A look at our nostalgia-drunk culture
Nostalgia is something that affects us all. We love the past and are fearful of the future. But recently we’ve been getting drunk on the juice, intoxicated by its sweet, succulent comforts. It’s the common thread that pervades both our culture and our politics. In Hollywood, the resurgence of laid-to-rest trilogies is firstly indicative of the tar pits creative dearth, and secondly of the longing for a more innocent past that we, the audience, are so eager to consume.
Many over a certain age still long for their 2D video games, monotone ringtones, 8-pixel art and belief that the future, though frightening, was exciting. It’s not that we haven’t accomplished a lot since the 60s, but reality rarely matches imagination. Our imaginations dreamt up Star Wars, Star Trek, Robocop, Back to the Future, and an endless number of fictional futures made beautiful by the boundless possibilities of technology.
In 2015, we drifted past the date that Marty McFly visits, in the then distant future. Where are our hover skateboards? Yes we have fascinating inventions such as the Internet, smartphones, social media and what not, but they’re not as glorious somehow – they’re mundane, ordinary. And with all cynicism that we feel, the foreboding created from surprise elections, destabilized economies and terrorist organizations, it’s hard to keep dreaming of a better future (unless you’re Elon Musk, but he’s a uniquely awesome individual).
We’re trying to recollect futures we once dreamt of. The stream of new Star Wars films isn’t likely to end any time soon. Chock-full of homages and references to the original trilogy, before we had a brash and over eager Anakin Skywalker to contend with, Star Wars’ revival is testament to just how far we’ve entrenched ourselves in a memory. Like similar trilogy revisits, the new movies regurgitate the creative energy of their predecessors, rehashing the same basic premise and storyline to electrified fanfare. Because we’re not after something different. We’re looking to reclaim an instant of our childhoods, a memory, a cultural concern that supersedes reality TV shows and entertainment squeezed through a celebrity culture gone awry. But that’s just one example.
The cultural icons of Generation X are dropping away each year – from music to film – and we’re at odds to hold on.
Maybe it’s just hard to forget in the 21st century. Musicians are easily immortalised through the perpetuity of their music (and even, somewhat sadistically, through holographic depictions of past performances, hauntingly projected onto a new stage). We’ve got pictures, video footage and hard drives; their social media accounts remain (and are maintained) as hollow shadows of their personalities. We don’t want to let go – we’ll keep the life support on and galvanize Tupac. We’re just better at appreciating those that have gone than those that remain.
Culture influences politics. It’s this personality that we share – the craving for a glorious, immortalised past – that has contributed to the rise of Trump and the events in the UK. Remember a time before over population? Remember a time when manufacturing was super, and any man could expect a job for life at his local factory? Yes today isn’t perfect, but neither was ‘back then’ – we just have short memories and inveterately romanticise anything out of reach.
Maybe our children will see something great in 2016 that we refused to witness – some new creation worked on in a dark room away from the intense glare of the media spotlight, perhaps. Or maybe it’s just a time of transition – a suspended moment endured without enjoyment, between a past that we crave and a future we fear.