May 21, 2014

Unwarranted influence of the Nostalgia-Industrial Complex

For the most part I try to avoid clicking on anything with “Buzzfeed” in the URL. I get its appeal but poorly-researched lists of arbitrary length and “lol, omg, win” just aren’t for me. But there was one floating around around Facebook a couple of weeks back that piqued my interested, namely:

For those of you who don’t feel like following the link, it’s full of try-to-make-you-feel-old gems like, “3. The lyric ‘shake it like a Polaroid picture’ has no meaning to them,” and, “33. ‘Roll down your window’ has no meaning,” and, “44. If you asked what brings boys to the yard, they’d have no idea how to answer that question.”

While it’s interesting to consider what the world must be like to kids born after the year 2000 it’s also absurd to suggest that they would be completely ignorant of anything that existed before they did. I was born after rotary phones had fallen out of use so obviously I have NO IDEA what people mean when they say “dial a number.”

Maybe I’m taking it too seriously, but I am irked sometimes by my generation’s weird fixation on 90s nostalgia. Those 58 things could easily be tweaked and re-released as one of those “Things Only 90s Kids Will Understand” lists about CDs skipping and dial-up internet connections that twenty-somethings love to pass around on social media. Is this our way of trying to assert our adulthood, by noting the passage of time, how much technology has changed - pointing at it and saying, “Things were a lot different when we were kids; therefore we are adults now.” Is pointing out how the class of 2018 never knew texting limits or a world without Harry Potter just a long-winded, self-indulgent way of staying, “Well, back in my day, we didn’t have…”

If that’s the case, I can understand that. I’ve documented my own struggles here about thinking of myself as “grown-up” and the types of responsibilities that come with that. But why then does there seem to be such a big push to bring the 90s back? (Google “90s trends” and your top three auto-complete options are “coming back,” “that are back,” and “2014.”) Do you realize we’re in our third decade of the 90s? Sure, we had that little pause around the year 2000 when everything was about the New Millennium, but since then we’ve gone right back to pining for the Clinton years. The Boy Meets World reboot, the new Power Rangers movie, and the popular reruns of 90s TV shows all seem to be geared toward catering to Millennial nostalgia instead of introducing themselves to a younger audience.

Maybe I’m an outlier here but I don’t really have any desire to relive the pop culture of my childhood. I loved Power Rangers as a kid but I will freely admit that it was a terrible show even by 90s standards and would be even more terrible to anyone not watching it through the nostalgia glasses of someone who’d watched it when they were young. Clarissa Explains it All? Sucked. Boy Meets World? Sucked. Doug? Really sucked.

I think that what’s happening is that the 1990s are becoming to my generation what the 1950s are to the Baby Boomers - the “good old days” when the economy was strong, the president was popular, the music was good, and everything (i.e. gas) was cheap. It’ll be those years that we’ll reach back for and speak of with wistfulness. Any time November 22nd rolls around you get the yearly blubbering from people in their fifties and sixties about how America “lost its innocence” and “everything changed” when John Kennedy was killed. Millennials already talk that way about 9/11. Things may change; for all we know we’re just around the corner from another period of peace and economic prosperity, but I’ll bet that people my age will still talk about how the country lost an indeterminable something after the 90s that we’ll never get back.

I’m not suggesting we disavow our childhoods. I was happy a couple of years back when I was visiting home and stumbled upon my old collection of pogs, and I got a kick out of playing an original PlayStation that an old roommate of mine owned. But I never really thought, “I wish these were popular again.” We can joke about flip phones and Furbys (or is it Furbies?) and our first experience with the internet, but I guess I just don’t get the same warm “those were cool” feelings that other Millennials do. The 90s were a great decade in which to grow up, but  the 90s aren’t coming back any more than the 50s are. Stop trying to make it happen.

This is the future, give me a flying car, not a reboot of a shitty old TV show.

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