Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Memory Whole?

Writing at Wired, Brian Raftery notes a wave of nostalgia for some cultural touchstones of the early 2000's (specifically 2000-2006) and suggests that the speed of pop culture today means such a wave may be the last one we ever see. We don't want to wait around for an era to become fuzzy enough in our memories that only its good parts get remembered.

Raftery also suggests that cultural and entertainment fragmentation means there just aren't any dominating cultural events and themes any more. The 50s birthed rock and roll, the 60s birthed mass stupidity, and so on. But what cultural touchstone connected to all of society post-2010? What's called "prestige television" may dominate online entertainment mags and twitter feeds, but those are shows watched by a relative handful of people. A band has a ubiquitous single but ten minutes later can't get its next song played on the radio station that comes over the tinfoil in Bernie Sanders' hat.

The easy target here is to suggest that few people are going to be nostalgic for stuff that's crap. Would that were true, but the existence of a third Halloween reboot says otherwise.

But I do have a reason to lay alongside Mr. Raftery's that he doesn't seem to consider. Nostalgia requires memory. Rose-colored selective memory, to be sure, but memory nonetheless. And a culture that celebrates and is mediated so much by ephemera probably doesn't produce a lot of rememberers.

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