(they don’t write blog posts like they used to)
Since hearing a rendition of Bowling For Soup’s 1985 at karaoke last week (as part of the more successful part of that two-legged party I went to), I’ve been singing it to myself for days now, and only now have I realised that I’m basically nostalgic for a period of time I wasn’t alive for, or am even interested in; if the song were entitled ‘1983’, and was about Minor Threat and Bad Brains, I could at least claim to have remorse for a thing I actually liked, but I don’t really care for U2, Blondie, or indeed, music on MTV.
But I still feel like I’ve been wronged by modern music in some way when listening to the song; why don’t they make songs like Hanging On The Telephone anymore? I’ll ask myself, completely oblivious to the fact that I’ve heard that song like three times, and was only introduced to it by the Rock Band iOS game from about 2011. I’m worried this is just part of the wider culture of nostalgia that our society’s full of, that we look back at things in the past and assume they were better just because they were in the past, instead of possessing some kind of intrinsic value. I know that bands like Minor Threat were awesome for their novelty back in the early 1980s, but it’d be completely incorrect to suggest that all aspects of their music are better than modern versions; production quality, for instance, has come a long way since 1983, regardless of the simplistic assertions that better-sounding tracks are indicative of the increasingly false music industry.
And we do this with everything from games – can anyone honestly tell me that the original Bowser’s Castle theme is a better piece of music than Leaving Earth? – to books – JK Rowling I’m happy for you, and I’mma let you finish, but Terry Pratchett wrote one of the best wizards-at-school stories of all time! – as if ‘the past’ is better than the present simply because it’s the past, instead of the more accurate description that it’s a dark, desolate place filled with, in chronological order, war, disease, poverty, more war, intolerance, even more war, the threat of even more war, some more intolerance, then a shit-load more war.
Perhaps nostalgia is just a form of escapism; we all like to imagine ourselves in situations other than the one we’re in currently, even if we’re very happy with our lives at the moment, because its these dreams that form the basis of motivation, providing a goal to strive for, or at least continue living for in hope, that keeps humanity trundling along. But if there is an absence of creativity or originality in that escapism, perhaps that distance between reality and aspiration is created by using an area separate to reality, that we don’t need to create: and if you watch some old Blondie music videos, you’re right back into a different world and you don’t have to do any of the confusing, messy world-building yourself.
I’d argue that this combination of a desire for escapism and a reduction in individual creativity in a world where culture is so oriented around explaining every last detail of a thing to us so that there’s no room for speculation or user interaction beyond idle admiration, has led to endless and mindless nostalgia, to the point where we long for things that we claim to have lived through, or once been a part of, whereas in reality we’re kids who’ve not yet figured out their own culture, let alone are in a position to piggyback onto another.