Fittingly a spotify playlist sends hits like “Come As You Are” by Nirvana and “All Star” by Smash Mouth to my headphones as I write this article. It’s suitable that some of the most iconic bands of my childhood are arousing flashbacks as I argue that nostalgia may becoming a hindrance to creativity in today’s movies. I notice this more in my beloved comic book genre than any other. This genre has recently dominated the box office and popular culture and we geeks are going from being the butt of jokes in media to the experts of shows and characters that everyone loves. However, by using our nostalgia to dismiss what we dislike about the movies being created we may be damaging our own awesomification.
Do a search on Superman, Batman, or Spiderman on Twitter and you will see a plethora of arguments both for and against every actor, some educated arguments about studio ownership, some hateful as the internet allows.
— Hero Rundown (@HeroRundown) March 11, 2016
Everyone has their own version of nostalgia for these characters. We remember certain parts of the past and our own individuality fills in the gaps
In his paper, “Everything old is good again: Myth and nostalgia in Spider-Man,” Wilson Koh explained how there was consensus on what certain things people did remember from the 60s Batman series: “fondness ‘for isolated but recurring images…the screeching of the Batmobile’s tires, the heroes sliding down the Batpole, the red glow of the Batphone, batrope ascents, zany graphics, hyperbolic voice-overs, and especially, exotic death traps’ was invariably expressed. Yet these same participants could neither recount specific plots nor point towards concrete examples of broader generic elements.” Yet one of the cries of an unhappy fan is still, “THATS NOT HOW IT HAPPENED IN THE COMIC!”
I actually think this may be one of the reasons why Guardians of the Galaxy did so well. Only a small percentage of us comic geeks knew anything about it. There were very little expectations, very little risk to ruining someone’s nostalgia.
Arguing nostalgia was a problem before the internet trolls slammed the most recent Fantastic Four movie because it had cast a person of colour in a role that was caucasian in the comics. As Michael B Jordan writes in his own Op-Ed in EW, “I can’t ask the audience to forget 50 years of comic books. But the world is a little more diverse in 2015 than when the Fantastic Four comic first came out in 1961.” I agree with Jordan. We have to stop expecting what we remembered it ‘was’ and instead what it made us ‘feel’ and imagine!
No one is expecting us fans to forget 50+ years of comics, I don’t know that would even be possible. We just have to accept that the heroes are spectacular and amazing because of what they do, not the colour of their skin, or the style of their costume. There was this show I used to watch on reruns called Knight Rider. I remember it being awesome, a talking car and a normal guy saving the world? That’s awesome! I tried watching those old episodes on Netflix…don’t do it. They don’t hold up and not just the effects – the very show itself is just not a great show. In a way, my nostalgia protects me from the bad and leaves me with the good.
As these things from our childhood enter into modern times, we seem to be focusing on the what we remember, not what we felt. When we argue about skin colour of a character because it’s not the way the comic used to be, we are arguing a point that has no impact on the movies.
I don’t use nostalgia to negatively comment about the last Fantastic Four movie. I loved some of the effects. I was even happy with the actors that were chosen for the rolls. They did alright considering – Johnny Storm was still a hot head and the fact that he was African American be damned. It still looked good and was acted better than other movies. I just was not a fan of the story of the film. That had nothing to do with my nostalgia towards the characters.
Now the newest argument is Spiderman and his suit in Captain America 3. Its too old, too new, too computerised. Enough. It’s Spidey in a Marvel Studios movie, not one being done by Sony, be excited for it!
In the end, we’re not making the movie. We will go see them and care enough that we want the films to be cool. So we have to let them be. I am not saying we have to like everything that Hollywood puts out, that is not possible. Someone might, some kid might watch these movies and not have the references we do as adults and instead be awed by the fact that sometimes extraordinary things can happen and a person can save the world.
We have to remember the feeling of nostalgia is too warped by our own realities and personalities. Arguing that someone else did it wrong when you’re consuming that product is hypocritical, not nostalgic. Using nostalgia to argue something like skin colour is not nostalgia, instead it perpetuates the social stereotype that were dominant 50-70 years ago.
I propose a solution; The next superhero movie you watch imagine it to be simply another comic. There are always new editions, with new writers, new artists, new stories. Superman used to have four titles on the go at all times. Look at all the hero movies like that, simply a new writer/artist combo. If you don’t like it that’s fine, you don’t have to like everything. We just need to stop comparing it to what it was. It can never and will never be that again.