In a recent episode of Bierdos, a podcast co-hosted by my friend Cody Eden, an interesting subject perked my interest: pop culture nostalgia. This is a particular phenomenon for my age group. Actually, it is one of my favorite parts of being Generation Y.
A little confused? Well, basically this is how pop culture nostalgia was discussed in the podcast: we’re nearing 30 and we’re already acting like we’re 65. What “kids” are into these days is just freaking dumb and we prefer to stick to our own. One joke on the podcast was about the uselessness of Justin Bieber since we already had a smooth-voiced, sexy-dancing Justin, like, five days ago when we were teenagers (strangely enough, a recent SNL sketch revealed that Justin Timberlake doesn’t care much for the Biebster himself). Pop culture history tries to repeat itself but we’re already bored.
But overall this trend reaches much further than a recorded three-person conversation. On the internet you can find all sorts of nostalgia, explaining popular posts like this. Or this. We love the artifacts or our childhoods and adolescence and, to a certain extent, are cherishing and maintaining our youth longer than any generation before us.
But recently I thought of a personal example. A small film-related one, perfect for discussing here at the Shrine. In the mid to late ’90s my mom and I looked forward to the Hollywood Issue of Vanity Fair every year. We were always curious about the unknowns (or quasi-knowns) who would appear on the cover. It was an interesting guess list of who would be jump-starting their acting careers and, for a while, it was alarmingly spot-on. My favorite covers were for 1998 (above) and 1999 (below). Do you recognize a lot of the people in the pictures? Probably. The thing is, back then hardly anyone had a goddamn idea who they were.
Then the 2000 issue happened. The dream of the late ’90s was dead. When I saw the cover the first word out of my mouth was, “Ugh.” I knew that most of these people weren’t talented, just popular for something coming out that month. I also felt sorry for Selma Blair being forced to wear that hideous polka dot bikini.
I don’t mean to sound cruel but… almost none of these people are really successful today. Do you recognize some of them? How many of them prompted you to think, “What happened to them? Do they work anymore?”
It’s kind of sad.
I suppose this was the beginning of my pop culture nostalgia. A small tradition my mother and I had wasn’t the same anymore. This wasn’t a tragedy, really. It was just a disappointment. It’s like realizing your favorite TV show has jumped the shark or a band you like has licensed their music for car ads.
Every year it seemed that the Hollywood Issue got more boring and just plain worse. There was no guess list anymore and no one new or exciting, mostly people who were already famous or had already appeared on a Hollywood cover. In 2010 the choices for the issue weren’t half bad. The only thing is that no people of color were on it. The future of Hollywood was so white you had to wear shades.
But there was plenty of disappointments before then. There was dumb shit like this in 2006:
which was considered the most misogynist issue Vanity Fair ever did. I’m not just talking about the cover, but the contents inside. There were numerous complaints about the photo spreads and how women (and men) were represented.
The magazine tried to smooth things over by parodying their own shoot two years later:
It didn’t help. Nope. No, it did not.
In 2007 the magazine decided to celebrate Hollywood with four guys people already considered overexposed (and, in some cases, overrated). Also, penguins (why?):
Fortunately they weren’t naked. That would have been weird.
I recently came across some of the older covers and remembered what it was like to see the Hollywood Issue at fourteen or fifteen and think, “Yeah, I saw this person in a supporting role somewhere. They were really good. Maybe they’ll amount to something…”
It was fun back then. But not anymore.
Some people miss Sega Genesis or the dream of competing on Legends of the Hidden Temple. For me, this is one of the small things I miss.
Next year I’ll see the Hollywood Issue in passing, maybe at a grocery store. Perhaps the Biebster will be on it or a bunch of naked child starlets.
And I’ll think to myself, “Ahhh… back in my day…”
Maybe I’ll even shake my cane.