Through rose-tinted glasses

National nostalgia unites different demographics through pop culture

Cooper Piercy, Staff Writer

Road work ahead. Say that phrase to anyone over the age of 25, and they may correlate it with the orange, diamond shaped sign that bears those exact words. 

However, say those three words to anyone younger, and like clock-work, they’ll finish the vine, one any given high schooler likely already knows. And with that single engrained memory, comes the flashback of an entire era.

Nostalgia is a feeling everyone is familiar with, however it’s most commonly experienced as a deeply personal connection to your own memories, being described by sophomore Ella Parker as, “Fondly reminiscing about something in the past, like when you remember something as a kid and smile about it.”

Yet nostalgia exists in many forms, with our modern information era currently being gripped by a form of nostalgia that many see as even more universal than the personal kind we all know and love, something history teachers like Terry Meyer specialize in.

“It’s looking back at certain decades, and maybe it’s pop culture too. Like, you look back at the 50’s, and to Elvis, and then it’s a way to bind people together,” Meyer said. “People feel connected through collective access to memories from that period.”

This idea of nostalgia as something that has our entire society looking back at a specific time period is not a ground-breaking one; many can identify with it everywhere.

“Nostalgia is very present throughout everyday life,” junior Connor Smith said. “But [it’s] specifically in media, both social and TV and books.”

Perhaps the most vital part of nostalgia, however, is the comfort provided from the eras we reimagine. However, that golden age of widespread, cultural nostalgia varies for many.

“I feel like the 1980’s and 1990’s nostalgia are big influences, even some early 2000’s,” Smith said.

This influence, particularly that of the 1980’s, can be strongly felt today, particularly in popular media, such as the popular Netflix television show “Stranger Things”.

Set in the middle of the 1980’s, a 2019 CNBC article reported that the hit show had over 40.7 million individual accounts tuning in to watch its third season the weekend it released.

“I think it [“Stranger Things”] gets a lot of cultural items like video games culture, or food,” Meyer said. “The one thing you hear about the show, whether you’ve seen it or not, is the nostalgia.”

The pop culture nostalgia that permeates the show was a real culture that existed in the backdrop of a real, tense political and social environment.

“Artists look to the past to shed light on current experiences,” Meyer said. Interposed into that past is a revisioning of the past, maybe with more modern sensibilities.”

And even if the show uses old culture to reflect modern tensions, the influence of direct nostalgia for the real 1980’s can be felt just as deeply.

“I was thinking [of] the 80’s, when Reagan was president. The economy was good datawise compared to how it looks today,” Parker said. “Compared to back then, the economy was thriving, and that could be more appealing than what life looks like today.”

Meyer said the political influence of nostalgia is widespread.

“You find political groups playing upon nostalgia in a means to form communities,” Meyer said. “It plays into identity politics and group identity.”

Looking through the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia affects many cultural, social, and political decisions the public must make. Therefore, it’s important to ask ourselves: is this even a positive thing for humanity?

“I think, like most things, nostalgia is good in moderation. However I think that viewing time with rose-tinted glasses blinds us to the problems that those periods had,”  Smith said. “Nostalgia as an aesthetic and an interest is  more than fine, but it’s important we don’t romanticize those time periods to be better than they were.”

Regardless of your comprehension of vine references, every speck of rosy nostalgia should be taken with a grain of salt.