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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Column: Nostalgia cycles always on cue

Past items bring back nice feelings and nice money

culture@dailylobo.com

The ‘90s were two full decades ago. That’s as far away from the ‘90s as the ‘70s felt. The ‘80s acted as a 10-year demilitarized zone of mass cocaine use, synthesizers and Ronald Reagan. So what does that mean now? Is there enough distance yet from the 2000-2009 years that lack a catchy title to characterize them?

Certainly, the Bush years dominated America politically. That post-9/11 fear not felt in the country since the now almost cartoonish fear of communism and, before that, of witches.

Often the most telling indicator of a decade’s color and character is the media, which is why I’m here to cynically tell you that reproduction comes in a 20-year cycle. You can practically set your clock to it. It takes 20 years for something to cycle through popular to old to forgotten to vintage, then, ultimately, back to nostalgic.

Why?

The answer to this isn’t simply that Hollywood has no new ideas.

That’s not it at all, and it’s far more cynical than that. When you’re spending millions of dollars to make billions of dollars, you want a safe bet, the surer bet. You want a franchise. If the consumer recognizes the brand, they’ll pay a pound. Nostalgia equals money.

It’s the reason why we were inundated with “Batman” reboots or “GI Joe” films in the ‘00s, and as the decade finally began to die, it wheezed out reboots of the “Karate Kid,” “The A-Team,” and “Tron.”

It’s the same reason so many World War II movies, now considered classics, were made in the ‘60s. Simply put, 20 years after the children of the ‘90s were children, they have something they didn’t have before: their own money.

They’ve grown into full-fledged consumers in their own right, fat with potential commerce and, tragically, nothing to spend their hard-earned dollars on.

This is how the all-powerful, all-valuable nostalgia comes in.
The ever-changing date of “20 years ago from today” represents an eternally untapped market.

It doesn’t end. The ‘90s are full-on open season. “The Crow” is getting rebooted; so is “The Mummy” and “Mortal Kombat.” “Starship Troopers,” the Michael Bay “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” and even “Jumanji” — that’s not made up.

The truth will drive you mad. But it’ll also set you free.

There’s something deeply seductive to the human spirit about the soft-edged inaccuracy of sentimentality. The past was always better, fresher and more innocent when you were a child.

Everything seemed better then, especially the cartoons and movies. They just don’t make ‘em like that anymore! If only they’d come out with something good.

What? They’re coming out with a new [INSERT BELOVED SHOW/MOVIE HERE]?! I loved [INSERT BELOVED SHOW/MOVIE HERE] when I was a kid!

Nostalgia is the emotional equivalent of a baby blanket, the comfort of the simple and familiar. A kind of comfort people time and time again are willing, desperately, to pay to reclaim. This is why the fanatical buzz for “Space Jam 2” holds no surprises.

Though you should definitely check out the official “Space Jam” website. It’s remained completely untouched since 1996. No joke, it’s like traveling into an Internet time machine. A simpler time.

A time yet untouched by opportunistic reboots.