We've Abused Our Thirst for Nostalgia

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I can’t help but think we’re thirsting for something we’ve lost and I don’t mean just random brands and intellectual properties, I mean as a culture. Something about our minds and hearts keeps wanting to go back, and the market was there to give it to us.

Star Wars was a brand that won over the hearts of those all around the globe and achieved something of cult-like status. It defined sci-fi and, no matter what country you’re in, if you say the words “Luke Skywalker” or “Han Solo” or “lightsaber,” people will immediately know what you’re talking about.

Now it’s been so abused and overused in our attempt to retrieve that sense of wonder that now, when people hear the word “Star Wars,” they shrug and return to whatever they were doing. They introduced modernity to the franchise and now, the galaxy far, far away feels way too close to home. Let’s face facts. While there are some interesting spin-offs happening, Star Wars as we know it is dead.

The same can be said of many other brands. Ghostbusters, Terminator, Halloween, Godzilla, and even Independence Day have all made returns, and each of them has fallen short of the original, despite leaps in advancements to movie-making know-how and technical knowledge. Even Disney can’t stop reaching back into its vault to drag one of its classics kicking and screaming into the present and morphing it into a live-action shadow of its former self.

Like a drug, we experienced an amazing high the first time we took it and we’ve continued to induce ourselves into a stupor to try to get that feeling back. We’re chasing that sense of awe and wonder we had as our younger selves, but the truth is we’re not going to get it back…at least not like this. The world changes and the things that we loved back then are frozen in that time, or sit timelessly as they are and cannot withstand change.

Think of the lesson that was imparted from Jurassic Park (also a franchise with a horrific reboot), when the main characters were sitting in a room and talking about the ethical question surrounding what they just saw. In the iconic scene, as the potential sales numbers are being discussed, Jeff Goldblum’s character compares the bringing back of such awesome forces by scientists to a kid who found his dad’s gun.

“It didn’t require any discipline to obtain it,” he says. “You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves. You don’t take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could and before you even knew what you had you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunch box and now you’re selling it.”

The comparison here is pretty apt. Growing up, we saw works of art that defined our culture at that time and, whether we admit it or not, affected and changed our lives. We quote movies in our daily conversations and judge where we are as a society based on what movies and music displayed back then.

As an example, how often do you compare today’s woke and hyper-sensitive culture to Mel Brooks movies?

These things are incredible forces that were at play, and today, we watch as lesser minds take these franchises and ideas, paint them with a modern brush, and repackage them for consumption with little care for what they are, what they were trying to impart, or what they mean to people. On some occasions, this is done with spite for the fans.

Like the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, these IPs are fun to look at, when you first see the world you once knew in stunning recreations with all the glitz and glamour of modern cinema, but underneath there’s something wrong about it — and that’s not to mention the danger that comes with it. This IP can’t live well in modern times. It’s a creature out of time, and the more we set them loose, the more we lose the magic that they once were.

Soon, that glowing part of our childhood and what these things meant to us will be eclipsed by nonsensical modern attempts to bring the brand — and more importantly, the feeling — back.

We should be able to look back at these things in the forms that they are, remember the lessons they had to impart (if they had one), and move forward with new creations and ideas. This nostalgia trip we’re on as a society is just an attempt at reawakening the dead, but it is dead and we need to let it rest. We’re doing it, and us, a disservice by trying to bring them back and make them work in a time they weren’t meant for.

What I’m really trying to say is that I’m super mad at Netflix for making a live-action Cowboy Bebop.