Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Limits of Nostalgia

In the past year or so, there has been a rash of pop-culture nostalgia infiltrating our screens--both large and small. Four examples that come to mind quickly are Ghostbusters, Girl Meets World, Fuller House, and the Star Wars franchise (which is, admittedly, more of a perpetual thing). Although we have yet to see what Paul Feig will make of his all-female Ghostbusters reboot, there have been mixed responses to the other examples given here.

Anecdata seems to indicate that Girl Meets World is a hit among fans of its (literal) parent show, Boy Meets World, which ran from 1993-2000, and reviews from the series pilot reflect this, even if the viewers ache for the original series. The Force Awakens is widely beloved, with a 93% fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes, and is approaching the billion-dollar mark in gross profit. Fuller House, meanwhile, is a different story.

Initial reactions have not been positive. CNN refers to it as a show that "recaptures the magic of the original" (Full House, 1987-1995) "if you remember that Voldemort practiced magic, too." Entertainment Weekly, meanwhile, gives it a C-minus, calling it "lazily constructed kitsch." 

What is the difference between these projects? What makes one piece of our pop-culture history ripe for reworking but another fail miserably? Maybe the people involved. Maybe the premise. Maybe the expectations of the fans. Or perhaps it's that we have hit the point where we are saturated with nostalgia. From the odd '90s fangirling on Tumblr to the woman who lives as though she's in the Victorian era, we as consumers find ourselves inundated with images from the past, and it's easy to get fed up with revisiting past events and phenomena. 

So remember this next time you start to consume this particular brand of entertainment. If it doesn't feel right to you, it means the project has hit a nostalgia wall and it's time to move into the present, or perhaps even the future.


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