Nostalgia Part Two: The Dark Side

My last post discussed nostalgia, and the recurring joy it can foster. Interestingly, over the past few months I have been considering a different aspect to nostalgia. One that I am becoming ever more aware of when browsing social and digital media. Namely, how our feelings of the past are blinded by the passing of time and how nostalgia can cause bitterness in the here and now. 

Perhaps my own interpretation of the word nostalgia is to blame. It is often defined as an excessive yearning to return to the past, with a melancholy undertone. I instead have always personally considered it a recollection of key times or events that brought about a heightened sense of joy or pleasure. This, combined with a willingness to try to recreate or remember those times. Nostalgia to me is being thankful for those times, rather than being disappointed that the now is not as good.

The key trigger for me to consider this in greater depth was the recent release of the Obi Wan series. My friendship group, as could be expected, includes a significant number of avid Star Wars fans. The discourse that followed the release of this show surprised me. Whilst the debate about whether new Star Wars movies are any good has been going for many years, this show appeared to me to be a turning point in how profoundly people who did not like it felt the need to criticise the show.

I believe criticism is a key part of all media forms, and highly important. But what surprised me is that the criticism had at times moved away from personal opinion on content, to being critical of people who decide they liked the content. The discussions I have witnessed on Obi Wan have made me acutely aware of how much negativity now permeates all aspects of nerd culture. Whether it is the trading card, wargaming or board game communities. Or the comic book, manga or pop culture fandom. Forums and social media posts are now more frequently about what is wrong with the current state of these things, or full of judgement and complaints. It can at times feel like saying that you like something will lead to vilification or cause you to duck, for fear of flying tomatoes!

It does at times appear that we have reached a point where I rarely see content discussing the positives of something. Such content tends to generate heated and sometimes unpleasant debate. I recall as a child that to talk about your favourite hobbies amongst like minded kids was a true joy. Back then, being a nerd wasn’t cool, it made you a target for bullying! We banded together and took comfort that we had superheroes, dungeons and dragons and other games to enjoy. Today, most of these things have become highly popularised and no longer hold much, if any, stigma. I am unsure if this has had an influence into why a larger degree of negativity has appeared. But I find it odd that so many of those who would have been labelled nerds as children have become so judgmental of others who attempt to show their enjoyment of pop culture.

I do feel that nostalgia has had an impact. In particular, a belief that the things we loved as kids were better then, than they are now. Whilst this may be factual for some things, the dark side of nostalgia is that the yearning we have to return to the past is blurred by too many factors. In nerd culture specifically I believe a strong factor is that as children we had very limited content to consume. Therefore we were forgiving of flaws. As well as this, I do believe that children will actively focus on the things that they like when watching or reading something. Small problems will be less likely to bother them and are washed out by the moments of joy whilst watching their heroes destroy the Death Star. What this ultimately leads to is those strong feelings of nostalgia when we are adults, which focus on the good aspects and forget the bad. With these thoughts, anything new will always struggle to compete. 

This nostalgia will make it very difficult for modern things to live up to the expectations we have built from childhood. Obi wan may just be a great example of this because it takes such a beloved character and attempts to create a new story for him. Perhaps the nostalgia for this character is so overwhelming in some that seeing a story not to their liking creates a sense of outrage. Thinking about this, I do understand why the show has been so divisive, and led to such strong feelings. But I do think that we might all benefit from remembering that whilst the Dark Side of nostalgia might ruin modern content for some of us, we should never stop encouraging others to show how much they like something. This is what all cultures should strive for.

Let’s be more willing to agree to disagree. Rather than breeding discontent, let’s pivot and talk about the things that we love. Nostalgia can be a tricky thing. Maybe we all need to be a bit more aware of how it influences our opinions.

Autumn

The last weeks I have had the rare opportunity to set my sights on something other than the Valerious Chronicles. I’ve rekindled my love of comics, found much more time to read books, caught up on a few shows I’ve been meaning to watch and even gotten back into video games.

But I have finally gotten my manuscript for ‘The Fleet of Sinsai’ back and am going to be putting my head down to perform the final edit and read through. I am excited to be on the cusp of releasing the final book, and so far the feedback from my Beta Readers has been outstanding. I hope you are all looking forward to seeing how the story ends, as much as I am looking forward to seeing the journey of my first Trilogy come to a close.

In the meantime if you are looking for some insights into how I am spending my free time you will find that I am busily flipping through the following comics and can’t recommend them enough.

– Locke & Key

– Star Wars 2015

– Batman (The new 52)

– Ms Marvel

– Saga (OMG Stop everything you are doing and go get this!)

– Guardians of the Galaxy

– Lumberjanes

– Darth Vader 2015

One of the next updates should hold the release date for the final book! So stay tuned.

Have you seen that Movie? It totally sucked!

Jar Jar Binks, a Gungan

Jar Jar Binks, a Gungan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How many movies or TV episodes have let you down? It seems to be an ongoing trend at the moment. I am constantly hearing from friends, or reading online that people are disappointed with something they have watched. It has grown to such a state that I am beginning to wonder if it is a result of the ‘critical’ society that the internet has spawned in the last decade. It is cool to rag on a movie these days, Or to talk about how terrible a TV show is. I’ve even had conversations with people about a movie to have them complain about how bad it was, later to found out they haven’t even watched it. They simply jumped on the rolling band wagon started by an internet troll in a basement somewhere.

The crumbling state of society aside for a moment, I was having a long discussion about this with some individuals who agree that expectations are the killing factor. And expectations keep rising. Movies from the past, which have become cultural hits, are now being remade or receiving sequels, prequels and re-imaginings, at an alarming rate. (Original thought is a thing of the past you know!) As a result we are flocking to the theatres (People still do this yes?) or the internet, in order to see the next instalment.

The Hobbit is a great current example. The Lord of the Rings was accepted by most to be a fantastic adaptation and top quality set of films. However the Hobbit has seen a significant amount of criticism, especially by nerd fandom. When I spoke with individuals who complained about the Hobbit I asked them to explain their dislike. They did so and, but for some valid points, much of it seemed to me to brew down to, “but the LOTR’s was so much better in the way it did…” I then asked them, what if the LOTR’s movies were never made? What if you couldn’t compare this movie to them?

Star wars is another great example. We could argue for a long, long time about what they did wrong with the star wars prequels, but I often ask people to think about how they would feel about the three prequels if they had never seen the original saga? Jar Jar binks aside, would you give them a better rating? Would you be less critical of Hayden Christiansen’s acting? (Mark Hamill’s was just as bad really.)

Surely one of the best things about art is the fact that it is subjective and that people like to critique it. I just feel that it has become more socially ‘Cool’ to badmouth something than to say, I loved it! It is also easy to say that something sucked when you weren’t the one who made it. If you gave 99% of the people who complain about a movie the same training, budget and capacity to remake it, they would likely make something utterly unwatchable. And I feel for the people making these shows. At the end of the day one harsh word will have a greater influence on them than ten good ones.

I wonder what it would be like if, rather than foster a culture of disapproval, the internet bred a culture of talking about what we liked about these films. It would be a strange world indeed.