Nostalgia is a tender trap

I’m a pop culture whore. There’s so much that our industrial entertainment complex has come up with that I enjoy – Star Trek, Doctor Who, Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Prisoner, Breaking Bad… dozens and dozens of great shows and films that have brought me joy over the years (heck, I even wrote a book about one of them).

I have revisited quite a few of my favorites over the years, rewatching films and TV episodes many times. Too many times, actually. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve watched the original Star Wars, as well as Psycho, Star Trek II, and several other of my favorite films. And don’t get me started on the time I’ve spent revisiting TV episodes – the mind reels. I’ve probably watched the Star Trek episode Spock’s Brain more times than I’ve dined with my mother and father-in-law.

I’m not proud of that fact.

Well, I’ve made a decision. Maybe it’s driven by the stark acknowledgement that I probably have less days ahead of me than the ones I’ve lived. Or maybe it’s because I’ve become fatigued from all the (self-imposed) nostalgia.

I’m done revisiting the past.

That’s it. No more rewatches. My favorite shows and movies will remain a happy memory. I loved Homicide: Life on the Streets when it came out twenty years ago – but after watching those dozens of episodes, many times more than once, I have no interest in revisiting it. Same for Breaking Bad, which just finished its run, or Mad Men, which is getting close to its end. Same for the work of Spielberg, and Welles, and Hitchcock. And so many more.

Instead of revisiting old favorites I’m instead seeking out new films, shows and content to delight and excite me. And it doesn’t even have to be “new” – just new to me (hence my Neglected Cinema series, though there’s some rewatches in there – so I can’t quit cold turkey).

Life’s too short to watch the same episode of Star Trek ten times.

As a content consumer, I am walking away from revisiting the past as much as possible, because, in addition to the reasons I stated above, I’ve learned that nostalgia is a tender trap – it makes you blind to the great undiscovered things that are staring you straight in the face. While I’m not quite as down on nostalgia as this author is, I can see his point.


And nostalgia can trap the creators of content as well as the consumers of it.

There was a huge amount of coverage and excitement this past month at the rumor that Twin Peaks, one of my favorite shows, was returning in one form or another. As much as I’d love to see new Peaks, I also want something ELSE from the great creative minds of David Lynch and Mark Frost. And that’s exactly what’s happening – David has his experimental albums and art, and Mark has his great new Paladin Prophesy book series.

Mark and David, I know there’s some level of desire to “scratch that itch” and revisit that world… don’t. Move on, move forward. It’s over. Let it be. Enjoy it. Celebrate it. Look back with fondness, but the past is the past.

Be grateful for it, but don’t follow the old muses. Listen to the new ones.


So, that’s my belated new years resolution, and one I think all consumers of pop culture would commit to. Experience new things. Walk away from the remix culture. Seek out new cool content. Break out of your comfort zone.

Enjoy yourself.

Joseph Dickerson is a user experience professional and UX Lead for Microsoft based out of Atlanta, GA. He has implemented processes in user testing, design and ethnographic research and provided design and consulting services for many different projects and organizations.

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