Nostalgia Porn

Nostalgia Porn Cover

Didn't you love The Matrix (Just the good one!)? Do you remember how awesome Austin Powers was? OMG, how much did you love Clockwork Orange? Batman and Robin? Space Jam (2021) is the latest creative work that looks to profit off a deep indulgence in the fond memories generated by remembering your favorite parts of your favorite movies.

But, larger than Space Jam, it feels like movies and TV these days are drowning in properties that want to capitalize on your fond memories.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with nostalgia. Merriam-Webster defines nostalgia as a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for some past period or irrecoverable condition. It's that feeling you get when you remember something that made you feel good from a time when you had less stress and less to worry about. No individual work can purely be nostalgia, this feeling exists between you and the film.

Why would creators work so hard to capitalize on nostalgia? Many may have a genuine desire to explore their own feelings of comfort from the past. Certainly, the more authentic works that explore the past are an attempt to work through something sincere.

It feels like every other day there's another Stranger Things or Ready Player One, and once you notice it, it's easy to feel a little bit preyed upon when you first notice it. Has this been happening all along and you're only just noticing it? The answer is really that it has been happening all along, just not to you.

Because nostalgia isn't an inherent property of a film or show, but rather something created between the creative work and the viewer, even when what you're watching was deliberately created to provoke nostalgia you're not guaranteed to experience it. It's difficult to recognize something as nostalgic if you never experienced the original feeling. It's a complicated feeling. "Classic" television was all about nostalgia and creating a world that most Americans never experienced. Don't let your parents lie to you and tell you that TV wasn't always like this. Shows like Leave it to Beaver or The Andy Griffith Show weren't just nostalgia for people who watched them years after the fact, they were contemporary works of nostalgia even in their own time.

Happy Days literally gives the game away in its name. It's an attempt to recall the happy days that may or may not have ever existed at all. But if you never lived these times, it's hard to recognize them as the disingenuous nostalgia pornography that they are.

It's fascinating to live in a time where so many people have a version of our shared history in their head that was never real. I grew up with people talking about how the country used to be, and their version of how it used to be was very much shaped by who they were when they lived it because this world has not provided equal experiences for everyone.

So, despite how it feels, things just aren't that different today than they always have been. You're just getting old enough to be the one targeted by the constant appeals to the things that you have warm feelings about. So, congratulations on getting older.

This is all a very indirect way of saying that you should allow yourself to feel nostalgic and to enjoy the things that gave your life meaning, but to be cautious and aware of how that shapes your worldview. However, because of the wide-ranging impacts from how your nostalgia impacts the people around you and because of how it can be used to manipulate you, it's important to be critical of that nostalgia. It's absolutely possible to do both.