatever Happened To credits of "9 to 5" may not have entered into the lexicon of cinema to the extent of other examples since the film was marketed more to adults than kids and adults may not be as inclined to stick around for a closing credits bonus as much as the teens who learned what became of Spicoli and the rest of the students attending Ridgemont High.
"More American Graffiti" remains one of the precious few examples of a sequel that actually portrays on screen some of the written biographic accounts of what happened to characters following the original film. An entire genre of sequel is thus just lying dormant, awaiting some enterprising filmmakers to breathe new life into the concept of the sequel in general and into the lives of those characters whose fates are merely hinted at in specific.
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