BY: SIMONE SCOTT
Stuck in the Past
Lately it seems like everything is getting a reboot. Disney is making a live-action version of all of it’s classics and TV shows like Twilightzone and 90210 are back. Alongside old things coming back, there’s an insurgence of period pieces like Stranger Things or Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, where filmmakers are spending time reimagining the past. While people complain about how reboots are ruining the source or how they’d like to see stories about today, these projects are generally popular and well received. Disney’s live-action Lion King made $191.8 million opening weekend and Stranger Things season 3 has had record viewership with about 41 million views within a week of dropping on Netflix.
Nostalgia is described as a longing for the past and it’s personal for people who have a special sentimental connection that time. The current use of nostalgia could be tied to how chaotic the world seems now and the need to return to a “simpler time.” But regardless of what’s going on in the world, more often than not, people like to be reminded of their youth. Media revivals and reminders of the past tap into that sentimental nostalgia people have. People are more likely to watch a movie or buy a product that reminds them of their happy memories of childhood.
Disney’s streaming service Disney + launches November 12th and is using nostalgia to compete with other streaming platforms like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. Disney is leveraging it’s access to newly acquired libraries, like Fox, to re-make movies like Home Alone. Disney Channel cartoons like the Proud Family is rumored to be revived on the new streaming platform as well. It will be interesting to see how this strategy impacts Disney + subscriptions and whether or not the reboots and revivals will actually be good.
Playing on nostalgia and telling stories from the past can be a fun re-living but it is also a way to rewrite history and change the way that events, people, or products are remembered. Much like the film Back to the Future, changing the past has risky consequences.
Stranger Things takes place in the 1980s and throughout the third season of the show, characters drink and talk about New Coke, a Coke product that was introduced in 1985 to compete with Pepsi and was a massive failure. New Coke was only available for a few months in the 80s before Coca Cola decided to go back to the old formula. The buzz about New Coke appealed to the nostalgia of those who experienced it and appealed to a younger audience who wanted to feel connected to the show, Coca Cola re-released New Coke for a limited time. Nostalgia in this instance not only sold the product, but rewrote its history and made it seem less like a failure and more like a cool exclusive limited time beverage.
The film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is Quentin Tarrantino’s homage to Hollywood in the 1960s. Parts of the film go in and out of films from that time period showing different movie stars. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood has recently been criticized by Bruce Lee’s friends and family that claim his portrayal in the movie was disrespectful. Lee’s daughter, Shannon Lee felt that Tarrantino made a mockery of Lee and that the film’s portrayal of him was an offensive caricature, sentiments that were echoed by Lee’s close friend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. So although we see a lot of retellings of who people were through biopics, it’s safer to use nostalgia in marketing when it comes to products.