Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Era of Nostalgia: Are We in It?

Post-Modernism began post-World War II, which was over fifty years ago now. Culture and literature has changed enormously since then, so naturally stories have taken on a new style. This isn’t something that I normally talk about on SOI, but I’ve been thinking about the quality of the stories we create today. Now, I’m not claiming to be some great cultural scholar or even that the style of Post-Modernism is dead, but I have noticed a trend among stories (both books, T.V. shows and movies) that have been published in the last few years that I wanted to point out and explore a bit in this blog post. 

This trend is the overwhelming emergence of nostalgia in story-telling. Story tellers and audiences seem to be yearning for the past; not the distant “historical” past, but the more recent, closer past that is less than a lifetime away. Perhaps more accurately, the past without the Internet and less technology. That being said, we seem to be longing for the past, while using modern technology to recreate it. There’s a strange tension that many of us have within ourselves between wanting the current advancements and also yearning for a simpler time.

I had a friend who made light of this tension by saying this:
“The Internet is like a love child. You love it, but sometimes you really wish it would go away.”
Honestly, I’ve never found a more accurate way to describe that tension.

Now, this isn’t just hearsay (okay, it kind of is…). I do have some examples of modern stories that embody this tension I’ve been talking about.

Let's Talk about Books: 
Although the technological enabling of nostalgia isn't quite as apparent in books, the theme of nostalgia is still woven throughout the YA genre which feeds into our obsession with the past. Books that have been written in the past few years are being set in the 80s and 90s. Although this might be a ploy to get YA books to appeal to middle-aged readers, teens are embracing the nostalgia with the hipster culture. I really feel like hipster culture is self-explanatory, so let's go onto a few examples of these books: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (along with many of her other books), The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth, Tape by Steven Camden and the list goes on (you can look on Goodreads and see the same lists I pulled these from, so I won't bore you with more). 

Our nostalgic books don't carry the same paradox that remakes and blogs do, but I wanted to include them because they are a product of our nostalgic era. Books like this are not only a product, but they also perpetuate nostalgic culture that leads to the technology paradox that occurs more blatantly in remakes and blogging. 

Let’s Talk about Remakes:
It’s especially apparent to me in T.V. shows and movies, although books such as fairy-tale re-tellings do this too. The stream of superhero movies? The new Star Wars movie? The soon-to-be comeback of Gilmore Girls?! I’m sure you can think of tons of other examples of remakes and continuations of old stories. The common thread in these is that they are old stories that are being remade and shared using new technology.

I’m not a comic-book expert, but even I know that those classic Iron Man comics are a far cry from the multi-million dollar budgets that the modern movies had to spend on technology that enhances special effects. The Gilmore Girls remake probably won’t draw on the advancements in technology for special effects (unless it suddenly goes Sci-fi on us…which maybe wouldn’t be all bad?). However, the reboot is made possible because of an advancement in technology. Netflix, a service that didn’t exist in the same capacity as it does now, when the show was originally airing, is making the return to Gilmore Girls possible. Although the technology is being used in two completely different ways, one to enhance and one to make possible, without these advancements it would be impossible to indulge our nostalgia.

Let's Talk about Blogs:

Yet, it is this technology that we yearn to escape from. You can even see it in our blogs. Take for example my our love of “handwritten” fonts, or our virtual banners that pledge to read the printed word. We use technology to indulge our desire to hold onto things of the past like the art of handwriting and paper books. This strange paradox that I’ve found so interesting seems to be everywhere.

I’m not calling for change or even saying that this paradox is problematic, I just wanted to use this post to discuss the ironic tension that's been rolling around in my brain. And perhaps more importantly, I want to hear what you guys think of it. Where else do you see nostalgia in literature? In culture? Am I totally delusional? Let me know all your thoughts in the comments!

Reading: The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
Listening: Audiobooks
Watching: The Shannara Chronicles 


  1. I definitely agree with you! I am seeing a sense of nostalgia... maybe it's because we're currently in an era where everything's moving so quickly, and sometimes we feel like going a little vintage :)

    1. So true! I find myself looking for time to slow down more and more. I am also a lover of vintage too:)

  2. Have you seen the film poem Look Up by Gary Turk? It's on Youtube and was the first thing I thought of when you talked about us using technology to essentially bash technology. It's definitely interesting, and makes me wonder if people from other generations noticed the same thing in their era, or if it's unique to now.

    1. I haven't, but I'm going to watch it right now! I'm so intrigued.

      I feel like there's nothing new under the sun, so I'm sure prior generations saw other paradoxes, but in relation to technology, I think it's pretty current.

      Thanks for the poem recommendation!

  3. Hmmm... I never really gave this much thought before. But it is an interesting concept! I've noticed how re-makes & re-tellings are suddenly a big deal, but I contributed that to people simply running out of ideas/being unoriginal. Haha! (Not trying to make that sound rude or anything! I ADORE retellings, but after seeing a big trend like that, it really makes you wonder?)

    This is some good food for thought! I like it! ("ANOTHAAA!!" *smashes cup*) Thanks for sharing! :D

    1. I totally had the same thought process! I originally chalked it up to them being unoriginal, which I still think is part of it, but on more thought I realized there was more going on.

      I'm glad you were entertained/mind-fed! I have a few more of these discussion/theoretical posts in mind, so you might have another one soon (and by soon I mean whenever I feel like writing:P).

  4. This is an interesting idea... I guess I'd always attributed it to the fact that people were like "Well, we know that this sells, so let's do it again and make billions of dollars!" And while that sentiment is only true in the maybe thousands when it comes to books, it does feel that way in regards to movies. Still, you do make me wonder what other motivations we have right now.

    1. You are totally correct in pointing out the money part of the argument. I definitely glossed over that in my post, but it's true; people make things they know will make money. Glad to see my post stirred up some thoughts!

      Thanks for commenting!

  5. I hadn't thought about it this way, but you're so right. I know I personally like to cling to things of the past and watch 90s shows and remakes of things I loved as kid and I love paper back books. This is a really cool discussion point.

    1. I find myself clinging to photos of the past and sometimes I find myself obsessing over getting the shot because it is how I will remember the moment.

      Glad you found this interesting!

  6. What an interesting post! You are so, so right. We - the 90s generation - cling to the 90s as a distant, beautiful memory. Sure, we're all partially laughing at ourselves, but we do like to wallow in nostalgia.

    The tension between technology and nostalgia isn't one I'd thought about, but you're so right. I'd never before considered the paradox of our handwritten fonts, love of everything inky (A Splash of Ink ... Ink, Inc. ... !) or virtual Printed Word banners, but it's so true: they contradict themselves.

    Very interesting subject, Sunny. Thank you.

    Also, happy new year! I feel like I've not been around here much lately: I'm really sorry! And thanks for stopping by my bloggy corner <3

    PS Might be a silly question, but are you first timing or rereading LotR?

    1. Happy New Year to you too! I'm glad you're back! I love seeing your comments:)

      Thank you for all your kind words about my post. I never even thought of the inky bits. Good catch!

      As for LOTR, there are no silly questions. It's my first time reading them!


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