Why are we craving the past so much these days? This seems especially true in movies, music, and video games.
Lets start with movies: Remakes, reimaginings, and of course prequels and sequels seem to be the norm of movies, and the few non-prequels and sequels are based on comic books and novels people are already familiar with. Are there no original stories to film anymore?
The answer is “of course there are, but it is too financially risky”. When I saw the trailer for the new Terminator movie, it seems they are just tinkering with the time line again. Why did they make this movie when there are plenty of really good AI vs Humanity stories available in sci-fi that are not Terminator?
The answer is of course, “Because it’s Terminator.” Nostalgia guarantees a big opening day no matter how bad the movie is.
And this is where my problem lies. Nostalgia is dying. It has been turned into a marketable resource, but like many other resources its supply is limited by the rate new nostalgia is being created.
Is there any new nostalgia being created? The media is so wildly diverse these days there is very little new material that is appealing to the masses.
What about music?
OK, yes, there is new music coming out every year and some of it
sells well enough is heard often enough on Beats-Music to make it into the latest mix by DJ Earworm or the European equivalent Mashup-Germany.
But a troubling statistic I recently read about is that songs and albums 5 years old or older collectively outsell newer music by nearly 2 to 1. This is only a recent trend as in the 1990’s new music was still way more popular than old.
Music is diversifying to the point that 2014 has hit a new low in the number of Platinum albums (more than 1,000,000 sold): exactly one album has done it, and it has the nostalgic name 1989.
I like to listen to new music and see what is popular. One of the underlying trends is nostalgia. There are many new songs that sound like they came from the 1960’s, and many more that sound like the 80’s. The missing 70’s are represented by “ghetto funk”, a growing club trend.
And video games?
OK, one of the inspirations for this random post is this week’s South Park where Kyle discovers much to his dismay that watching people play video games online may actually be more popular than actually playing them.
I’m guilty of this myself as I have become a big fan of Co-Optitude on You Tube, a show where TV actress Felicia Day and her brother Ryon Day play retro video games. As someone who stuck to PC games and never bought a console, I am fascinated by the video games I missed.
Recently, I picked up the series reboot of Tomb Raider. (When it comes to prequels, sequels, and remakes, the video game industry is just as guilty of nostalgia as the movie industry). It was a 2 year old game I picked up for $5, and it was totally worth it as I had a lot of fun.
It is the 6th Tomb Raider game I have played, and like all the other ones, I eventually got stuck on a puzzle and had to consult the internet. But the text/screenshot walk-throughs I usually consult have been replaced by complete playthroughs online.
As South Park pointed out, these video game commentaries are big businesses, the top players making millions in ad revenue, for playing video games made by someone else.
And yes, Date Ariane and Something’s In The Air also have a fair number of video commentaries associated with them.
There has always been a certain level of nostalgia in pop culture. The most popular TV shows in the 70’s were set in the 50’s, and in the 90’s we had shows about the 70’s. Movie sequels and remakes happen every year.
And yet, while I can’t statistically prove it, I don’t recall a time when it has gotten this big. What is it about society today that makes us extra nostalgic for the past?
Or maybe we are not nostalgic for the past, and nostalgia is just a marketing ploy to insure an audience. Creating new products out of other people’s work is cheaper and easier than creating from scratch.
There is a good explanation about this … When we were much younger, we had no money to buy the albums or the movies we liked, or even the books. I bought recently the ” Foundation Trilogy” by Isaac Asimov, as well as ” A Princess of Mars”, some Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie books. The older ones were cheap editions, most of them had pages that got yellow with time. When I started to earn enough money, I bought almost every music I liked when I was younger. The rest I finally found on the Web, via download… So, people buy old music now because they can afford it…but this is just part of the explanation.
I myself am getting sick of all the old stories that get recycled like this. I look for stuff decades earlier just so I can find “new” movies to watch.
But, yeah: I do have more to say than just that. I think the explanation for the nostalgia market is more complicated than what we can afford. Though, it plays a big part in today’s market. When radio got invented, it was the first medium of broadcast media. It was also a time of invention and economic wealth. But, in the wake of many political issues, most everyone wanted to play it safe for what they put on the air: Both nationally and internationally.
What was playing it safe? Stories from plays and books that have been made and received well before. So, that’s what was broadcast. And, it was mostly received well as projected.
Today, it’s financially harder on everyone because of economic hardship: Including fans that go see movies in movie theaters, buy video games, and so on. So how does the media play it safe in this day and age? Reboots, sequels, and barely any room left to put any new media on broadcast. And the more reboots and sequels are made, the less room they’ll be for new media to be seen and known. The only thing keeping new media from slipping through the cracks is the internet. Even if a pilot never becomes a show, it’s bound to be leaked for all to see.
Stories around political issues are more well received now. But, most of them are considered nostalgic by now because of how far back they were made. Even five years ago is enough to qualify. It isn’t just the companies though that want to keep seeing the old stories again and again: It’s most of their older “hardcore” fans, who cast aside new stories to see more of what they can’t get enough of watching.
