A Defense of Nostalgia
Why We Love What We Love
I read something today that made me reevaluate a lot of things in my life.
Well, nothing too important. Not my philosophies on life, religious beliefs, political views, or anything heavy like that. Just some silly television shows, music groups, and movies that I love.
On YouTube, I was watching some old 21 Jump Street promos from the late eighties/early nineties -- yes, I was watching 21 Jump Street promos; I give you permission to point and laugh and throw things at me.
I was reading the comments on one of the videos, and someone left a comment saying if anything came from the eighties and nineties, it must be great. Someone else responded to this comment with something like this: "Just because something is from the eightes or nineties doesn't mean it's good. I personally think a lot of the stuff that came out of those decades is awful. Most peoples' problem is they confuse nostalgia with quality."
That is an excellent point.
And it got me to thinking, do I confuse the two? I immediately answered myself; yes, I do.
But I can recongnize the difference, and I acknowledge that difference.
For example, I love the Spice Girls. However, the only reason I have such affection for them is because they were a fun part of my childhood; I listened to their music a lot growing up, watched their terrible film Spice World far too many times, and, as a ten-/eleven-year-old girl, I looked up to them. You know, that whole "girl power" thing they had going.
(And I must say, I think they were better role models for girls than some female artists are nowadays. They may not have actually believed in the "girl power" thing and maybe that was purely a shtick, but at least they made girls feel good about themselves and gave them confidence.)
I have a lot of positive memories associated with them, which explains why I still like them today. Only now, I do admit they aren't all that talented. I admit that most people could sing what they sing, maybe even better than they do. (Except for Mel C. "Sporty." She has got a VOICE, that girl!) Hell, I know for a fact that anybody could kick Victoria's talentless ass in a sing-off.
See, if the Spice Girls had first emerged today and had just now become popular, I would find them just as annoying as Hannah Montana and Paris Hilton; I would say, "They have no talent! Why are they so popular?? They don't deserve to be making all that money!" And that still may be true for the Spice Girls, but to me, the Spice Girls will always signify 4th grade sleepovers, laughing and speaking with British accents with my cousin Lynn while watching Spice World, and the music that stuck with me through my pre-teen years, even when a lot of my so-called friends didn't.
And for that, I can't hate them.
No matter how talentless they may be.
Those who don't like the Spice Girls probably assume that I, as a fan, have bad taste in music, which really isn't the case. There's a big difference between "I love the Spice Girls!" and "The Spice Girls are amazing!" (Meaning, you can love something, but that doesn't necessarily mean that thing is worthy of your admiriation).
So, I do agree with you, Mr. Insightful YouTube Comment; people definitely confuse nostalgia with quality. I certainly have been guilty of this. We, as a people raised in a country where entertainment is our main guiding light, need to admit not everything that we thought was great when we were kids is actually that great.
Some things are. That is obviously true. For me, movies like The Lion King or Edward Scissorhands. Books like The Giver or Harry Potter. These are things I loved when I was little and, not only do I still love them today, but my love for them has grown as I have been able to fully appreciate their quality.
Then there are some things, like the Spice Girls, Pokémon, Nickelodeon's All That, and the Backstreet Boys, that we need to reassess. We need to isolate these things from our own personal emotions and memories; we need to look at them objectively, for a change. We need to acknowledge that these things are, for lack of a more dignified word, stupid. And bad.
But that doesn't mean we can't still like them!
That might be what some people would call a "guilty pleasure," but I don't think so. A guilty pleasure is something you know is stupid and/or bad for you and you're ashamed to admit that you like it, but you indulge in it anyway because you do like it. Sometimes I get sucked into those terrible Vh1 reality shows, and sometimes I catch an episode or two of The Girls Next Door. Those simple, stupid things that you have no good reason to like and can't explain why you like them, you just do; those are guilty pleasures.
Silly things from our childhood that we still love, those aren't guilty pleasures, because we can explain why we love them; we have damn good reason to love them. They're tied into our past. There's nothing wrong with liking something dumb because it reminds you of something good. Nothing at all.
So I say, blast "Wannabe" in the car! Sing along at the top of your lungs! Go watch episodes of The Secret World of Alex Mac! Have a PokéBattle!
Just remember that you don't love these things simply for WHAT they are, but because of HOW they are a part of you.