Nostalgia limits new film culture
This summer, viewers saw the release of one of television’s unexpected sleeper hits in Stranger Things, a 1980s horror/science fiction throwback that has taken the Netflix binge-watching crowd by storm.
What is best described as The Monster Squad (1987) drawn out over eight one-hour episodes, the series has been charming critics and audiences alike with its heavy doses of nostalgia for one of our culture’s most vibrant and aesthetically defined decades.
With its music, plot and its references upon references, Stranger Things is just the latest of our generations own sense of culture, drawing endlessly from the well that is the eighties, for a sense of unearned identity in a current cultural climate that has yet to define itself.
It’s the latest example of our borrowed sense of culture.
While it may not be as exploitative as others in recent memory, Stranger Things represents this debilitating reliance on the past in lieu of creating an identity unique to this time period.
This culture is defining itself more for its ability to remix and revitalize media from the past, than to provide its own voice, style and aesthetic.
With modern media platforms offering endless opportunities to relive these past decades as if they never past, it is easy for us to consider ourselves a part of a decade we had no temporal ties to. But eventually we have to reach a point of enough being enough.
Students are part of the youth generation. Therefore, we are uniquely poised as the future media creators and definers of what this culture considers popular and evocative of this time.
We alone hold the ability to influence what media has cultural cache in this point in time. Sadly, we are continually looking to the past, most likely out of frustration for our generation lacking a distinct aesthetic of its own.
Look to the recent updates, reboots or remakes of films that were so closely identified with the decade in question and how their modern equivalents seem to lack the flavour of what they are based on. The Thing (2011), Robocop (2014) and The Evil Dead (2013) were doomed to lack the staying power of their originals because they are unable to identify with their new modern context.
Despite best efforts, they just don’t have an identifiable flavour or aesthetic that is even comparable to the 1980s.
This may be a non-issue for many. I contend that my love for science fiction and horror films from the 1980s, which Stranger Things endlessly gets inspired from, knows no bounds.
But if we, as a culture, continually look to the past for our entertainment, even for the sake of a model or a reference, we ultimately damage our own desire to have our generation be as culturally significant or unique.
I am not saying to forever denounce the past, but we have to reach a point when just recalling the eighties won’t be enough to entertain us.
For a decade, many of us never experienced firsthand, basking in second-hand nostalgia is not the answer to lacking pop culture.
Where will the bold new films, television, music or what-have-you come from if series such as Stranger Things are allowed to live freely through it all over again?
If we want future entertainment to be unique and original, we have to quit relying on nostalgia for our sense of culture.
So enjoy Stranger Things (as I did myself) but never lose faith in the present to entertain you.