The Nostalgia Accusation

I don’t know if all of you are aware but nostalgia has become a dirty word for some in discussing media.  Recently I reviewed Fuller House on my youtube channel and the response was positive to my video; however, on a forum I noticed phrases like ‘only idiots drinking the nostalgia koolaid would like this’.  This type of accusation really annoys me.

So let’s talk about nostalgia.  The dictionary defines nostalgia as “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations”.  So in other words it’s looking at something from our past and remembering it in a positive, happy way.  I get nostalgia for lots of things.  For example, whenever I drive past my old house in American Fork that I lived in with Camille and Megan I feel very nostalgic.  Whenever I go to BYU I remember all the good times I had there and it causes me to feel good- nostalgia.

Now granted these feelings are by nature stilted.  We remember either the bad or the good in the most vivid colors, and we may magnify those emotions with the passing of time.  So something that was sad becomes devastating.  Something that was happy becomes perfection.  We all do it.  It’s part of being human.

I guess where I get annoyed is the exaggeration brought on by nostalgia is only part of that memory.  I loved going to BYU, and just because I remember it with probably too much nostalgia doesn’t mean it wasn’t a genuinely wonderful time in my life.  I feel like people who say ‘you only like it because of nostalgia’ are throwing out the baby with the bathwater.  Nostalgia is part of the experience but there are really things I liked about it.

Nostalgia being part of an experience is not a reason to devalue said experience. If I love a movie because it reminds me of my Grandpa that doesn’t mean my other reasons for liking it are somehow less valuable because of a personal connection. Am I supposed to separate myself from all my life experience when viewing art and give some kind of robot review?

Recently I saw a critic on youtube eviscerate Star Wars Force Awakens and of course she accused all of us who liked it of being ‘blinded by nostalgia’.  I’m sorry but that is just not true.  Was nostalgia a part?  Probably but it also had a villain who was a true apprentice, it had a female hero who is discovering who she is, it had BB8 who was adorable, it had awesome light saber fights, it had a storm trooper rebelling.  All of that was great!  And yet I feel like this critic would discount everything I just said and accuse me of only being nostalgic.  That irritates me.

Now make no mistake there are definitely things I like for nostalgia purposes that I know are crap.  And you know what I own to that.  I know The Cutting Edge is not a great movie.  I get that, but I watched it with my friends in high school and it brings back good memories.  What’s wrong with that? I don’t expect you to have the same attachment to it and fully admit it isn’t a great movie.  And it’s not like I would give it an A+ just because I love it for nostalgia.  I would probably give it a C+ because that’s what it deserves, even though I love it.

I guess I just feel like the nostalgia accusation is a cheap way to discount what someone says.  I’ve had people claim I was nostalgic about Star Wars, Little Mermaid, Wizard of Oz, The Muppets, the list goes on.   These are all things I genuinely love and can give you reasons. I guess there is a little bit of nostalgia but that’s way down the list of why I enjoy those properties, and yet it is used as a reason to throw away my opinion?  That frustrates me!

I’ve even had people accuse me of nostalgia for things I didn’t like as a child.  I was not interested in fantasy or superheroes at all growing up.  And yet when I enjoy Avengers: Age of Ultron or other films people claim it is nostalgia.  It’s not.  I just liked it!

And I am not immune from the nostalgia accusation.  Just the other day I was talking to someone about the Care Bears movies and they were saying how people they knew LOVED them.  My response was ‘it must just be nostalgia because they aren’t that great’.  And then I stopped myself and realized I was doing the very thing that drives me crazy.  Maybe they have perfectly good reasons liking Care Bears? Or maybe it is nostalgia and what’s wrong with that?

I guess I just feel like nearly every time I’m accused of nostalgia it’s actually not the case.  I like what I like and I try to give as good an explanation as I can.  If nostalgia is part of that experience I will own to it, even celebrate it.  Nostalgia is a powerful thing and if we like something because it reminds us of our life that is great.  I just don’t like being accused of it when it isn’t true.  It makes me seem less objective than others who are ‘untainted by nostalgia’.

