Nostalgia ad nauseum

Story by Eric Christenson


“I guess I was just deprived.”

That’s usually the answer I give when someone makes a big deal about my not having watched “Hey Arnold!” or “Legends of the Hidden Temple” or “The Wild Thornberries” as a child. The fact is: I didn’t have Nickelodeon as a kid and I’m fine with it. I don’t actually believe I was deprived because those shows are bad.

Before you guys stop reading because of my OUTRAGEOUS SACRILEGE, I’m not using this column to just point out the reasons why most ’90s Nickelodeon shows are not good shows (which is true); it’s more about our culture’s increasingly rampant reliance on nostalgia as means of exploiting old creativity.

And frankly, it’s frustrating.

In July, Nickelodeon aired some of its old programming from 11 p.m. to midnight, namely “Kenan and Kel” and “All That.” Which is fine and fun, I guess, if you like that sort of thing. The problem is that it drew in a ton of viewers! Like 600,000 viewers!

“That’s a lot.” – TV expert.

That’s astounding for a show that’s been off the air for 11 years, much more astounding when the show’s primary viewing audience at the time it originally aired is now college-age or older.

You guys, we’re adults now. It’s time to put that nostalgia away and leave it, because frankly, we have bigger things to concern ourselves with than whether or not Kel still loves orange soda.

Now, listen. I’m not saying that nostalgia is bad because in moderation, it’s really nice. It’s genuinely fun to sometimes talk about the things we used to love. SOMETIMES. But when most of our speech is dominated by it ad nauseum, it’s hard to handle.

The thing is, nostalgia is quickly becoming the fast-track for bad ideas to come to fruition and also the reason that good, creative ideas get flushed without mention. It’s the reason terrible remakes and half-hearted adaptations get made. It’s the reason why real creativity issupplanted by hollow indifference and dollar signs.

It’s the reason that The Smurfs in 3-D is a thing. I would like to see the focus group data saying that we, as a people, needed a Smurfs reboot, because I don’t think it exists. It’s probably one of those enigmatic, non-essential pieces of completely artificial culture that we didn’t know we “needed” until it threw up on us in the dark while we were wearing 3-D glasses.

Things have to change quick, and it starts by leaving the past behind. It’s not easy, you guys, but please, we have to stop talking about “Hey Arnold!” and Clarissa whatever whatever, and we have to make decision-makers notice that we’re not interested in seeing it over and over again.

It might be hard for some of us, but the fate of the other side is that no one will even try to get an original idea into a script because WHY WOULD THEY when a “Jumanji” remake (coming soon, probably) will make a few easy millions at the box office? Why waste the effort on actual writing, when lazy writing is so much lazier?

I mean, if you’re okay with those garbage-y old episodes over and over again, I guess I can’t stop you from watching them and talking about them.

But by poring over nostalgia and dwelling on it, we’re squeezing and draining the last few drips of original thought out of pop culture forever and then what are we left with?

Eric Christenson is a senior print journalism major and Currents Editor at The Spectator.