I saw a meme on the internet the other day that said all Hollywood is doing is rebooting things from our childhoods and cynically marketing them back to us to tap into our nostalgia.
That’s true, as Obi-Wan Kenobi said, from a certain point of view. However, it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Or even cynical. Hollywood is in the business of making money. If there wasn’t any money in it, they wouldn’t do it.
The nostalgia part of the brain seems to kick in around 30ish. I fear that it gets worse over time. My favorite conversation with Boomers I know go something like this.
Boomer: In my day, families had structure. Everyone had serious discipline.
Also that Boomer: When I was a kid, my mom threw me outside in the summer and said don’t come back until dinner.
How can both be true? They’re not, really. But our nostalgia brain says that things were infinitely better than what’s happening now. Helicopter parents? My parents let me do what I wanted. Absentee parents? My parents had strict rules. I thought it was just a Boomer thing until part of my brain died at 30 and I’m now all about the ’80s and ’90s like nothing will ever be that good again. Commercials are now playing ’90s music where they once loved the ’70s. Looks like I’m the target audience now.
And that’s the point. Hollywood isn’t cynically selling our childhoods to us, they’re doing what marketing has always done: milk one generation for its money and then, when they get too grumpy to care, switch to the next generation. Lather, rinse, repeat as many times as necessary. One day, the music my students listen to now (which my nostalgia brain says is bad but my rational brain says that it doesn’t matter because I don’t have to like the same things others do) will be in commercials and I’ll be listening to Rage Against the Machine in the nursing home.
There’s a pleasant thought.
Nostalgia also has an upside. I admit that I’m one of the (if you believe the internet) 10 people in the whole world who liked all three new “Star Wars” movies. However, I didn’t love them like I did the classic trilogy. That was the downside of nostalgia. However, those “safe” movies then allowed for the creation of “The Mandalorian,” which embodies the upside of nostalgia. “Battlestar Galactica” in the early part of the Zeroes resurrected a failed TV show and turned it into something transcendent. Even “The Next Generation” was once decried as a knockoff “Star Trek” that ended up surpassing the original (apparently only as long as you were born after 1979).
Sometimes, the new ideas – made by fans of the originals at this point – can surpass the older, but they do not mean that the older things aren’t good. For example, if you’re not watching the new “Duck Tales” on Disney, you really, really need to. But that doesn’t mean I’m not rewatching the old show, too.
Yes, there are examples of reimaginings that don’t quite live up to the original. But it’s foolish to not give the new things a chance because our nostalgia brain turns us into Neanderthals when something nostalgic comes around. Then it makes us club others for liking the new thing, forgetting that people have every right to like things we don’t. And if we remember that just because something new is out, that doesn’t mean we can’t still watch and love the old. If we do, I think we’ll all be happier.
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Andrew Bundy is a husband, father, teacher, writer, and nerd.