Nostalgia is a powerful force in people’s lives. It is equally powerful in the business world and in the entertainment arena. Flocking to nostalgia is something we do as humans almost without thinking.
In Robert Trussell’s concluding thoughts from his excellent nostalgia and entertainment analysis, he raises an interesting concern (“Awash in Nostalgia” The Kansas City Star. November 15, 2015, pp. 1D, 12D):
“When Broadway stages are filled with vintage musicals and musty dramas, when TV screens are filled with series based on older series, when movies are based on films from a generation ago, you must wonder if an artist with a creative idea or a new kind of storytelling could even find a place at the table—and whether audiences would embrace anything other than the familiar.” (p. 12D)
I have thought about this many times for many reasons:
When The Repetition Of Nostalgia Is A Bad Thing. Audiences can become bored when plotlines become predictable and so-called new releases are repetitive. Is there anything new or different in the story? That gets old fast.
When The Repetition Of Nostalgia Is A Good Thing. By their very nature, some of the best stories are the stories that stand the test of time, no matter how many times we repeat them. These include stories of love and loss, family and friends, war and peace, winning and losing, trust and betrayal, sin and salvation, crime and punishment, life and death, sickness and healing, joy and grief. Audiences are drawn to these stories because they are the shared stories of our humanity.
Creativity That Capitalizes On Nostalgia. For the creators of stories, nostalgia is a winning ticket. The artist’s creativity is not diminished just because the larger plotline follows a well-worn path. The artist must still summon creativity in the use and application of that nostalgic template.
Creativity That Does Not Capitalize On Nostalgia. For creators of stories, there is nothing as challenging and artistically fulfilling as masterminding a story that breaks all molds. Regardless of how universal the nostalgic plotlines are, we must never lose our artistic desire to tell a new story.
The Audience’s Appetite. Although audiences can be finicky, my hope is that they will be hungry for new creative approaches in story. That openness of course never guarantees that the next dish on the entertainment table will be exquisite. However, you will never enjoy the exquisite unless you are willing to try something new.