Our Nostalgia Is Ruining Media

By Shayne 

 

 

I’ve noticed an unsettling trend of remakes, reboots, and sequels in recent years.

Now don’t get me wrong—I love stuff from my childhood. A good 80% of what I write is about older things. I did an entire month on Pokemon, for crying out loud.

I’m a huge nostalgia guy, and I love when refreshes are done well—like The Spectacular Spider-Man or Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

However, the issue is that most of the time, these reboots/remakes/sequels are NOT done well, and we’re left with bastardized versions of beloved franchises that are only pumped out to make money off marquee value.

Before I really get going , I want to make clear that I’m aware of the common defense of reboots, remakes and sequels:

I am aware that certain members of both Generation X and the Millennial Generation (to a lesser extent) are now old and experienced enough in the industry to greenlight a lot of these nostalgic projects.

There are now directors, screenwriters, and producers out there who genuinely love their childhoods and want to celebrate them via reboots, remakes, and sequels.

I know this.

…But what I also know is that many of these aspirations have to pass through major studios or production companies to ever see the light of day. Unfortunately, a vast majority of the decision makers at these companies care way more about making lots of money than they care about the actual franchises.

The result is typically a project that might (EMPHASIS) have started with good intentions, but was eventually corrupted by major corporations through the hiring of directors, writers, and actors who didn’t give two shits about the actual property.

Here are some examples:

 

Ghostbusters (2016)

Yeah, some people didn’t like this movie because it featured an all-female cast. There’s no denying that nerd culture can be pretty sexist at times. But those were mostly basement-dwellers who no one listens to.

The real reason 2016’s Ghostbusters garnered so much hate was because it’s NOT A GOOD MOVIE, especially when compared to the original.

And as far as the progressive nature of the cast goes: I don’t care if the cast is all female, but I certainly care that the Black woman was written as a bumbling idiot.

 

The Powerpuff Girls (2016)

The original Powerpuff Girls was the first creation by Craig McCracken, who is basically the greatest person not named Tom Kenny or Tara Strong to work in modern cartoons.

McCracken made it very clear via Twitter that he would have nothing to do with the 2016 PPG remake.

And for good reason, too.

The remake of The Powerpuff Girls turns up the knob on several aspects of the original that didn’t’ need them.

The girls’ personalities are insanely amplified, making the show less like the superhero parody that the original was and more like an action show with one dimensional leads. Older characters seem to be thrown into the show at random just for the sake of featuring them—even though this is sure to confuse a lot of new viewers who don’t know who they are.

It’s just…bad. And sad. And now I’m mad.

But I’m not a rapper.

 

 

Several Horror Franchises

Franchises like Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Halloween have all been resurrected, thoroughly shat on, and widely released to fans and critics…all of whom absolutely hated them.

Studios seem to have forgotten that the movie Scream, created by the late Wes Craven (Nightmare on Elm Street), ironically put an end to the slasher genre.

As a big fan of the Horror genre, I wouldn’t be opposed to burying these remakes and forgetting that they ever existed, Eternal Sunshine style.

 

 

Fuller House

Unfortunately, the lack of inspiration with this sequel series doesn’t stop at the title. Fuller House isn’t necessarily a twin sibling to the original, but more like that cousin you have that always tries to copy the things you do well. And fails. All the time.

I’m kind of on a roll, so allow me to just reel off a few more cash-grabs that have surfaced recently:

Pokemon Go
Disney live-action remakes
Crash Bandicoot re-releases for the PS4
Jordan Peele’s Twilight Zone
Men In Black International
How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2018)

And so on, and so on.

As horrific as that quick rundown was, the reason for its existence makes perfect sense. It’s fairly apparent that our generation is obsessed with our pasts.

The Pokemon Go craze, people pissing themselves over the Backstreet Boys reunion, and the fact that “90s Kids” is even a thing all indicate a demographic that loves to look over its shoulder.

 

 

While this is inherently harmless, the real danger is how modern marketers seem to have caught wind of this. It’s not only our insecurities that business exploit anymore for profit—it’s also our nostalgia.

Again, this wouldn’t be an issue (with me) if the products that resulted from this exploitation didn’t totally suck ass. But they usually do, and I’ve put together a few reasons why:

 

Why Reboots, Remakes, and Sequels Usually Suck Ass

 

1. Too radically different from the original

Let’s go back to the upcoming Power Rangers movie for a second:

There are a lot of things I noticed in the trailer that really pissed me off. The rangers all appear to be delinquents, the villain seems to be completely unrecognizable, and the kids apparently don’t need to morph to have super powers—which is a particularly large offense. The only things this movie has in common with the original so far are colored uniforms and megazords.

These changes make me question why it’s even called Power Ranges to begin with.

How do you take a franchise known for its camp and cheesy heroism and do your very best to pass it off as dark, mature and gritty? Why even call it Power Rangers at that point? Why not just make a new franchise that doesn’t have the pressure of its predecessor?

