Looking Back at Nostalgia: A Driving Force In Media


Denis Mardesich, A&E Editor

In the age of the internet, it seems people are more nostalgic than ever, and said nostalgia is also becoming much more effective in media and marketing.

Nostalgia is a sentiment or feeling of longing towards events of the past. It is something that even kids feel. When you remember a TV show you used to watch when you were a kid, you’re experiencing nostalgia. This nostalgia seems to be expressed even more common with the internet, online posting can often revitalize communities for media and make something that is years old become extremely popular.

Along with this, nostalgia is also a common value in postmodernism. Postmodernism is a value that appears very commonly in current media. It is known for its critiques of media from the past, but it also includes it very often in new media. This use of fragments of past media and new media is a very big part of nostalgia’s prevalence, both on the internet and in the media.

Another reason for there being so many shows focused on the nostalgia of past decades is the fact that those old enough to be creating media often want to create things that center around the culture of their childhood. Most media created as a result of this typically focus on the culture from around 30 years ago. So right now, a lot of media is very focused on the 1980s.

Netflix original series has gained a lot of notoriety for its focus on 80s culture.

One example of this obsession with nostalgia is Stranger Things, the Netflix original has gained massive success for its focus on 80’s culture. It’s success has also brought a lot of 80’s culture back into the eyes of the youth, and because of the shows modern elements, it has managed to gain widespread appeal from all age groups. 

Despite the fact that so many of these shows and films are being made, it seems that studios don’t want this trend to stop. The Atlantic City Press states, “The simple explanation is that these new films are easier to give a green light because studios don’t like taking risks. And what could be less risky than a familiar name — especially if you’re now able to revisit it with all the tricks of the effects era?”.

This nostalgia isn’t a new thing for the media though, and it is a common trope for nearly every decade of art to focus on elements of a past era in a new creation. However the past isn’t always pleasant, and nostalgia often looks at the past with rose colored glasses, only looking at the positive aspects of an era. It has also been a common strategy in advertising for many years, this nostalgia marketing is used frequently by companies like Coca Cola. 

Coca Cola is known for continuing the aesthetic seem in their 50’s and 60s marketing into modern advertising.

But nostalgia doesn’t always focus on the better aspects of an era, and many creators use the past to make a mockery of it. This relates back to postmodernism, and the public becoming much more aware of common tropes in film and television of the past. This often comes in the form of a satirical representation of a past popular trend in media like sitcoms or slasher films.

This more negative aspect of nostalgia isn’t just creating ironic depictions of the past. In fact, many people argue that it has many problematic social effects. American writer and humorist John Hodgman states his view on nostalgia, saying, “I consider nostalgia to be a toxic impulse. It is the twinned, yearning delusion that (a) the past was better (it wasn ́t) and (b) it can be recaptured (it can ́t) that leads at best to bad art, movie versions of old TV shows, and sad dads watching Fox news.” Despite this, nostalgia does seem to be pretty much inescapable.

This is mainly due to social media’s power and the influence it has on people, especially the youth. Young people seem to express their need for nostalgia quite frequently because of the internet, with frequent posts about childhood video games and late 2000’s Nickelodeon shows gaining a lot of attention across the internet. There is no real cause for this, perhaps it is for comfort in an environment without privacy, but either way there is no real way of knowing why this is such a common thing. With this, nostalgia has become even more of a norm in the online world, and a cycle of pop culture that constantly reflects and interprets the past.

Nostalgia is overall a very important and essential part of modern media. It has played a role in a lot of art from the past, but it is even more essential in the internet age. With people across many generations not only viewing media and bringing back elements of the past into pop culture but also contributing to their own nostalgic behaviors through social media. Through both its good and bad elements, nostalgia continues to, and will be something that influences generations of pop culture.