All Aboard the Nostalgia Train – A Look into the Issues with Nostalgia

Millennials love their nostalgia!

I’ve written on the subject before, but I want to come back to it and discuss its implications.

Gary Vaynerchuk wrote a great article in the heyday of Pokemon Go and the power of nostalgia. He was recently on Joe Rogan’s podcast which is an excellent listen.


I wish I had a timestamp on it, but there’s a bit in there where Gary talks about the rise of nostalgia and why he wants to buy companies like Friendster and MySpace and sell shirts on them.

He knows that people underestimate the value of the nostalgia market. His article on Pokemon Go goes into more details into it.

Let’s take a look at how over the last few years, there have been a saturation of nostalgia products.

  • Look at how many film reboots and sequels are coming out on a regular basis. While not all of them do well (such as Ghostbusters), most end up being successful to produce a line of sequels, and the cycle continues.
  • Stranger Things was a “surprise hit” of 2016, but looking at all the nostalgia factors it checks off, it’s pretty easy to see why it’s been a big success.
  • Netflix is banking heavy on the nostalgia factor, with the full house reboot, while critically lambasted, had very high ratings, and now they’re bringing back Magic School Bus, another nostalgia classic of kids of the 90s.

South Park hit a strong nerve with the member berries that looked into the issues with nostalgia.

Here, I want to look at two sides of the coins.

The pros of nostalgia

  • You’re reminded of simpler times. ‘Member the 90s? The early 2000s? ‘Member the pre 9-11 world?
  • As Gary Vaynerchuk has pointed out, it’s still is in many ways an untapped market. Netflix has been making doing very well recently with it, and will only continue to do so in the future.


Now, of course there is more, but I want to talk more about the drawbacks of nostalgia

One of the greatest concerns that I have on nostalgia is the cycle that it creates. Instead of looking into trying new and different things and experiences, people wish to sink back into the things that are familiar to them.

They go and watch the film franchises that they are familiar with. They watch the same shows. They watch the reboots of childhood classics. They think back about the good old days and don’t focus on the present, or the future.

You get stuck in this loop where people are constantly vying for the old days.

Granted, it’s not bad if we don’t feel this. I feel this.

  • I miss the simplicity of being a kid in the 90s.
  • I miss that early-mid 2000s period of the internet in my junior high and high school days where YouTube was on the rise and flash animations were still all the rage, before it came about clickbait and subscribers and internet drama.

There are longing for those days. But those days are gone. yes, we can always go back and view them through an updated lens. From our perspectives in the current age.

And yes, why would these markets not go after nostalgia? As Gary V mentioned, it’s totally untapped in many areas. For that, it’s great in many ways for companies to take advantage of, and yet in the long run, we end up turning into nostalgia addicts, only thinking back to our childhoods or things that we were familiar with. That is what truly concerns me.

Seriously, Star Wars can be about anything, star anyone, and be the worst movie of the year and it would still do just fine at the box office.

Hollywood understands that.

Go watch The Force Awakens and see how much it checks off when it comes to nostalgia.

Yes, it had a mix of new and old characters, but take a step back and realize how much it lifts from the past of the franchise. Give him all the crap you want, and yes, the prequel movies were terrible, but at least they tried to do different things, and didn’t bank at a super high level on nostalgia.