Nostalgia permeates popular culture from our films to our books. It is hard to move beyond this motif since so much of popular media is hampered by or enhanced by a certain longing for the past. This sentiment comes across every frame of the show Wandavision.
Taking inspiration from the TV shows of yesterday, the show recreates scenes from Dick Van Dyke Show to The Office for style and cinematography. Though, underneath it lies a Twin Peaks-esque knack for the abstract. Wandavision plays with this iconography and imagery to create a certain capsule of television. A nostalgic moment that can be experienced, but not re-lived.
The recently-canceled Venture Bros depicts popular culture from the ‘50s and ‘60s cartoons like Johnny Quest and Scooby-Doo. Though there is a certain cynicism in the depiction of these shows, with a wry satire involved, the appearance of pop-culture parody is met with a tinge of nostalgia as well.
Nostalgia is the modern Janus of popular culture, acting as a doorway between two aspects of memory. Nostalgia exists as a medium between love and cynicism for the past. It is a recreation and a capturing of a moment, a style or even a culture in the briefest ways.
Wonder Woman 1984 recalls the era of Christopher Reeve Superman films. Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus captures the dystopian horror that made the original show a fan favorite. Ready Player One makes nostalgia a narrative device. Videogames have also been cashing in on this nostalgia with games like Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy and Doom. Each property acts as a revitalization or return of long-lost property.
In opposition to this is the nostalgia that is not about the property, but about ideas. Here we have Bomb Rush Cyberfunk, a sendup of the Jet Set Radio series of games. Stranger Things splits the plots into three groups: adult, teenager and children. Each plot evoking imagery of films like Alien, Christine and Silver Bullet. These properties are not a remake or reboot, but an age-old experience recreated for a new or nostalgic audience.
The root-form of nostalgia is “home” and “pain” or “homesickness.” Nostalgia becomes a way to access the past through art and memory. However, it comes with the two-sided view of a heartwarming sendup or a recreation of a period. Nostalgia at its root should be an artistic recreation of the unattainable. Nowhere is this more creatively captured than the TV show Hey Arnold!
One of Nickelodeon’s breakout shows, along with Rocko’s Modern Life and Spongebob Squarepants, Hey Arnold! is a gem of hand-drawn animation. Following a cast of characters in a fictionalized New York, as they tell stories and face new experiences, the show captures a mentality of being a kid in the undefined past.
The show creates a similar “homesickness” for the unattainable. The show details a fictional childhood and deals with stealing to depression to riding your bike. The past becomes a tool for learning, rather than a gimmick. It is a feeling, a place and a culture that is maintained in art.
When it comes to nostalgia, it has become an inseparable topic from modern pop culture. Though it is often portrayed as memento like Peter Quill’s Walkman, nostalgia can be a tool for learning. Through memory and personal history, development is achieved. Nostalgia is the instigator to think and rethink the past. Hey Arnold! captures this thought process in near-perfect animation, in effect making nostalgia a place too long to not itemize.
Benjamin Ervin is a senior studying English literature and writing at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Benjamin know by emailing him email@example.com.