Nostalgia's New Form in the Modern Era

second year kyra posey

photo by daniyal tahir

photo by daniyal tahir

Whether it be a favorite Netflix show, the resurgence of a popular 80s movie, or the Urban Outfitters spring/summer collection, nostalgia has taken 2018 pop culture captive. We all anticipate the newest season of Netflix’s Stranger Things. We celebrate the Back to the Future and Galaxy of the Guardians movies. We search for vintage gems in thrift shops, and what would any Party City be without 70s and 80s themed costumes? For us, looking back at the 70s, 80s, and 90s has become a unique form of catharsis rather than a reflection upon how America has changed.

These throwback obsessions are here to stay until pop culture moves on to another prominent facet of nostalgia. But until then, we look back on the highlights of each specific era. The current form of nostalgia, transformed by new mediums, is similar to the nostalgia that the generation before us harbored for the 50s and 60s, unconcerned with the times’ undesirable histories. We choose to overlook the “-isms” in our remembrance: marks of homophobia, racism, and sexism are for the most part erased in their pop culture representations. Nostalgia places a sort of halo around everything remembered; we overlook the bad times because the good times were so great, or because our current environmental stressors are simply too overwhelming to look at for too long.

Why do we care about nostalgia and the culture of the past? Do we long for a simpler time, seemingly less diverse, where we can sum up music and style trends in a few sentences? Or perhaps we are under the illusion of late capitalism’s excavation of nostalgia, using it as a guise as we continually spend our money and time on trivial memories.

What I’m saying is this: there’s a reason, though difficult to pinpoint, that these times are missed. We remember them for their highlights, but what will our highlights be? Why will future generations be reminiscent of us? Will it be for the renaissance of modern technology? Will we be cheered for diversity and acceptance?

Whatever it may be, this is why we need to continue our studies. For our lives, yes, but for a continued advancement of our culture. Our memory, whatever it may be, is important. Continuing education and practicing acceptance and tolerance will produce the same, and maybe stronger, reminiscent feelings in our teenage grandchildren than what we retain for our grandparents’ times. Being remembered for making an effort to be “better” in 2018 could be the best kind of nostalgia that a generation could hope for.