By Stephen Clark
Trends come and go and then come back around again.
Finally. The trailer for a new movie in the franchise you loved as a kid is coming out. It starts. It looks good! Nice and crisp visuals, way better than the VHS you watched the original on. You meet the characters who are the kids, or whatever, of the people from the first one. And then it happens: the dramatic and subdued version of the music you identify the series with. You don’t love the trailer but it’s good to hear that music again. You’ll probably go and watch it, even just for fun with friends.
Nostalgia is a powerful tool in media. It isn’t about giving you exactly what the past was, instead delivering the best bits of what you remember. It’s the taste of Cap’n Crunch, not the cuts on the roof of your mouth. We’ve seen the 80’s become a technicolor dreamscape of sexy Uncle Jesse mullets, DeLoreans and quirky kids playing D&D while synthwave soundtracks hum us to a happy place. But we’ve all seen what mall bangs ACTUALLY looked like, almost nobody had a DeLorean or cared about it until Back to the Future and that basement from Stranger Things? Should’ve had way more acne and body odor. Nostalgia is a POWERFUL tool.
On The Playground Is Where I’d Spend Most Of My Days
The wave of 80’s nostalgia in television, film and more has been going for a pretty long time, with a long and varied list of shows that cash in on the audience who grew up in that decade. But now we’re seeing the nostalgia roll right on over into the next decade.
From every direction, a generation of 20-to-30-somethings is getting enticed by the look, sound and feel of the years they grew up in. Captain Marvel featured a still-in-business Blockbuster, packed with new release VHS tapes and the latest and greatest beeper tech used to call her to assist Earth in its time of need.
BTS, the biggest deal in pop music can be seen in some clearly 90’s inspired looks and feature a healthy dose of the pre-00’s radio jams in the albums that brought them to the attention of the average US listener. Whatever the medium is, the 90’s are worming their way in and coming for your wallet.
Time Keeps On Slipping Into The Future
Aside from the things that are simply taking a cue from the past’s pop culture, we’re set to get brand new installments of The Matrix and Scream, kicking off the 2020’s with two of the most decidedly 90’s series. Not content to settle for getting your dollar in the future, nobody has to wait for those films to get their dose of Tamagotchi-era goodness. Disney+ launched with only a select few originals, instead relying on the love for their back catalog of Saturday morning classics like Darkwing Duck, the Fox animated X-Men series and more.
Style Over Substance
One of the biggest parts of the renaissance of what people identify as THE look of the 80’s is a product of that laser beams, neon and shiny metal aesthetic that The Memphis Group pioneered. Without as easily defined and replicable of a style, 90’s nostalgia might not have the same kind of long tail. But I can’t wait to see what Zoomers decide the 90’s looked like.
Whether the cautious steps out of 80’s nostalgia and into 90’s will stick, we’ll have to wait and see. But what do you think? Will rehashed Clinton-era styles gain new life? Will we get to see Justin Tmberlake get to fashionably revive his ramen noodle hair?
Is 90’s nostalgia in movies and tv going to overtake 80’s nostalgia?— Geek Elite Media (@GeekEliteMedia) December 18, 2019
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An Editorial From Stephen Clark
Pop culture’s kids are trying to step out of their parent’s shadows with mixed results.
In the Streaming Wars™, using pre-existing intellectual property is the fastest shortcut to getting the viewer’s attention and that sweet, sweet subscription money. We’ve seen seemingly every big company launch or announce a streaming service and, with those services, come new shows featuring characters and worlds that we already know. While it’s great to get new things connected to what we already love, the response to two different tent-pole series has been mixed, to say the least.
One of the most potent examples of the reception to new series that use old IP can be seen in comparing ‘The Mandalorian’ on Disney+ and ‘Watchmen’ on HBO.
Mild spoilers ahead for the first few episodes of The Mandalorian and Watchmen
Shiny Man and Baby Yoda: The Series
When Disney+ was announced, we learned that a Mandalorian series was coming and it had an all star team behind it. The series would be utilizing a Boba Fett-like character of the Mandalorians proper, fan favorites from the expanded Star Wars universe of novels that Disney retconned when they acquired the Star Wars francise. After the first two episodes were released, fan response to the series was almost entirely positive, no small feat after the overwhelmingly negative response to ‘The Force Awakens’, ‘The Last Jedi’ and ‘Solo’. Casual and dedicated fans were enjoying it and Disney was cashing in on the love of an old franchise and bringing new fans into the fold.
‘The Mandalorian’ is a space western and the fans took to it. Now that we have five of the eight episodes in our watch histories, fan reception seems to have soured. In conversation with friends, the most stalwart Star Wars fan I know went from saying after episode 1 that “It feels like Star Wars again” to that his enjoyment has plateaued after episode 5 and that he wished more happened in the episodes. This is a common complaint among those watching the series. What started with so much potential and excitement has mellowed into mostly “Baby Yoda” memes, conversations about bad acting, or the lost opportunities in the biggest name actors being there for only one episode as bit characters.
Disney nailed the opening of the series, even succeeding in creating a cute character than fans all enjoyed (see Porgs, Jar Jar, and Ewoks for the failed past attempts) and didn’t even seem poised to cash in on Baby Yoda love with toys and other merchandise. But the last few episodes have a seemingly uphill struggle ahead of them.
Who Watches the Watchmen On HBO?
The flipside to this is the reception of ‘Watchmen’. After the airing of the first episode, we saw review bombing based off of the inclusion of racially charged historical events that some of the IMDB ratings would cite as being cheap pandering or virtue singaling. After each week and new episode, the show’s rating on IMDB has only gone up and fans have flocked to the depth of the series’ writing, with a whole website of supplementary materials for the most granular-minded fans to sift through and glean clues from.
Delving into deep topics and enlisting historical events to back up its story, the series is praised for being smart and a true addition to the ‘Watchmen’ brand, even picking up several Critic’s Choice Award nominations, with ‘The Mandalorian’ missing from the announced nominations entirely. The show has had a meteoric rise after its initial marketing had the people of the internet voicing their concerns about the masked police imagery that it featured.
Whether the two series will stick their landings is yet to be seen, but seeing them seemingly trade places in fan reception has been an interesting exercise in not judging a book by its cover and a possible lesson to the powers-that-be trying to cash in on IP with anything less than the best intentions.