I have to wonder if the writers of “The Office” knew what they were doing when they wrote their series finale.
The easy answer here is that they obviously did; Google “the office finale” and you’ll find think piece after think piece about how perfectly NBC’s hit sitcom concluded. My actual question lies within a specific quote.
Did the writing team know that “I wish there was a way to know you're in the good old days before you've actually left them” would wind up plaguing yearbooks and Instagram captions for (probably) decades to come?
It’s a nice quote, and as someone whose self-admitted tragic flaw is sentimentality, I can see why fans of “The Office” cling to it like a treasured family heirloom.
That being said, I still haven’t seen “The Office,” and as such, all this quote represents to me is that American media and its audience are really far too obsessed with nostalgia. We’ve got chronic sepia-colored glasses on at all times, and it’s bogging down our ability to gaze toward the future.
Part of the charm of Netflix’s “Stranger Things” has always been its retro aesthetic. It’s a well-written, well-acted and well-produced show, yes, but it wouldn’t even be remotely the same if it wasn’t presented through a 1980s filter. It’s a show that evokes the spirit of a “simpler” time – before the internet, before the impending threat of climate change, etc.
When the Jonas Brothers came back with their 2019 smash hit “Sucker,” the buzz around the return of the former teen heartthrobs was so powerful that it catapulted the song to the number-one position on the Billboard Hot 100.
And as a “Survivor” fan, I’ve never seen or felt more fan hype than right now in the days leading up to the premiere of “Survivor: Winners at War” in which 20 past winners from the past two decades of the show will return to compete again. It’s like “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” in real life — but instead, it’s with people I grew up watching and none of them are dying.
Sentiment sells. Familiarity is a hit with audiences. But I feel like we’ve become too gullible and too susceptible to it — and now we’re paying the price.
As enticed as I am by Disney’s reboot of “Lizzie McGuire,” I can’t help but feel that it’s a cheap ploy to get millennials to subscribe to Disney+. Even Spotify’s personalized playlists are investing in your nostalgia. Every summer, a new update of “Your Summer Rewind” is delivered to my music feed as a collection of songs that I’d previously listened to during past summertimes. It’s a nice idea, but it’s something that once again buys into the idea that we’re dying to relive our glory days. (Here’s my “Summer Rewind” if anyone’s curious.)
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing inherently bad about a nice throwback. Posting a “#TBT” – an abbreviation for “throwback Thursday” – has been a popular social media trend for the better part of the last 15 years. For the most part, that’s harmless fun.
And I’m not admonishing the idea of appreciating old media – I still listen to albums I loved in high school, like Lorde’s “Pure Heroine,” and rewatch old “Survivor” seasons more often than I’d like to admit. These pieces of media hold meaning for me and I adore them, but I’m not writhing in agony that Lorde hasn’t released “Pure Heroine 2.”
Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter
There’s a difference between appreciating the past and dwelling on it. As a society, we’ve started overdwelling and it’s shaping how pop culture interacts with us.
Current events have never moved more quickly than they do right now. With the rise of social media and the vicious rapidity of the modern news cycle, information about the world around us (and how it’s dying/burning/etc) is flying across airwaves at frightening speeds.
And with media streaming services streamlining content creation more efficiently than ever, loads of new content are tossed to the wayside. Instead of talking about HBO’s upcoming reboots of “Grease” or “Gossip Girl,” we could be talking about HBO’s “Euphoria,” a creative new show set strikingly-well in modern America.
We’re living in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it timeline. We can’t afford to only be looking behind us right now. We ought to seek to tell – and hear – new stories to help us navigate new issues.
And we’ve really gotta let some sleeping dogs lie.
“Fuller House,” Netflix’s not-really-desired reboot of late-20th-century classic “Full House,” banked on the idea that audiences were starving for a new taste of John Stamos. It didn’t pay off critically; Vox called it an “inescapable nightmare” and in a remarkable feat of wordplay, the Washington Post compared its brand of nostalgia to necrophilia.
Everywhere you look, something old is being repackaged and presented as a new product. It’s become this normalized process of cultural regifting and it’s getting tacky.
It’s not 1999 anymore, and hindsight is 20/20 – so can’t we look ahead instead?