Is Nostalgia Culture a Sign of Societal Decline?

Nostalgia shows itself in movies, fashion, and any medium of art. It is meant to reflect a more aesthetically pleasing time in history from which great things emerged and the media praised and popularized new concepts for being unique and creative. While these time periods might have been the pinnacle of their respective artistic movements, the repetition and lack of inventive drive produced by nostalgia culture inhibits and actively hampers the pursuit of a new artistic movement in the modern setting. In short, it creates a vacuum of creative expression by comparing something that would have been classified as “era defining” to something that would either be mediocre and new or something lacking popular backing. Nostalgia art in any form creates a placeholder in a culture that cannot be surmounted because of its deep roots in society and its likeability. This idea of nostalgia culture both stunts and simultaneously regresses a society because it compares the greatest parts of each generation to that which has yet to gain similar praise. This creates gaps in creativity and causes creators to be dependent on nostalgia because it guarantees that their work will be accepted by society and thus turn a profit. 

Like most things, nostalgia art does serve a purpose in society; it is a good medium to explore new ideas, such as time travel movies and docudramas. I believe, however, that nostalgia culture should not permeate so deeply that it influences modern fashion or music, which are cultural expressions characterized by risk. Some may wonder why film does not fall into this category. It is difficult to dissect film as a whole, but it is apt to say that any film classified as a remake or as a resurgence of a popular film franchise serves only to turn profits off of the nostalgia for great original works, such as the Star Wars or Indiana Jones franchises. Currently, many large corporations such as Disney and Illumination Studios have stopped experimenting and creating unique pieces of work, and instead repeat the same concepts over and over because it is easy and a reliable way to guarantee money for the company. There is no medium for passion projects or artistic expression in film because it will not guarantee profit.

Similarly, the same can be said for music. Most popular music is recycled or mimicking an older generation. Pop music of the modern 2010’s and even 2020’s is indicative of a loss of independent voice or iconic features. Whenever a popular artist releases a new song or album, it is played into oblivion to guarantee it will sell, regardless of the song’s merits. This is why popular music is slowly becoming abandoned for other genres such as Alternative or Indie, because this alternative music represents the last strongholds of creative expression. The problem with popular artists such as Taylor Swift adopting these trends in music is that Alternative music no longer becomes as easily accessible for less popular artists, it instead becomes an increasingly insular market that will be exhausted by the mainstream until it is indicative of nothing more than repetitiveness and profiteering. 

In fashion, one of the main characteristics of our generation’s womens fashion is “vintage” or thrifted looks. This reflects the economic recession and money insecurity similar to the 1930’s when it was popular to sew one’s own garments from household items. The main difference is that while that was looked at as shameful, it is now glorified. My grandmother was frequently bullied as a child for wearing clothing that was made from feed sacks or calico. Now, it is considered stylish to repurpose or sew your own clothing. This is due to the favor of originality on a lower scale to the point where it is the job of the individual, not the society to foster something new or aesthetically pleasing to themselves. This explains the loss of customers to many brick and mortar stores as well as the expansion in online enterprises. Most people who go to old standbys such as Macy’s or Kohl’s are feeling themselves more and more ostracized by the lack of creativity and the regurgitation of the same fashion trends. 

All of these things lead me to believe that nostalgia and remaking of popular trends is indeed a sign of societal decline because it exemplifies laziness and complacency. The 1950’s were associated with Americana because Americana was a celebration of individualistic attitudes and principles of working hard to achieve a goal. While it is dangerous when society is no longer reminded of this attitude, there is even more danger when it merely circles around it in hopes that something new will emerge. Risk-taking is a symptom of creativity and should have a viable platform to be expressed. We as a society should be more open to different things because by doing so we allow creation to make America great. 

We should strive to make America great with values that are uniquely ours and principles that allow capitalism to flourish, but we should do so in a way that is unique to the new generation and includes methods that have made Americans advantageous as a world superpower. It is the job of the American society not to become complacent or collapse in on itself because it is the duty of the people within our country to expect exceptionality from their culture. 

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