I’ll tell you why. It’s because nobody would pay to see this movie if it wasn’t called Power Rangers.

This is probably the main common denominator across shitty reboots/remakes/sequels/whatever. The bare minimum is retained to keep it recognizable, but the essential elements are abandoned and switched out for things that should have been put into a completely independent production.

Branding goes a long way with stealing our money.

 

 

2. Too similar to the original

“Ugh, but Shayne, you’re only criticizing refreshes because you’re a nerd and nerds hate change”

Nice try.

The next worst thing to refreshes being too different than the original are refreshes that are far too similar.

Take the most recent Star Wars film, The Force Awakens, for example.

People were doing backflips over the 7th film of the franchise, with some teeny-boppers declaring it as the best of the series.

…That is, until they realized that it was basically just A New Hope all over again.

I can feel the anger rising in some of you hashtag politicians, but let me finish.

I know that Force Awakens featured an exponentially more diverse cast than the original trilogy. I thought it was badass that a Star Wars movie would have a Black male and a Female as lead characters, and gave it bonus points for Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron) being Guatemalan, since I’m half.

But you’ve got to admit that the movie’s plot and execution were very, VERY similar to A New Hope:

A dessert-inhabiting young adult goes on an adventure to transport a droid with plans to destroy a ginormous death machine. Along the way, the protagonist meets an elderly man who spreads knowledge about the days of old. Blah blah blah, mentor is killed, space ship is blown up, and good guys are set up to get unwittingly crushed in the sequel.

Which plot was that? A New Hope, or Force Awakens?

Told you.

This is what led to most fans of Star Wars letting out a resounding “meh” after watching it. It was too similar at times, including throwbacks and references that were largely unnecessary.

Did Finn and Rey really need to inherit the Millennium Falcon?

Did the main doomsday machine need to literally just be a bigger Death Star?

Did these things really need to be in the movie? No, but they are, because of an evil entity known as merchandising. Creating new ships would take too much work, so you’d might as well sell more TIE Fighter toys because nostalgia will drive people to buy them.

Carbon-copy refreshes are a bit redundant, and frustrate most actual fans since they don’t expand the franchise at all.

 

 

3. Released too soon after the original

I call this the “Amazing Spider-Man Syndrome”. The reboot of the Spidey franchise came along a mere 5 years after Sam Raimi’s trilogy concluded.

…Why?

“Oh, because it was closer to the original comic. That makes it better. Besides, the original trilogy ended horribly”

Yeah, no.

While I understand that the possibilities are endless for Spider-Man movies, and that it is a VERY interesting property to adapt, the Amazing Spider-Man was a rushed movie that focused on the wrong things. Merchandising swept the streets like a tidal wave but the movie itself was pretty lackluster.

The Lizard was a pretty boring villain, Andrew Garfield was way too good-looking, and the entire origin part of the film was something that we had already seen before…five years prior. And done better. 

As far as adaptations go, I don’t care how close it is to the source material a movie is if it isn’t good.

The original Spider-Man trilogy was a pretty good one, looking back. It wasn’t entirely loyal to the source material, but presented its story in a believable fashion, with characters that had actual depth and complex motivations. Why go back and try to do it again?

Oh yeah, to embarrass a great actor like Jaimee Foxx in one of the worst super hero sequels ever. I almost forgot.

The hot mess of plot lines and villains in Amazing Spider-Man 2 solidified that this was a reboot nobody really wanted, and had us all running back into the waiting arms of Tobey McGuire.

Let’s look at some of the better reboots/remakes/sequels that have come around, and see how many years after the original passed before they were made:

Scarface (1983)—51 years

Casino Royale (2006)—39 years

Justice League (2001)—25 years

True Grit (2010)—41 years

The Fly (1986)—29 years

Oceans Eleven(2001)—51 years

Didn’t know some of these were remakes?

EXACTLY.

The best time to refresh a franchise is after enough time has pass so that people won’t be constantly comparing it to the original.

Or else you’ll end up like Dragon Ball Super…ugh.

 

 

4. Refreshed a perfectly fine property that didn’t ever need one

This one brings my piss to a boil the most.

Not every old franchise need to be remade.

…Actually, VERY FEW franchises could ever use a reboot/remake/refresh.

A film like Akira does NOT need a remake because the entire story already was set in a mostly fictional world. What else can you do to it? Animate it better? As if. But alas, a remake has been confirmed to be in the works.

Power Rangers does not need a remake because the show IS STILL RUNNING. If you want to see what Power Rangers would look like in a modern setting, then just watch the most recent seasons.

…They kind of suck, by the way.

A movie like The Craft wouldn’t make much sense in the modern world since the access to things like Google and Cell Phones would remove a large part of its tension. And guess what—it’s being remade as well.

Comic book franchises are a small exception to this. Mostly because the comics themselves have gone through a million different writers, artists, universes, protagonists, and storylines. I don’t think anyone really minded the recent X-Men trilogy because it told a completely different story that featured (somewhat) different characters. Hell, it even found a way to fix the disappointment that was X-Men 3.

