Right now there is big money in catering to people’s fond memories of the past. The amount of remakes of classic 80s movies we’ve seen, with plenty more to come, shows that studios and networks realise that the Generation X/Millennial market is a licence to print money—and they are the ones that go and see superhero movies that tap into their childhood heroes, actual children are just a nice bonus.
We are also seeing plenty of movies targeting Baby Boomers, featuring older and wiser stars who not only bring back fond memories of their—and therefore the audience’s—glory years, but grapple with the same issues that aging brings everyone, even celebrities.
Talking about our generations
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s been great seeing childhood loves given life, or watching Robert DeNiro let loose and have fun now that he has achieved everything an actor can achieve and has nothing left to prove. But, why is it that we seem so much happier looking back than forward?
For my generation (lets just say 30-45), part of it may be that when you get to a certain age sometimes life hasn’t quite turned out how you planned—even if it is generally good. Society has imbued our 30th and 40th birthdays in particular with a weight of significance, meaning that these milestones are a cause for reflection and a time to take stock of where we are are in life, as opposed to where we thought we would be.
Through the eyes of a child
For most of us, there was a clarity to the way we saw the world when we were children. The good guys and the bad guys were easy to tell apart, and we thought that grownups had all the answers—no problem or situation seemed hopeless because we knew Mum or Dad had the answer. And, we had no preconceptions about what was or wasn’t possible. If you wanted to grow up to be an astronaut, then there was no reason you couldn’t.
The limitations came later, when we realised that there were barriers and unforeseen circumstances that could derail the best laid plans, and that all the wishes and hopes in the world might not be enough. There was always the eventual relation that our parents could make mistakes just like anyone else and, even scarier, that we were now adults and we sure as hell didn’t have all the answers.
No wonder people want to take refuge in memories of a simpler time in their life, a time when the possibilities were endless, where the paddock across the road had elves amongst the tree, and where the future was not filled with uncertainty and doubt, but a cause of excitement. When you are at a crossroads in life, not sure where to go and feeling like you haven’t made any real progress in the journey, it’s only natural to think back fondly on the time when the whole road was ahead of you, stretching out towards a golden horizon.
Grey Armies on the March
I have a few years left before I can start speaking for the Baby Boomers, but I get the impression their nostalgia wave comes from a similar place—it is a very different world than it once was and the rate of change is a rapid pace indeed. And, as someone starting to feel the aches and pains of age, it must be reassuring to see that someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger experiencing the same symptoms of ageing as anyone else.
Now, I love a trip down memory lane as much as the next person, and I don’t think that there is anything wrong with nostalgia. It can be a tough world and anything that makes people happy or gives them a refuge from the busy world we live in. But there is a danger in looking back over our shoulder that we need to be aware of.
Selective Recollections and Extended Adolescence
For my generation is it is refusing to grow up. I don’t mean giving up the things we loved as children—you can keep that kind of adulthood, I am not interested. But—and I am no one to feel superior—there is a whole generation of man (and woman, I suppose) children who won’t take on the responsibilities of adult hood but want all the benefits and perks it brings—merrily enabled by the corporations making millions by catering to them.
Amongst Baby Boomers there is a tendency to see the past through rose coloured bifocals. It’s a kind of amnesia that sees them talking about all the ways in which the past was better, while conveniently forgetting some of its less salubrious aspects. Yes, people could leave their house unlocked and if you broke down someone would stop to help you, but lots of the best things were only accessible for a certain part of society. Great if you fit the demographic, but not so great if you stood out from the crowd.
The Road Much Travelled
Perhaps, as is so often the case, there is value to be found in the middle path. Instead of making the past a false idol to condemn the present, perhaps we should try and take the good parts of bygone days and make them a reality in the present, and give thanks for the things which are better.
And, instead of letting our childhood memories become a way of not facing the present, they should inspire us to return to that hopeful state of mind where anything is possible and the future can contain the best of both past and present.
David Goodwin is the Editor of The Salvation Army’s magazine,War Cry. He is also a cricket tragic, and an unapologetic geek.
David Goodwin archive of articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/david-goodwin.html