To celebrate my 2000th blogpost, I asked Twitter what I should write about. This series of posts are inspired by those requests.

Mr Gee suggested this one. He writes:

I did a workshop with a group of 14 year olds. I was talking about comic book heroes being like Greek gods (it’s a standard analogy of mine).

One girl made the comment that all entertainment is just old people (over 20’s) trying to relive their childhood with alternative versions and sequels.

She quoted: Star Wars franchise, Marvel Universe, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings… etc and asked “where are the new stories that aren’t dripping in 20th century sentimentality”.

It messed me up because almost every example that I could give (Twilight, GoT, Black Panther, even WandaVision) were indeed throwback shows.

The line that she hit me with was “you’re trying to shape my nostalgia with your own”.

It really made me pause

Mr Gee

In what for 2021 constitutes “A Day Out”, I found myself in the local supermarket on Sunday. I bumped into a friend, and whilst we mumbled at each other through masks in the Sainsburys’ Salad Aisle, Bob told me that his son had discovered the 1990s.

Big baggy checked shirts, Ripped jeans. Nirvana tees. Grunge was alive and well and living in Hampton.

In another conversation this week someone told me that you should never sign-post Bowie or Lou Reed to your kids. Allow them to discover them for themselves. (Disclaimer – I’m still to discover Bowie. I’ve tried.)

If I travel back to my own formative years, there was the Second Summer of Love, the mock-Beatles of the Oasis, the mock-Kinks of Blur. We had Vietnam movies and The Doors. JFK and… was my youth in the late 80s and 90s just a pastiche of the 60s?

And are there any new stories to be told, anyway? Don’t all stories follow one of a few set dramatic arcs that then are set with modern day props to make them relevant? Hollywood remakes have been around as long as Hollywood itself, whether by taking from stage to screen or from screen to screen.

Even the “new” cultures of my generation were merely plundering the nostalgia of those that came before – the breakbeats of drum and bass and hip hop, for example, culled from jazz and soul from the 60s and 70s that themselves were often riffs on standards that came from before.

Today we live in a modernist world, a clean-lines, class and steel cool aesthetic that superseded the kitsch of post-Modernism that strangely came before it. Post-post-modernism is born from a movement that is a century old. I’ve often thought that everything that we take as being “now” is about as “now” as the Arts and Crafts movement. We are living in a pastiche of a 100 year out-of-date vision of the future.

But there is one bit of nostalgia from my youth that I’ll never be able to pass on to my kids, no matter how hard I try. A nostalgia for the sense of excitement that the future, the 21st Century, the new millennium would bring. For all of the recycling of culture throughout the 80s and 90s, that sense of what the Year 2000 might bring will never be recreated. As the saying goes, nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.

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