If George Santayana was correct, and those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, then those who become consumed by nostalgia are doomed to dwell in another era. Pop culture buffs, in particular, have created this trap from which the entertainment industry cannot escape.
Nostalgia has become the primary impetus behind creativity throughout Hollywood, according to recent memory, driving numerous endeavors to “reboot” or “remake” the movies and TV shows of yesteryear. Yet, while this wave of inspiration—or lack thereof—appears to be motivated by an unyielding yearning for days gone by, one may also perceive this trend as an attempt to capitalize on prior successes. (Who am I kidding? That’s exactly what they’re doing…)
Most studios and investors prefer to sink money into ideas that are essentially past their expiration date simply because these once profitable entities still remain vivid within our collective consciousness. But these lackluster attempts to restore characters and concepts to their former glory could very well be the key to their imminent demise. You see, it’s their memory that holds the appeal. TV shows, such as Full House, and films, such as Poltergeist, remain popular in their original form because they carry an innate timelessness that cannot be replicated. Despite the1980s vibe, each exists outside the confines of the given decade, allowing generation after generation to enjoy what attracted audiences in the first place.
Of course, remakes and reboots are by no means new to the industry. Hollywood’s history is chock full of unnecessary spinoffs and sequels. (Please see Three’s A Crowd, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), and every installment of the Leprechaun series for reference.) But today, it’s as if nearly all major films and franchises are born from what already exists. It’s as if there’s simply no room for unique thought and creativity in today’s entertainment space. Just check out this list of upcoming movies as assembled by Grantland:
Also, if you can’t get the original cast to sign on, that clearly means you shouldn’t pursue the idea any further. The Prince and Me and its subsequent straight-to-DVD iterations, for instance, defy industry expectations, ultimately representing all that’s wrong with the entertainment world today. Not only was the initial film rather lackluster and poorly received, overall, but also its three follow-ups—which I can happily say I’ve never seen—steadily deteriorated, as the creators grasped onto farfetched concepts despite the exit of their primary star, Julia Stiles. (I wish I could tell you that 2010’s The Prince and Me 4: The Elephant Adventure was something I just made up myself, but alas, even I was unaware that this atrocity existed.) Who decided to spend money on these $5 bargain bin liners instead of investing in something worthwhile? Even something risky would’ve been more profitable, I’m sure.
Our society desperately needs to open the pathways for innovation and invention. Yet, instead of rewarding unique concepts, we get too-soon remakes, like She’s All That (which came out in 1999, mind you) and Girl Meets World, the more modern, slightly urbanized version of its original incarnation, Boy Meets World. If Hollywood continues down this road, we will be forced to indulge the same ideas over and over, leaving no room for new forms of nostalgia to blossom. Our children will only have our stale, used memories to revel in themselves. Let’s nurture future creatives by allowing the new to become old again.