Four Videos on Nostalgia You Need To Watch Today! (or you can wait 10 years)

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I have lately been digging around in You Tube watching video essays about art and science and learning a lot of really cool stuff along the way. Four of my favorite channels have all recently taken a swing at the topic of nostalgia in a way that is very thought provoking and worth watching. I tackled the topic a while back myself here.

I’m starting with “Nostalgia Chick” herself Lindsey Ellis:

This video is a very good introduction to nostalgia themes, both good and bad.  When we look back at the past we tend to remember the good and forget the bad.

The second video by Nerdwriter1 has become rather famous in art circles, though should be watched by mainstream audiences. It introduces a couple of new phrases “intertextuality” referring to emotional currency created by nostalgic moments, and “weaponized intertextuality” which is an overblown version that when it shows up it a good sign you are watching a bad movie.

The third video by Just Write is a response to this second video, which combines the ideas of both of these previous videos.  Just write is a channel devoted to writing and I think just watching these videos has improved my writing a bit.

In this video, he takes the idea that “everything has already been done before” and shows how originality can still exist by mixing ideas from the past in new ways, using Stranger Things as a perfect example.

So it is possible for nostalgia to be original when it is done right, when it is done in original ways. To quote the last two videos:

A lot of Hollywood sequels, remakes and reboots use references to their own history as a frequent, but unsatisfying, replacement for actual drama.

It is very tempting to replace the term “a lot of” and just say “all”, because it is practically a given that any sequel remake or reboot is not going to be as good as we often falsely nostalgically remember the original to be.  For every successful remake/reboot like Battlestar Galactica, there are way more awful remakes/reboots like Ghostbusters 2016 that don’t deserve our attention and we are better off going back and rewatching the original, often realizing, like the original Ghostbusters 1985, it wasn’t as good as we remember it being.

For this reason a lot of creators are very reluctant to revisit their popular past projects. Joss Whedon has been asked if he would like to go back and do more episodes of Firefly, the show cancelled way too soon.  His answer is “No”.

Simply put, both Whedon and Fillion know that bringing Firefly back would be a terrible idea. We’re in love with the possibility of more story, the promise of fulfilling answers to the show’s questions. Reality would be a disappointment. Firefly feels perfect because it never had the chance to fail.

If we were to bring back Firefly, it could suffer the same fate as Mr. Robot, one of my favorite shows on the air. Mr. Robot had a near-perfect first season. Everything about it, from the writing and the show’s photography to Rami Malek’s award-winning portrayal of solitary hacker Elliot Alderson, was immaculate.

So much so, in fact, that there were concerns from a variety of critics and reporters that the show wouldn’t be able to sustain that level of quality in its second season. They were right.  If Mr. Robot had just existed as a 10-episode season, it would be remembered as one of the greatest series of television’s modern age. There wouldn’t have been time for the series to be screwed up.

The fact that Firefly only had one season was the best thing that could have ever happened for the show’s integrity, even if that reality stings a bit. Cancellation can be a gift to your legacy.

Sometimes being cancelled before your time is a good thing for legacy.  Returning with weak new episodes is a good way to kill that legacy, for example Arrested Development, Gilmore Girls, X-Files, Full House and Will & Grace to name some recent examples.

However, there is at least one series that has returned from the long dead past and purposely avoided those pitfalls by recognizing those mistakes and reinventing itself as a critique of nostalgia: Twin Peaks, which is what the final video essay by Screen Prism is about.

I believe that these four videos combined really give us a “big picture” of the age of nostalgia we seem to be buried in these days.

Within these videos is the explanation of why returning to the past is largely unsatisfactory, versions of good and bad nostalgia, and how to recognize them, but at the same time offers glimpses into how we can use the past to create original satisfying content in the present.

#rehash #rehash

watyearisit

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.

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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.

Conclusion?

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.