For the last decade, we have been repeating the styles that have come before. Music, movies, fashion and other elements of our popular culture have been co-opting what has been created in previous decades rather than moving forward with new and completely original ideas, leaving us in a place where we are reliving our history through selective lenses of the past.
Rock and pop music have become watered down, corporate versions of music we’ve already heard. While three chords can only played in a finite variety of ways, the rock music of today lacks the impact of previous bands. Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, The Who, Guns N Roses, Nirvana, Pearl Jam and other rock bands of the past have been replaced by Fall Out Boy, Coldplay and other bands who take their sounds and make them into a corporate, radio safe version of what we once heard. Bands like Wolfmother and The Darkness attempt to capture the spirit of certain eras and bring them into the present, they are seen more as a novelty than a push to bring those sounds back to the mainstream.
Within the last decade, we’ve seen tye dyes, bell bottoms, capris, and other elements of the past cycle into our fashion. As social morays and tastes have evolved over the last four decades, some of these elements have been given new perspective, but we are still living amongst day glo colors and 80s slat glasses at the moment. We are on the verge of returning to our grunge laden, flannel covered early nineties appearances, which will bring us full circle to the end of our retro loop. Many predicted we’d be wearing fancy spacesuits and living on other planets but the early 2000’s, but here we are in a more technologically advanced age, wearing similar things to the things they did.
In a summer where some of the top grossing movies are based on 20 year old toys and many of the movies we watched back then are getting remade or rebooted through sequels, we are left to watch the same stories we’ve seen before. This summer alone, there were a half dozen movies based on or remaking movies from previous decades, with more being filmed as I write this. How long until we see a remake of The Matrix or some other movie that is still in recent memory gets remade. Even now, if a movie doesn’t do well, like The Incredible Hulk or The Punisher, a second movie created to “reboot” that movie, rather than attempt to create something original.
We seem to be stuck in a retro loop, trapping us in our pop culture past. What happens when we reach the end of the cycle in the next few years? Will we return to the past concepts again or will we forge forward? There has always been elements of the past influencing our present and future, but at what point does it become detrimental and stop us from generating our own culture, rather than reliving history in the rosy way we read it in history books instead of the way people actually lived it.
“You know what’s wrong with this place? Well, the first thing that’s wrong is there’s no shit. I mean, that’s the thing about the past that people forget. All the shit. Animal shit. People shit. Cow shit. Horse shit. You waded through the stuff. You should spray ’em all with shit as they come through the gates.” — Hob Gadling, SANDMAN by Neil Gaiman