Nostalgia is all the rage, and maybe that's not a good thing.
Pop culture has had some weak ideas: Boy bands. Disco. The Starsky and Hutch movie.
Lately, though, I can’t turn on my television without seeing some relic from the 1980s with their own reality show. It started innocently enough with "The Surreal Life" and then mushroomed into the "Flavor of Love" franchise. Now, over the course of one summer, Brett Michaels, Scott Baio and the “The Two Coreys” all have their own reality shows, and most of them are looking for love.
Weren’t these guys huge, like, 20 years ago?
The problem isn’t the reality show genre. Ratings will show time and time again that people love the voyeuristic nature of these programs. The problem is that it seems that whenever a network is looking for a new show idea, they shake the can of washed-up 80s stars and look to see who falls out. If they’re single or have had any sort of financial troubles, even better. (I’m looking at you, Dustin Diamond.)
I was in college, in the late 1990s, when this whole 80s resurgence came to be. It was a frustrating time for music: grunge had given way to cheesy teen pop a la Britney Spears. Those of us in the trenches of undergraduate life needed something to rock out to. Someone along the way dusted off their Breakfast Club soundtrack, and a trend was born.
The trend expanded beyond bar room dancing and into the fabric of everyday life. 80s theme parties became the new way to mark your birthday. Urban Outfitters started selling leggings and New Kids on the Block T-Shirts -- with a straight face. The other day I swear I saw an NYU student with a new wave hair cut. The horror!
Unfortunately, that trend is starting to define us Gen-Xers. Instead of trying to move ourselves forward and create new music and film, we’re stuck obsessing about a decade during which most of us were only children. We may all want to Walk Like Egyptians, but very few of us could have appreciated Suzanna Hoffs when she was in her prime.
During one of the last episodes of "The Sopranos", Tony and Paulie were at a bar and Paulie was trying to impress some ladies with stories of what bad asses he and Tony used to be. Tony was unimpressed. “ ‘Remember When’ is one of the lowest forms of conversation,” he said. I agree with him. Waxing nostalgic either in conversation or in popular culture doesn’t move you forward. It keeps you in the same spot, wishing for times that were shiny and new.
We are at a point in time where we are not only young, but thanks to technology have more resources at our fingertips than anyone before us. Why then, are we wearing T-shirts with logos on them of cereals that were created 20 years ago? Why do we complain about the state of pop music while holding Guns n’ Roses’ Appetite For Destruction up as some sort of pinnacle of musical creation. Wouldn’t it make more sense to create new art, new films, new music that we can call out own, much like our parents look back on the 1950s and 1960s with fondness. That was their era, of their making.
As someone who was born in the 1970s, I think it’s time we had ours.
Dispatches from NYC is a bi-weekly commentary on America's largest city and its impact on the wider world.