We are on a nostalgia high. Even as technology keeps going relentlessly forward, we keep looking back to our childhood’s pop-culture golden age, just like the senior citizens of the world have been doing for decades. And we ’90s kids can revisit our childhood without having to find an excuse for it. We're the new adults, and we feel no shame in spoiling our inner children.
Plenty of companies have taken the hint. Whose Line is it Anyway? has made a majestic return, and the three major children’s TV networks have put their shows from the 1990s and 2000s on the air again. It’s equally impossible to get away from the retro feel at the store, where toy and food companies hve brought back former products to catch the attention of Generation Y (those of us born from the early 1980s to the early 2000s).
Nostalgia is a giant piece in the Generation Y jigsaw puzzle. We Y kids look fondly on our childhoods, and we want to share them with people outside our generation because we’re proud of what we grew up with. We’re generous, despite what Time magazine said about us in “The Me Me Me Generation.”
Granted, previous generations are just as nostalgic as we are. How else could you explain why Boomer-era shows like The Brady Bunch, I Dream of Jeannie and I Love Lucy are still on the air? Why is the Little House series still being read by children?
But our generation likes to strike a balance between the actual old stuff and the old stuff, rebranded. Countless franchises have transformed their images, even as the products remain the same. My Little Pony has gone through several generations since the 1980s, and now is a very successful TV show. (The ponies were whipped into a new smaller and thinner shape, and have drawn some attention for their street-wise look.) Disney had the fairy godmother wave her wand and, bibbidi bobbidi boo, the princesses were sparkling and glamorous.
And then there's the constant recycling and re-recycling of comic book heroes in movies and TV shows. Teen Titans reappeared in the Cartoon Network show Teen Titans Go. Daria recently got the College Humor treatment. Star Wars Episode VII is in pre-production, and many people are longing to be with The Force again.
Maybe we like all this retro stuff because we find it familiar and comforting, but I have another theory. It could be because we new adults are secretly grumpy old farts. I swear I have heard more scoffs about “kids these days” from my own age group than from actual senior citizens. It honestly makes me feel 12 years old — and it doesn’t help that I’m still offered the kids' menu at restaurants.
And then there’s the whole music thing. I can’t tell you how many millennials rant that music was so much better back in the day, even while they keep up with the mainstream music trends. There isn’t too much experimentation going on in the mainstream music scene. If you do like something different and current, then what are you doing listening to that, you damn hipster!
The book Retromania by Simon Reynolds explores the issue with musical artists. He says throwback fever is nothing new and attributes today’s retro frenzy to digital-induced overdocumentation — which might also explain the rehashes of movies, heroes, fashion, music, fairy tales and so on, which have seemed to dominate original content in the past few years.
Look, I love that I can enjoy things from my childhood, but we really should find a balance between the new and old.All That is only funny for kids. It’s weaker than watered-down tea when you watch it as an adult, even though I can’t deny how amazing Lori Beth Denberg is. And if someone tries to tell me that I should wear overalls because it’s stylish again, shit will hit the fan. Some things should never come back.
Still, I think we can enjoy the nostalgia wave if we approach it like a diet: Indulge by consuming small doses and exercise our creativity.
Plus, if anyone tries to take away Whose Line is it Anyway?, we’re going to have a severe problem.
Titusville native Rebecca Bailey is a 20-year-old senior at USF Tampa. Majoring in magazine journalism, she serves as president of USF’s Society of Professional Journalists and works for her mother’s insurance business. She enjoys reading, out-of-town day trips with friends, and filling her iPod with music by Japanese girl groups. —Meaghan Habuda