Nostalgia In Sequel-Land

Four birthdays ago, I turned 18. Like most birthdays, I didn’t feel any different in the morning despite all the generous Facebook posts. I turned 18, then 19, then 20 and so on, without much fanfare. The fanfare, as it turns out, comes a bit belated. It comes years later, when you’re sitting there on the couch, thinking it’d be awesome if someone made a Power Rangers movie. Then you remember Lionsgate is making a Power Rangers movie. Welcome to the 18-34 male demographic, a feeling similar to realizing you’re three days older than a Master’s champion. Everything that’s made out there in the big bright world is for us (and by us, I mean males who partially grew up the 90s).

A lot of what you see out there in the world—movies, television, ads, candy bars, the newest widgets, for better or worse—are marketed to our group. If you told me 10 years ago, that someone would be making a Justice League movie, I would have nodded politely before running downstairs to freak out. Now when I watch the trailer for Dawn of Justice, it’s par for the course that what’s on screen is exactly what I dreamed of as a 12-year-old.

The older I get, the more and more I’m alarmed by the age of athletes but also the more I look back on things from back in the day—The Sandlot, Star Wars, Sunday morning cartoons. Nostalgia becomes more and more a part of my life. And as Star Wars, among others, returns in one glossier shape after another, I’ve grown more and more excited for things of my suburban youth, things that evoke this nostalgia.

Nostalgia is still a new feeling. I’m sure when I’m 30 or 40 I’ll be better equipped to deal with it. Kids don’t get nostalgic. They’re too busy doing stuff. And as busy as I sometimes feel, I’m constantly casting back to how great life was back when life was as simple as cartoons at 10 and a lunchable at 11.

So I guess it’s my fault for all these sequels. I’ve been excited about The Avengers: Age of Ultron since Iron Man II came out. I’ve wanted a good live action superhero television show since I began getting up at 9 a.m. for Sunday morning cartoons. I’m lucky my middle school football practice got out at 8 p.m. or I wouldn’t have caught the 90s X-Men show at 9. This was when figuring out what to watch was a two step process–look at the printed TV guide from the mail and cross reference what you see with what you might like and when you might be home, because the concept of recording television or watching it whenever you want hadn’t occurred to your 12-year-old brain yet.

As easy it is to blame the presence of excessive sequels and television shows running three seasons too long on a fighting lack of creativity in Hollywood, our collective nostalgia is as much responsible as devious studio execs churning out unwanted franchises. Speaking unadulterated for the largest viewing demographic, I’ve been looking back on these old movies and cult shows for years, and now Hollywood is giving them back to us in a shiny new package. And sometimes the package doesn’t work (TMNT) and sometimes they do (Star Trek).

Sequels are about nostalgia. Nostalgia for the original and also for whatever piece of culture it might be based on. And they’re targeting us (me), because we aren’t as well equipped to deal with nostalgia. We can’t let things be. We have to fiddle, type. I think interesting stories are still there to be retold. That’s how we talk to ourselves—through the same characters and narratives told over and over again.

I think sequels can be fun. They can be a way to look back on how far we’ve come.

About Ryan Dowd 120 Articles
Ryan Dowd was the Arts & Review Editor. He's amassed 16,323 (at last count) unread emails. He'll work on it tomorrow. Follow him on Twitter @RPD_1993.