I was wasting my time scrolling through Instagram, flipping through 50+ stories like a robot and hardly looking at any of them. But I noticed a common theme; almost every girl was sharing the same post to her story with excited exclamation marks underneath it. The post was a picture of Taylor Swift smiling as seagulls flew around in the background. Printed above her head was the number 1989 in a static slightly faded white font and above that number were the words “Taylor’s Version.” 

Swift’s album “1989” first came out in 2014 and it was a massive hit. It had one of the best starts for an album in over a decade. Thus, re-releasing the album was a risk but Swift cashed in on nostalgia and it paid off. Fans say that her success is due to the maturity in her voice and the excitement of rediscovering some of her old songs. Additionally, Taylor Swift has a large fan base, and they all wanted to support the re-release of her album. Her re-release of “1984” sold even more than her original album did. The success was phenomenal and she plans to re-release two more albums in the coming years.

This is not the only major pop culture icon that made a comeback from 2014. “The Hunger Games” were incredibly popular in 2014 which was the year “Mockingjay: Part 1” was released. The movies started the continual trend towards dystopian movies for years to come and ten years later “The Hunger Games” made a comeback.

In 2023, I came across the trailer for a new “Hunger Games” movie. This movie was based on the prequel book “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” by Suzanne Collins. The movie told the story of the infamous President Snow in his teenage years; it was, in many ways, a villain origin story. The movie did well in theaters, earning over $300 million in the box office but compared to the other “Hunger Games” movies it did not do as well. The other “Hunger Games” movies individually made about $300 million more than “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.”

In a way, this makes sense. If one were to walk into a theater and see the movie without any previous nostalgia or knowledge of the other movies, it would likely seem unpleasant. This is a drawback of cashing in on nostalgia. I remember my grandmother, who was not familiar with the “Hunger Games” franchise saying that she had gone to see “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” but she left early, because “it was terrible.” 

At what point is cashing in on nostalgia going to stop paying off? “Five Nights at Freddy’s,” a movie based off the popular 2014 video game did well in theaters and so, the trend does not seem like it is about to stop. Only this year, I laughed when I saw that not only was a live-action “Moana” movie coming out but an animated “Moana 2” film was on the horizon. The “Moana” film is not even 10 years old, having been released in 2016, and yet somehow, it is getting both a remake and a sequel. 

This year, studios have already been playing off of Gen Z’s nostalgia. For example, Netflix spent millions of dollars developing a live action “Avatar: The Last Airbender” series based on the cartoon Nickelodeon kids show from the early 2000s. Disney Plus released a live action “Percy Jackson” series that has also been incredibly popular. So, this phase of remakes does not seem to be ending soon. 

But will it ever end?  I believe it will.

Over the past few years, I have heard a growing number of complaints about the lack of creativity in the movie industry. People, although enjoying the nostalgia of some things, are beginning to grow tired of the same old things. Take the Marvel movies. In trying to cash in on nostalgia, the movies have been losing money due to the lack of quality in storytelling. The same is true for Star Wars. Fans are no longer as excited for the new projects. Even “The Mandalorian,” which was incredibly popular due to its first and second seasons, received an audience score of 51% on Rotten Tomatoes for its third season.

People are beginning to want things that are different and have personality to them. For example, indie music is becoming popular and as indie gains popularity in the music industry, it also is gaining popularity in the book and movie industry. Some recent popular indie movies are “American Fiction” and “The Holdovers.”

For the foreseeable future, we will probably have to put up with the endless cycle of nostalgia in the pop culture industry and reinvention of things we have already seen. But eventually, pop culture is going to spread its wings and break out of nostalgia, likely through independent films, books and music. The end of nostalgia may take place because pop culture ran out of things to be nostalgic for or people just started wanting new ideas. It could be both. But creativity is part of our human nature and somewhere out there, I know some people desperately want to create and enjoy something new. 

Related Post