Nickelodeon has recently made headlines announcing a return of many of their 1990s hits. Unlike many of my colleagues, I am not necessarily excited for this. It is not because I do not share a love for these programs, quite opposite in fact. Despite this the feeling of nostalgia for these old cartoons is just strange. It’s causing an entire company to be lazy and instead of developing original new content they simply cling to their heyday and our nostalgia gives them a free pass to do this.
Long story short: Nostalgia is a quasi-limiting factor in our society.
There it’s finally said, we have entered the ultimate dream world. A world where there is no war, college is free, gas is cheap and the chain that has kept us collectively shackled to the rose tinted hue of the past is finally gone and we can finally live in a world where we aren’t trapped in a never ending cycle of nostalgia. Why oh why is this dream of a world with less nostalgia unobtainable?
Just why do we look back to the past with such over-encumbering reverence?
I’d like to cite one main reasons: The majority of individuals who experience nostalgia are older teens or adults. They take advantage of nostalgia because they are simply idealizing their childhood. A point in time where they did not have the responsibilities they know have, so they cling to it, in some crazy attempt to escape to an easier time. We as a species tend to look to the past and cling to known comforts then to look towards an unknown and unsure future.
But of course there, is reminiscing about the past, and then there is actually becoming enslaved to your nostalgia.
For example: I know many people who believe that the early 80’s produced the best music and everything produced since then is worthless trash. You become old when you stop accepting the new.
It a may be asked: But, what if the new truly is terrible?
Then it must be answered that you are simply not looking in the right places. There’s great stuff coming out all the time in every generation; great music, great movies, great art. It’s everywhere, just not necessarily in the forefront. If you’re complaining about how everything today sucks but you’re not looking for something better, you’re just being willfully ignorant.
Yet dispute my rather intense feelings against nostalgia I honestly do think a small dose of nostalgia is healthy.
What is the point of forming fond memories if you refuse to recall them? It can easily go too far, of course, it falls upon us to keep our nostalgia in line.
Take a cue from any large New Year’s celebrations. That holiday is one of my favorites, because it is one of the few times of the year that we can look toward the future with hope rather than looking at the past with longing. And yet, in good tradition, just before everyone toasts the New Year and wishes each other luck and good health, we sing ‘Auld Lang Syne.’
‘Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And days o’ lang syne!’
Honoring the past with tradition isn’t wrong. It should just be reined in so that it never becomes an inherent escapism or stagnated ignorance.
Photo courtesy of Creative Commons