Aug 23, 20183m read
Nostalgia: Why Hollywood Can’t Stop Remaking Content
“I’d trade all my tomorrows for one single yesterday.”
– Kris Kristofferson
For better or worse, nostalgia is currently the most important and profitable commodity in Hollywood. These days most, if not all, of our popular content was popular many years ago. Existing/branded content is being re-released, remade, rebooted and reimagined on a daily basis. Film and television studios are literally banking on our collective memories.
There’s nothing new about Hollywood bringing back familiar characters and storylines. However, what is categorically new is the massive amount of nostalgia projects. To name a few: Star Wars, Will & Grace, Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, Roseanne, Mission: Impossible, Westworld, Halloween, Batman, Ocean’s Eleven, Murphy Brown, A Star Is Born, Fargo and the seemingly unstoppable Disney Live-Action Remakes. Not to mention, the hundreds of films and television shows that evoke generational nostalgia with original material. Looking at you, Stranger Things! We are swimming (sometimes drowning) in options.
Why is Hollywood so smitten with nostalgia all of a sudden? Most importantly, why are we so in love with it? Below are three plausible reasons:
1) Who’s Paying Attention?
Our media landscape has dramatically evolved. 50 years ago you didn’t need more than two hands to count how many film and television studios existed. Now we have over 500 cable channels, movie production companies, streaming networks, social media platforms and even traditional Fortune 500 behemoths funding and/or creating original content. Needless to say, every single one of these entities is competing for attention. And in this fragmented attention economy, there’s no more valuable resource than existing/branded content. A piece of intellectual property that will be instantly recognizable for different types of audiences. The Walt Disney Company is probably the best example of living and thriving in this new nostalgia-hungry world. During the last two decades they have strategically purchased Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and most recently, 21st Century Fox.
2) Mac & Cheese for Mental Health
There is no doubt we’re living in extra tumultuous times. Every other day we hear terrible news of terrorism, epidemics, natural disasters, job loss and political turmoil. Our fear levels are at an all-time high. Thus, we’re en masse looking to escape. Unlike never before we are running to movies and TV shows that make us feel immediately safe and connected. Existing/branded content is almost by definition the antidote. Familiar characters and storylines taste like mac and cheese. We don’t have to overthink or worry–just let ourselves be transported to happier, easier times. Where, for the most part, the national conversation wasn’t all about pain. As Novalis once wrote, “Philosophy is really nostalgia, the desire to be at home.”
3) Good Content Never Dies
We more or less have access to the world’s best content at all times. Primarily thanks to streaming networks like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, we’re now able to consume (or binge) what our parents and grandparents enjoyed. We no longer have to wait for films and TV shows to be re-released in order to catch up or understand the reference. We can finally all be on the same page. This also means audiences have started to crave the return of several films and TV shows. Hollywood has unquestionably responded (please re-read paragraph two for examples) and made a lot of money along the way. The days of not being able to share your favorite movie or TV show are relatively over.
What do you think? Do you agree with one or more of these plausible reasons? Please comment your thoughts.