Saturday, 23 July 2016

Imagine A World Without Our Nostalgia

I went to see X-Men: Apocalypse a few weeks ago - yeah, not exactly a series high point, is it? - and as I was walking back out through the cinema, past the posters for upcoming movies, for the first time I realised something that had been boiling away in my subconscious for an awfully long time now.  Not only were there barely any original properties, there was barely anything that wasn't directed squarely at those who, like me, grew up in the eighties and nineties.  Every major blockbuster was aimed at me.  And that sucked.

What struck me in that moment is that, as a generation, we've failed miserably to offer ourselves our fair share of innovative concepts, let alone to do the same for those who've come after.  Many of my friends are parents, and I refuse to believe that all they want to entertain their children with is the chewed up cud of their own childhoods.  Yet that seems to be what we get, and oftentimes all we get: old toys, old cartoons, old films, old comics, glossed up to look just new enough that we can pretend we haven't seen them all before, but kept sufficiently intact that we can still persuade ourselves that not a whole lot has changed since our formative years.

Now, I'm as guilty of this as anyone.  Well, maybe not as anyone, but I'm not claiming innocence.  I mean, anybody who follows the blog even slightly will have noticed that I've spent a good part of the last year watching Japanese cartoons from two decades ago.  Still, I've come to a lot of new stuff too.  And I like that stuff as much, and usually more, than the things I value from my childhood and teens.  There are stunning films, books, comics and music being produced, right now, and there are uniquely talented new voices coming up all the time, just trying to make themselves heard.

So here's a thought: what if we just let it all go?  What if we could all unanimously accept that, yeah, the cartoons and video games and comics and movies and toys that were around when we were growing up were pretty good, some of them even pretty great, but that was then and this is now - and in any case, we still have almost all of those things, should we want them.  They're not going anywhere.  But nor are they the be all and end all.

Now I realise this sentiment gets aired a lot in one form of another - but it's usually coming from people with no affection for the properties in question, and I don't at all class myself in that category.  I have a lot of love for many of these things.  I'm as excited for a new comic book movie as anyone, I long for a genuinely good Transformers movie, and I'll be really happy if and when we get another G. I. Joe picture.  It's not like I hate this stuff, only that I don't feel altogether comfortable around it anymore.  More and more it seems that the influence of me and people like me is stifling, and that it's time we backed off, or perhaps applied our fannish energies in a more constructive fashion.

So ... imagine a world without our nostalgia.  Just spend a moment imagining how that might look.  Imagine that instead of Star Wars 8 we got a new science fiction property that was as thrilling to the kids of today as Star Wars was for us back in the day.  Imagine that instead of a new Ghostbusters movie with the genders switched we could have something fresh that bottled that same lightning and could have an all-female core cast without it being dismissed as a gimmick.  Imagine a world where new ideas and new attitudes weren't just trying to sneak through the cracks of our obsession with our own childhoods.  Imagine what would happen if we, as a generation, released this stranglehold we have over popular culture.

It's a pipe dream, sure.  But there are steps that we could be making in that direction, if we wanted to.  Maybe if we were all more open to new ideas then we wouldn't be here, staring at a box office filled waist deep with the slop of our recycled youth; maybe if we paid more attention, instead of seeing things that in all likelihood will be crap just because we recognize the brand, then smart genre movies like Ex Machina and Predestination wouldn't be such a precious rarity.  I guess, engage a little harder with your entertainment is what I'm suggesting.  Perhaps expect a little more, and realise that there's space in your head and in the world for new ideas.  Maybe don't tear into the Jupiter Ascending's of this world without even bothering to watch them.  You know, stuff like that.

Or don't, and maybe we'll finally get that M.A.S.K movie they keep promising.  Oh, and Thundercats, that's happening soon right?  And weren't they even talking about a Visionaries movie, even though no one ever gave the slightest damn about Visionaries?  You know what, actually I'm easy either way.  But could we at least all agree to keep Michael Bay away from these things?  Because Michael Bay's M.A.S.K is not a thing I have any need to see.

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