The ’80s, the ’90s, the Golden Age, even ten years ago – we constantly want to live in a time that is not ours. It’s a human thing: even if we’ve always liked to fantasise about its possibilities (the 1985 classic Back to the Future and Orwell’s novel 1984 are mere examples of this fascination), we are afraid of the future, of what we can only anticipate, but never really know. Taking refuge in the past seems the only reasonable thing to do when there’s anxiety right, left, and centre, and films, books, and music are the closest thing we have to going back in time and leaving our fears behind for a bit.
However, while the rising levels of anxiety in regards to our future are perfectly understandable, the past couple of years took nostalgia to a whole other level. The most popular films that aren’t adaptations or don’t feature superheroes are still tied to something from the past (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Blade Runner 2049, Ghostbusters, Beauty and the Beast), there are whole TV shows paying tribute to the ’80s (Stranger Things), and ‘old-school’ music is making a comeback. Seeing this trend growing in amplitude as time passes feeds a worry: could this nostalgia be dangerous for the entertainment industry if it keeps growing?
It’s only natural for us to enjoy the things we grew up with, the music our parents were listening to when we were kids, the games we played, the films we saw. Hearing Michael Jackson’s music, rewatching E.T. or reading Stephen King’s novels could never lose that fuzzy feeling of comfort and safety if you’d asked me five years ago. Now, that certainty has started to fade away, as constantly reviving all these masterpieces in various ways could make them lose that aura of the past which hugely contributes to their appeal.
Of course, if nostalgia can ever be healthy, there are some of these revivals that do it right. Even if paying tribute to the ’80s is one of the major features of Stranger Things, its plot, emotional power, and well-built characters lay the foundation of its greatness. Once you allow yourself to be absorbed by the story, the hints to a King novel or a Police song playing in the background can only make you smile or maybe dig up an old playlist later to fill your night with some ’80s joy, but they aren’t distracting. The latest Star Wars instalments haven’t recycled plots either; they have come up with new characters and content to fit the incredibly popular universe now spanning over 40 years.
However, the entertainment industry could do with more completely fresh content. Take Baby Driver, for instance, possibly the most original film of 2017, which impressed audience with its use of soundtrack and its fast-paced plot. Take Ed Sheeran, whose sound is so particular that we can now recognise his music from the very first beat. There’s nothing wrong with them paying tribute to what influenced their work, as nothing can ever be completely isolated, but originality should be a priority. Even if ‘the 2010s’ doesn’t sound nearly as good as ‘the ’80s’, wouldn’t it be great to get this decade up there for future generations to look back to?