Our 50 Disappointments list has only been running six days and already I’ve seen a troubling trend on our message board:
”I have a soft spot for this one because I saw it when I was fourteen.”
This doesn’t make any sense to me. You’re not fourteen years old any more. I am sure there are many things from when you fourteen that you don’t miss – zits, or blue balls after a night of dry humping in her basement. God knows I am happy to set these things behind me, and I feel the same way about crummy movies that I happened to love at that age just because I was at that age.
It’s nostalgia that these people are talking about, and not the movie. Nostalgia is worthless when it comes to movies, for a number of reasons, but mainly because any conversation ends when you explain that you loved that film once upon a time, since there’s nothing else to say. You’re not talking about a movie at that point, you’re talking about a subjective personal moment that just happened to have a movie in it, and no points I make about that movie will trump the fact that you saw it that one magical summer when you saw your babysitter’s titties or something. It's like discussing the Big Bang with a Creationist.
I just wish people would be consistent with their nostalgia. I want to meet the guy who is nostalgic for shitting his pants, or for eating baby food. Actually, wait, I’ve seen those people on television and they’re goddamned perverts, these infantilists. And frankly, I see someone who fetishizes the bad entertainment of their youth – ie, the guy who actually spends money on the GI Joe or Transformers cartoon DVDs as not far from that kind of pervert. Maybe if you had actually seen the babysitter’s titties DURING an episode of Transformers you’d be this creep. (Warning: that link is not safe for work, young people, pregnant women or women who may become pregnant. That link is not to be taunted. Do not look directly at that link. If you open that link and get some in your eyes, tear them out immediately)
And it seems that nostalgia just gets worse and worse. It really began with my dad’s generation, possibly because previous generations didn’t have good enough childhoods to look back on them wistfully, but the Baby Boomers enshrined the shitty elements of their youths – Howdy Doody and Davey Crocket caps – like they were honest to God cultural artifacts and not just detritus from a society that was slowly relaxing the definition of children so that you could be 20 fucking years old and not yet considered an adult – or at least not get looked at askance when you still lived with your mom full-time (you college kids who stay there during breaks save your angry emails until after you graduate and you’re still sleeping in the same room where you got your first boner).
Now nostalgia is instant – I see 18 year olds looking at the junk from the childhoods they just barely left and getting that twinge of the good old days. It’s just tragic that anyone under 40 should be nostalgic for anything – you should be out there finding new things that impress and delight you, not dwelling on the stuff from only a few years ago. To me this speaks of lives that are empty, or of people who never transitioned from kids to grown ups – and I’m not even talking about people who still watch cartoons or buy lots of toys, but people who obviously were unable to make the transition from carefree childhood to responsible adulthood unharmed.
This isn’t to say that everything from your childhood is crap, but rather that approaching it from the all-forgiving position of nostalgia is a waste of time. There are movies I loved as a kid that just don’t hold up, and it doesn’t hurt me to admit that. I don’t feel like an element of my life has been lost by fessing up to the fact that The Goonies, frankly, sucks dick. The last time I wrote that on this site, someone posted that I must have had a miserable childhood. I feel like anyone who is grown up and doesn’t see The Goonies for the garbage it is must have a miserable adulthood. Looking at these items from your past through an objective lens isn’t the same thing as throwing away your childhood, although maybe doing that wouldn’t be the worst idea.
What makes me laugh about the rampant nostalgia afflicting so many people is how it’s mixed with a kind of monomania – someone who can wax reminiscent about the Filmation Ghostbusters cartoon will sneer at whatever crapola cartoon is popular today, despite the fact that their treasured object is just as fly-ridden. The kids today like some real junk, sure, but so did you. And what’s worse is that when these kids are in their 20s and 30s they’re going to cling to this junk just as desperately as you cling to yours. And frankly, while I’m at the end of my rope with Transformers fans and Saved By the Bell apologists, I don’t know if I can handle a whole new wave of people defending Kangaroo Jack and Xiaolin Showdown.
The sad thing is that nostalgia isn’t even that terrible on its own, although it’s one of the most maudlin of feelings (and it has its etymological root in a homesickness that was so strong it was considered a medical condition – maybe things haven’t changed that much). Everyone feels a twinge of nostalgia every now and again, but like so many self-indulgent things we seem to not be able to get enough of it. Retaining a childlike love of crummy things from your past makes you childish, not youthful. Retaining a sense of wonder and excitement at discovery, keeping the feeling that the world is a place that you can keep exploring and learning about, feeling that every day is a chance to have fun and do something new – that’s youthful. Sticking up for Hook is sad.