But, even this is made more complicated when it comes to relatively younger fans. Some are simply friends of older fans, and mostly like what they like without giving it a lot of thought. Some have had enough of the old, and get more discouraged with each day until they find cult favorites or the like. Some just want to get by in the economy of today, and don’t buy much media period.
The latter means a lot more people than before are turning to the library to watch movies or television, and there’s no easy way to tell just how many less people are buying from media companies. That, or the internet. But, it’s the same argument. Recycling stories is hurting media companies in the long run, even if it’s not really affecting them yet. The more bored and discouraged a audience gets for anything, the much less likely they’ll be the audience anymore.
But, one thing is for certain: New is not lost forever. But, it’s vulnerable to become endangered if we don’t act soon enough to prevent it.
I like your points, good info.
Like in all things, all you have to do is follow the money. Who is currently in power and making these decisions? How old are they? Wouldn’t nostalgic for them constitute things from 20-30 years ago?
Likewise, what is “new?” Answer: things that have become forgotten. Now compare that against the average human lifespan. Assuming you are in your 20’s, those things that were familiar to your grandparents will be “new” to your kids when they are in their teens.
So there is a good reason the timing is the way it is. Just compare it with the human lifespan and how long it takes children to rise to power in industry.
As far as stories, I’m a firm believer in the theory (repeated in The Amazing Spider-Man movie) that in all of human history, there are only 10 original stories; and that all others are merely combinations of those 10 stories with different actors and set locales. So the only margin for originality is the combinatorics associated with the telling of those 10 stories, the details of the character design, character interaction and temporal and geographic locales. This is part of what makes reading Wikipedia entries about movies and media much more interesting than the actual movie or media — all the possible associations create a higher layer of context that is easily lost on the terminally shallow but great unwashed masses.
But don’t take me too seriously. I still enjoy playing “Adventure” on Stella (the Atari 2600 emulator.) XD
The simple answer is that the new things suck. And the ‘old things’ represent things that doesn’t suck. In 10 years time, the newest TV-show online will be the “Dating Ariane 15’nth Year Anniversary” starring Jennifer Lawrence, lol…
But on the other hand, it gives a lot of room for those wishing to create something new without getting crowded out.
Remakes aren’t that new, and adaptations are a staple of filmmaking. Remakes of post-Star Wars sci-fi are relatively new, and I think the fans of that kind of thing are noticing that.
The fall-off in the ratio of new music sales to old music sales is probably partly due to any number of things displacing the Top 40 and college radio of our youth, which were good at advertising new music. YouTube and Pandora come to mind. But it may also be that the new tech allows the purchase of any song in the back catalog. So old music purchases are no longer after-market. I used to buy second-hand cassette albums, and I expect those sales just weren’t counted in the old days.
Well, another part of the explanations is…old stuff was better that what we have today. Not everything, of course. But let´s face it, classic Rocks still rules ! And classic books too. Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, books by Asimov, Matheson, Philip K. Dick, Bradbury, are among the best written in the 20th century. Not mentioning Poe and Lovecraft. What are the new books that were really well written ? Harry Potter, of course. J.K.Rowling managed to do the impossible: to make thousands of kids wait in a line to buy…books! Amazing…
Remakes of movies are not new, they have been doing this for many years. “Invasion of The Body Snatchers” had a lot of remakes. Spider-Man and Superman, I lost the count… probably the directors want to introduce the characters to the new generation, and , of course, every 8 to 10 years a new generation is born.
Movies and video games are a huge investment to make. A decade ago, movies were assured of making their money back in the video market if theater sales did not do it.
That is not doing it anymore as DVD sales and rentals are way down. The only way to make money back these days is in foreign markets and you need universal appeal to make that happen.
It is not that audiences crave nostalgia, it is that nostalgia is easier to sell to wary investors, so I guess we can thank Netflix for this era of nostalgia.
Like you said, nostalgia has always been with us. I think the difference now is, the group being nostalgic. It’s the “80’s generation” who are turning into 30-something Mommies and Daddies and craving their red-white-and-blue transformered-up-ninja-turtle-youth with a side of Goonies. (Sorry, maybe I should shut up before somebody gets the idea to remake that too. “HEEEEY YOU GUUUUYS!” lol 😉 )
Oh yeah, another difference is the new shallowness of modern culture, it really has no concept of what made something great in the first place. (Yeah, I mean YOU MICHAEL BAY, KNOCK IT OFF! 😛 )
On a deeper level, I think it’s people also wanting to escape that too…the very shallow, derpiness of modern culture, yet ironically, it’s that very same machine serving up our escapism to us in the only way it knows how…with clueless tone-deftness to the original. It’s like that old saying, “A vast ocean that’s only a foot deep.”
Speaking of which, Star Wars 7…part of me wants to see it pulled off, and part of me is cringing a’la Indy and The Crystal Skull. Only a foot deep.
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