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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Childhood classics revisited


How TV and movies are exploiting nostalgia and ruining it

After the recent confirmation by Drake Bell about  the reboot of his and Josh Peck’s Nickelodeon show “Drake & Josh,” I began to wonder how many more mediocre rebooted TV shows and movies the TV and film industry can be inundated with. It seems that the TV and film industry is taking advantage of our generation’s yearning for simpler times.

There is something happening in the U.S. right now involving a 20-year culture feedback loop.

I first heard about this phenomenon in my junior year English class when we were studying the Vietnam War. My teacher discussed how during the 90s when he was in high school, there was a yearning for 60s nostalgia, and even a yearning to look back on the Vietnam War.

Millennials and early Gen Z-ers are looking back on their own childhood experiences as they, especially early Gen Z-ers such as myself, enter and endure their 20s and early 30s. We are very much longing for our own childhood experiences as we move farther away from them.

What that does though is create an idyllic, yet distant, understanding of our own past experiences and things that we loved.

This allows for the TV and movie industry to capitalize on our need for nostalgia as we move into real adult life. But they do it poorly.

The “Drake & Josh” reboot might have the potential to be a revamped version of the show that many kids, myself included, loved dearly. The gags and jokes might hold up, but there is a very real possibility that it could be another cheap reboot that trots out old references and former characters to tug at our nostalgic epicenters.

I don’t want another “Fuller House,” where the reboot is a cheap knockoff of the original. They pander to old audiences to the point where it is so blatantly clear that this show is machine for nostalgia. The jokes aren’t funny nor are the references even remotely organic. “Fuller House” is the textbook reboot for capitalizing on nostalgia.

Of course there are standout reboots that do a good job of actively engaging that nostalgia in a smart way.

The new Halloween movie, “Halloween (2018),” gave us the nostalgia factor in the very iconic battle between Laurie Strode and Michael Meyers, but it is also gave a new storyline and allowed the story to be something else. That is the way the film and TV industry should look at nostalgia.

If they are going to produce content for the explicit purpose of playing into a generation’s need for nostalgia, the industry needs to do it intentionally. If content is so blatantly cheesy or pandering, the initial excitement around the prospect fades. The viewer feels cheated.

I know that I felt somewhat cheated when I first watched the reboot of “Will & Grace.” Not that it wasn’t new in some ways, but it was trying too hard to play to the charm that the original series had.

It made it hard for someone like me to look at this rebooted “Will & Grace” series and see my desire for nostalgia be met, but at the same time see the show evolve with time. The gags revolving around Karen and Jack’s friendship feel stale and dated. Certain storylines take into account the time that has passed, but at the same time it tries too hard to recreate magic.

If anything, I’m trying to articulate that nostalgia is something that we yearn for, especially as we move into the more adult phases of our lives.

If the TV and film industry is looking to respond to this well-communicated need for nostalgia, they have to do better. This industry has to engage with the viewer so that they know what their audience wants.

No one was looking to “Fuller House” to emulate its predecessor. The audience was looking for a subtle nod here or there. It doesn’t have to be a carbon copy of what we once knew. It can be something brand new that simply takes into account the things that came before it.

Nostalgia is tricky. It is something that we yearn for, but it is something that can be manipulated easily. But even in that, nostalgia needs to be engaged with intentionality.

Whatever product the TV and film industry puts out, it needs to take into consideration that these things we yearn for have an insurmountable place in our hearts and our formative experiences.

Nostalgia shouldn’t be used as a ploy  for money, rather it should be met with real and genuine care.   

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