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Nostalgiamania

DLS Pineda (The Philippine Star) - January 8, 2016 - 9:00am

I grew up listening to my father’s tapes and watching my siblings’ favorite movies. Being the youngest of six children, I had five people to borrow stuff from, five people to annoy, and five people to lead me in strange directions.

Among things I got my hands on (and never let go of) were my father’s Beatles albums. They accompanied me through highs and lows, and armed me in the countless times I needed to perform a musical number. From my two eldest siblings, who are 12 and 10 years older than me, I acquired a liking for Star Wars. I can never forget the day I won Smart Zed and Star Movies’ trivia contest when I was in fifth grade. Claiming the prize — a “made in China” lightsaber and a goody bag — at Tektite, Ortigas late one school afternoon, I felt I was on a mission to alien territory. “Tektite” sounded like a fuzzy, space-age name, and I was going to invade it.

But in school, I was bullied for my love of both Star Wars and The Beatles. “Oldies,” “laos,” “gramps,” they called them — and me. School authorities punished me for growing my hair like John, Paul, George and Ringo. I hardly cared, though. Eventually, I learned to laugh at the jokes. Growing up in the decade of the Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys, Nickelodeon, and MTV, I resolved to be an uncool ‘90s kid.

Bullies Grow Up

So you can imagine my surprise when I witnessed the same bullies grow to love both Star Wars and The Beatles. They declare their adoration for Daisy Ridley and their profound hate for spoilers and Kylo Ren being such a wuss. The cool kids who poked fun at my personal relationship with the Fab Four are now putting on T-shirts with the iconic logo by Ivor Arbiter. (Boy, do they brag about Here Comes the Sun being their favorite Beatles song as though it’s the only song the Beatles ever made.)

I have no qualms about them finally seeing the light — although I do wish that their children won’t commit the same mistake of bullying kids like me. Meanness is genetic. What I do find peculiar, however, is how people have begun liking the past because “the past is cooler,” or just because “music today is lame.” It all seems superficial — even fake — when the past was considered uncool only 16 years ago. Why is it making a comeback now?

Then and Now

Back in 1999, when we were all conjugating our email addresses with “2000,” Silverchair, Robbie Williams and Jennifer Lopez had anthems for the new millennium, and everyone went crazy over Y2K. Back then, trends came about because things were actually happening. Today, however, resurrecting things long gone is the trend.

Reunion concerts and gigs are sprouting left and right. That ‘90s cult series, Baywatch, is getting a reboot. That ‘90s cult series, The X-Files, is also getting a reboot. We need look no further than the Star Wars franchise for more evidence. Before the end of 2015, George Lucas criticized Disney (who bought the rights to the franchise for four billion US dollars) as “white slavers” and Episode VII for being too “retro.” And indeed, the film was a rehash of Episode IV: A New Hope, except it had a bigger Death Star, a compressor-free Millennium Falcon, and the faraway galaxy revolving around the offspring of the same doubtful bloodline.

“(Disney) wanted to do a retro movie. I don’t like that,” Lucas said in an interview with Charlie Rose. “Every movie, I worked very hard to make them different, make them completely different, with different planets, different spaceships, to make it new.”

Sadly, Lucas has since recanted his criticisms of Disney and the installment. Having sold the rights to Star Wars, we have reason to believe that he had to take his words back. But his criticism remains powerful, not only of the franchise, but of the general direction of trends leading toward nostalgia.

Cheap Trick

As a tool for storytelling, nostalgia is one of the cheapest ways to evoke emotion. It makes use of the past — finished and unchangeable — to make people feel. Instantly, the fact that the memory lies in the past satisfies us. We feel that we have survived the experience, and that there is no longer a need to wrestle or question how or why it happened. Nostalgia is safe; it risks nothing. It is a mere recounting, and not a meaningful rereading of the past. A high school reunion spent recalling the old days will not strengthen friendships, but venturing to a new endeavor with your old classmates will. Perhaps, as 2016 promises to bomb us with nostalgic films, TV shows, ads, biographies and performances, we will eventually grow tired of it and say it’s time for something new.

It’s been said that after childhood, living becomes repetition. That after you experience things the first time, you can never be as happy or as sad when you go through them again. But it’s never really said when childhood ends, or when the last “first time” will be. I’d much rather remain “laos,” “oldie,” “gramps,” than to see the world retreat just because it feels it has nothing fresh to offer.

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Tweet the author @sarhentosilly.

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