No one argues that nostalgia is reflecting upon the past. How accurately we remember things can vary. Memory lapses and selective memory both can misrepresent yesterday’s realities. Robert Trussell gives a great example of this in his citation of a modern HBO series (“Awash in Nostalgia” The Kansas City Star. November 15, 2015, pp. 1D, 12D):
“A more recent western, HBO’s ‘Deadwood,’ was nominally set in the 1870s. The buildings and costumes and muddy sets looked right, but the unrelenting R-rated dialogue and plotlines about competing business interests made it feel more like ‘The Sopranos’ than ‘Gunsmoke.’
‘Deadwood’ was definitely its own animal, but like many series and movies, it tapped into our cultural memory of both a real and an imaginary past. Historical movies usually have less to do with the era they depict than the era in which they are made.” (p. 12D)
I once read:
“No one can change the past, except of course the historian.”
This is why I stand with Trussell in the fact that historical productions often show more evidence of the era in which they are made than of the era they depict. This may not always be the case, but in my observations, I think that it is. We reapproach a bygone era, grounded by the present, and look for a way in which the bygone era can be seen freshly.
If this reapproach has validity, I think that is fine. Everyone’s knowledge may increase. On the other hand, if this reapproach is not valid, then we risk misrepresenting the truth. That is not necessarily a cause for concern as long as everyone recognizes that this is entertainment. Even productions based on true stories often disclose that some content has been created for the sake of the overall drama, story, and plotline.
Most importantly to me is that the viewer does the homework. After all, if you are going to give up hours of your time to enjoy a program, don’t you owe it to yourself to at least determine what is true and what is not? Let the “buyer” beware is applicable here just as much as anywhere.