The Problem With Nostalgia

The most common marketing tool, your fond memories are being sold back to you in shinier new forms that are in no way close to the original. Companies are praying off your childhood and you pay them money for it, whether it’s is good or not, just look at the “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie. A common tactic deployed by marketing agencies and businesses that provide entertainment, is nostalgia. Selling you something you already know is something that companies have been doing for ages, now this doesn’t sound to bad right? Wrong. It is the worst thing for the entertainment market, which is a very broad market.

The tactic of nostalgia has been used for a very long time, yet it saw a very prominent rise in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, with the attempts to appeal to the children of the 80’s. With each age group getting older, companies realize that these age groups and generations have reached the age where they have started making money, this is the prime time for these companies to attack. Because each age group and generation often makes the argument that their childhood was and grows out of childish things, these “adults” yearn for the feelings they had in their childhood, and what is the only way to satisfy that need? Easy. Repackage those childhood memories and sell them to a younger crowd, but do it in a way that will interest older audiences more than the younger crowd.

Examples of selling these older ideas to a younger crowd but making them appeal to older audiences can be seen in one of the biggest deployments of this strategy. The Michael BayTransformer” movies. Transformers, one of the largest toy lines and television series to come out of the 80’s, was made into a live-action movie in 2007. Now at this point you may just be saying, well they’re trying to introduce kids to the world of Transformers, to which I would say there is no point to do that. Kids in the 90’s and 2000’s grew up with Transformers, but the difference is these kids didn’t grow up with the Transformers you know, these kids grew up with “Transformers: Beast Wars”, which hadn’t seen the original cast of characters that people are familiar with for over a decade. So why then did the 2007 Transformers film bring back the old cast of characters that no one in the younger generations grew up with? It was to prey off the older generations.

Now, the worst one to commit this hideous deed, but also implement it in the most genius of ways, is none other than “Captain Marvel“. The genius behind the introduction to this character into the MCU comes from the fact that they placed the movie in the 90’s. It is genius because how do you introduce a relatively obscure comic book character (at the time) into a main stream series? Place it in a setting that everyone who grew up watching these movies is familiar with, the 90’s. Nearly every second of that movie was filled with some reference to the 90’s film, and why? Because the largest percent of the audience that is going to see this film is from the younger generation that experienced things like “All That” and “Transformers: Beast Wars“, while listening to Nine Inch Nails and Nirvana. It tricks your mind into believing the movie is better than it actually is by putting subtle nods to your favorite era into it, it makes you feel at home. (Just to be clear, I did enjoy Captain Marvel immensely, I just stating this as a generalization of the tactic of nostalgia)

The Blockbuster video right in the beginning of Captain Marvel

The biggest problem is not that these companies are trying to prey off your childhood memories to gain easy money, but the fact that it destroys creative thinking. I constantly hear people complain that we are getting to many sequels, or the that the movie market is saturated with superhero movies, or remakes, and in some ways this is true. Yet, why do you think that the movie industry and some of the video game industry is like that? Because people are going to pay for it. It kills all potential for an original idea because these large companies know that they’re going to get more money on something everyone knows, than something that may be a hit or may not be a hit. This is why I have such a fondness for things like the work Jordan Peele is doing, with films like “Us” or “Get Out“, because they are original and they tell a new story with new characters rather than old characters different story.

Nostalgia makes you feel good, but it also makes you feel good in the way that cocaine makes you feel good. It controls your life and doesn’t challenge you to move out of your comfort zone to experience new things that could be potentially better. So I challenge you to move on past nostalgia and notice when these companies are trying to shove it down your throat, and I implore you to ask for something else, ask for something different, something more.