What do you guys think?  Can you relate to what I am saying?  What’s your view on nostalgia?  What’s something you enjoy but you know it is mostly for nostalgia sake?

8 thoughts on “The Nostalgia Accusation

  1. I find there is nothing inherently wrong with Nostalgia, because then it gives you a special feeling for something that something else might not. Sure, some things I grew up with I’ll watch now and not love as much, but I still have a lot that seems to transport me back to a certain time or place and my life and you know what? How is that bad? I sometimes watch movies for that special feeling they bring me so I do find that it is a nice thing to have with a cinematic experience. As someone who’s interested in how movies and other art forms personally affect me that is something important to take into account. I think the problem is, the internet expects the whole ‘hive mind’ opinion that I’ve mentioned distaste for, so I feel like that’s why they devalue Nostalgia because then it’s basically ‘oh these people like this thing because it transports them to a time and place but I hate this thing so let me bash them and tell them how wrong they are.’ At some point people will realize there’s no wrong or right with this stuff.

    1. Well said and I agree. It’s like people think they are so much more objective because they don’t have that personal connection. With maybe a few exceptions I don’t think that is the case. I can still say what is good and bad about something and then say I liked it for nostalgic reasons or that was part of the experience. It’s certainly not an excuse to discount my entire opinion just because of nostalgia that may or may not be a contributing factor.

  2. Interesting. I’ve always seen “nostalgia” and “nostalgic” as positive words. In fact, I don’t see how critiquing something as nostalgic is a critique at all. It’s quite another thing to argue that something is poorly made, yet note that many people seem to like it because of nostalgic reactions.

    Frankly, I have little tolerance for critics who call anyone stupid for liking anything. Hopefully, I haven’t ever done this in my career, but we all live and learn, so I may have a snarky review out there somewhere where I used poor judgment. The bottom line is that all this stuff is opinion, and most works have things that can be perceived as flaws and things that can be perceived as merits.

    I’m not sure if you know this, but I spend much of my time these days teaching journalism at the university level. When teaching newswriting (not criticism), I encourage students to strive for objectivity, but I also note that there really is no such thing. All one can do is attempt to be as objective as possible. We all have different backgrounds, and thus bring different biases to the table, and I don’t see any way to prevent that. Even if one writes a story that is nothing but facts, it is subjective based on the facts the writer chooses to include.

    I can think of great films that I could write scathing reviews on using legitimate criticisms, and I have written positive reviews on films that others have savaged. The bottom line is it’s all opinion in the end and the critic has to decide whether the positives outweighed the negatives. Some people provide criticism with a broader base of knowledge and experience to draw from, and I find them particularly worthwhile. Ultimately, though, I think the best critic is the one that works for you. If you find a person that you agree with most of the time (or even disagree with most of the time), he/she can provide an excellent service by pointing you toward works you are likely to enjoy. Of course, it’s also fun to read people you agree with only intermittently if you find their work particularly educational or entertaining.

    In the end, when someone tells me they loved a movie that I gave a bad review, I usually tell them I’m glad they liked it. If someone enjoys something I didn’t, that’s great. It’s not my goal to ruin things for people, just steer those who tend to agree with me or who find my insights interesting in the right direction.

    Great post. I always enjoy reading your thoughts.

    1. I didnt know that about your journalism teaching. That’s really cool but you are absolutely right. We cant separate our life experiences completely from our responses or writing- nor should we. I mean what made Roger Ebert great was because he wasnt just a robot but had unique opinions.
      I agree as well that there is no reason to criticize people who like or dont like something. Stick to the movie!

    2. And thanks for reading my ramblings. I havent been in college in 8 years so kind of nice to hear my writing is enjoyable for a teacher 🙂

  3. Nostalgia is not evil, although history testifies that as a tool in the wrong hands, it can be heinously abused. But there is nothing about garden-variety literary or cinematic reviews, whether or not they express nostalgia, that justifies ad hominem attacks, no matter if they are directed at the reviewer’s audience or at the reviewer. In particular, a personal ad hominem attack reveals more that’s negative about the one who makes it, than it does about the one against whom it is levied. As the saying goes, “The dogs bark, but the caravan passes on.”

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