THE NOSTALGIA THING
Norman W Wilson, PhD
The Internet is awash with power point presentations of old cars, boats, ships, airplanes, storefronts, and movies and their stars. Nearly every day I receive at least one nostalgic email. The Woody Allen movie, Midnight in Paris, explored the idea of going back to a golden age, a time when all was right with the world. And all of this made me wonder why there is such an influx of feelings for days gone by—a longing, if you will.
In a bygone era, people flocked to the vaudeville theaters and then to the movies. During hard times, movie theaters filled with people looking for a respite from the drudgery of their daily lives. Comedy, musicals and westerns were always popular. With the arrival of television came the idealized version of the American family. Father Knows Best, Mama, Ozzie and Harriet, and Leave it to Beaver are just a few such shows. Our Miss Brooks represented the American high school. Today, we talk about the Golden Age of Rock, and we have a throwback to vintage clothes and parades of old cars, trucks, motorcycles, and photo montages of gas stations and gasoline pumps.
Romance novels with other century settings are among the most popular books read. Books with settings in an earlier Scotland, England, France and the American west fill the shelves at bookstores, box stores, and at airports. The Harlequin Romances are ever popular, holding some 40 per cent of all paperback sales in North America.
A casual look at these eras reveals a world at war, in a depression, or struggling with an identity crisis. Times are tough. We are engaged in a decades long war, gone through an economic upheaval, have experienced a decline in the job market and a seemingly unending spew of vitriol; we turn to a time we THINK was better thus, nostalgia.
Is nostalgia bad? Not necessarily, but it is indicative of an unhappy population. It is a warning sign that things are not right with the world. The next time you are in a 'good old days' mood, ask yourself why you are unhappy. The answer may surprise you. We fail to realize we look back with a jaundiced eye. The old saw, "you can't go home again," is true.