And yeah, I know that I just shit all over The Amazing Spider-Man, but that only adds to my point. The Sam Raimi trilogy was perfectly fine, and there wasn’t much new that 5 years of time could bring to another origin story. The past/future X-Men movies expanded the established universe, but the Spider-Man reboots just tried to reinvent the wheel.

But with something like The Powerpuff Girls? Just…why? Why bother?

To make money, that’s why.

But it’s not only the studios who are to blame. Actually, they’re only accountable for about 30% of this issue.

I’d say the other 70% is actually us, which leads me to:

 

 

The Problem: Our Nostalgia Goggles

Like I mentioned before, our generation LOVES to talk about our childhoods.

If you go on Social Media, it’s always “If you didn’t like/watch/have ____ then your childhood sucked”, or something like that.

We absolutely adore the things we grew up consuming, and will usually defend them to the death.

But let me ask you something: When’s the last time you’ve actually revisited something from your childhood? And I don’t mean just reading screencaps on Tumblr. I mean actually sitting down and watching something nostalgic.

I do every now and then, and it’s usually an eye-opening experience.

That’s So Raven is about half as well-written as I remember, and twice as annoying.

I can’t even watch The Fairly Oddparents anymore, because the pacing of the jokes is too fast for me to keep up.

The animation from The Rugrats would give me nightmares today.

7th Heaven is a 20 minute long sequence of holier-than-thou sermons.

CatDog has a really, REALLY stupid premise.

Forrest Gump is about as bad of a role model as you can have.

Ren & Stimpy is borderline grotesque.

Watching Jumanji makes me want to throw up.

The point is, that a good amount of the stuff we romanticize from our childhoods aren’t actually that good.

Don’t get me wrong—a lot of works from the past have aged fantastically, and might have even gotten better with time. This includes things like Hey Arnold!, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, Toy Story, Boy Meets World, Full House, Gargoyles, Malcolm in the Middle, Spirited Away, Codename: Kids Next Door, and more.

But we can’t just blindly declare that everything from the 90s and early-mid 2000s is instantly infallible just because we grew up with them. It just isn’t true. In fact, the inverse is more likely: we grew up with them, and therefore think they’re infallible.

Nostalgia is a hard thing to remove from judgment, and companies have taken full advantage of this.

We now find ourselves in an era where anything worth getting excited over is just a re-hash of older times. With Denofgeek.com recently reported that a whopping 109 movie remakes and reboots are currently in the pipeline, this trend is quickly becoming a full-on epidemic.

And it’s not going to stop, as long as they continue to make money.

So, how can we help put an end to this?

 

 

Solution: Look up and smell the roses

Look, I’m not saying that we should abandon our childhoods and pasts completely.

What I AM advocating for, though, is for us to look around and appreciate some of the kickass original projects that have come out in recent years.

I love old slasher movies as much as the next person, and absolutely enjoy watching them any time of the year. That doesn’t mean that I need another one to be released anytime soon. Times have passed the Slasher genre by in favor of more supernatural Horror movies.

And I’m okay with that. I could easily watch the original Nightmare on Elm Street, but that might cause me to miss out on a movie like Insidious—which is one of the best Horror films that I’ve ever seen.

Across the board, cartoons today are arguably as good as or sometimes better than the ones we grew up watching.

The Amazing World of Gumball is one of my favorite cartoons in history. Regular Show, Steven Universe, Gravity Falls, and Adventure Time are all incredibly well-done, complex, and entertaining shows. But they haven’t been given a fair chance by older audiences just because they lack a nostalgia factor.

I don’t watch live-action TV much, but I’ve seen sitcoms like The Middle and Modern Family, and they both do a great job of depicting family values in the current era.

These are all original works that, while clearly influenced by the past, don’t try to gain popularity by continuing an older franchise.

…Although I really dislike How I Met Your Mother because it’s just a less-good version of Friends.

Which leads me to the conclusion:

 

The Conclusion

Can we stop the impending wave of reboots, remakes, and sequels?

No. Absolutely not. They make too much money.

And the thing is, that I’m sure many of you don’t want it to stop, either. Because these things are sacred to you. The shows, the movies, the cartoons, all invoke fond memories that, quite frankly, can never be captured again.

Our generation is now in a Catch 22. We want to celebrate the franchises that helped us grow up, but doing so subjects us to exploitation by studios that keep producing garbage.

Complaining about how bad the reboot/remake/sequel after watching it won’t do any good, because we’ve already bought the ticket or sat through commercials to watch it, and that’s really all that matters to these companies.

It seems like simply not going to watch these refreshes is the logical solution, but that creates an entirely different issue: Are we able to resist our nostalgia? Can we forego the opportunity to relive our childhoods? Are we really able to pass on a chance to reunite with our favorite fictional characters?

I’ll let you decide.

Thanks for reading.

 

Bonus:

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