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The Golden Age of something

A direct correlation to the boringness of life

Look what they’ve done to the ’80s
Look what they’ve done to the ’80s

Dear Hipster:

You’d have to be a dummy to ignore the profligacy of remakes, reboots, and retro-themed books, music, and movies that have cropped up with increasing frequency over the course of the past decade. I don’t have any hard metrics to measure this, but my gut tells me we’re hitting all-time highs for all of that stuff. My theory as to why is that our current society is sort of, you know, lame and lackluster. There’s obviously been some newsworthy events recently, but I doubt people in the future will look back on this as some kind of influential period in history, except for the pace of vaccine developments, of course. Because of that, people are trying to borrow old ideas to freshen up the paradigm, or whatever, because there’s a shortage of fresh ideas to go around right now. Is it possible the prevalence of escapist fantasy and retro nostalgia is directly correlated to the boringness of life?

— Alex

Mark my words, there will someday be hipsters who have retro nostalgia for the early 2020s. I don’t know when this will happen, but it will happen. I don’t know what it’ll be like, but I know it will seem to make perfect sense at the time because, I’ll be perfectly honest on this one, retro visions of anything are so much better than the original.

Contemporary literary and cinematic visions of the past gloss over many of the things you’d rather forget. There’s no Reaganomics in Stranger Things, and New Coke gets a shoutout instead of universal condemnation from the consuming public. The shamefully Nicholas Cage-less 2020 remake of Valley Girl doesn’t exactly draw your attention to skyrocketing unemployment and second-hand smoke clinging to every indoor surface. Most movies set in the ’60s are long on free love and rock n’ roll, but short on drugs prescribed for minor ailments which somehow end up causing terminal cancer. When you get right down to it, almost anything about the ’70s is better than the actual ’70s, and if you have a hard time believing me, go spend more than five minutes within spitting distance of a Chevy Vega and report back.

Someday, somebody will claim that right now was the Golden Age of something. Maybe it’s the Golden Age of Bingeable Post-Pandemic Streaming TV, or maybe it’s a Golden Age of Yoga Pants. I don’t know. The trouble with Golden Ages is you’ve got no capacity to recognize them until they’re over. I think very few people, perhaps no people, have ever agreed they were living in a Golden Age of anything at the time they were living in it. This is probably because various Ages don’t start to look particularly Golden until we’ve conveniently expurgated all the DDT, New Coke, and Chevy Vegas from our collective consciousness.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Some day, when future hipsters first start to wax nostalgic about the present, they’ll create a way better version of today’s world, and that better version will convince future people that we were all much better people than we actually are, and those future people will try to be like us at our best. Someday, the Golden Age we cannot now appreciate, even as we live through it, will be a model for people trying to make their own world better by making it more like our world.

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Look what they’ve done to the ’80s
Look what they’ve done to the ’80s

Dear Hipster:

You’d have to be a dummy to ignore the profligacy of remakes, reboots, and retro-themed books, music, and movies that have cropped up with increasing frequency over the course of the past decade. I don’t have any hard metrics to measure this, but my gut tells me we’re hitting all-time highs for all of that stuff. My theory as to why is that our current society is sort of, you know, lame and lackluster. There’s obviously been some newsworthy events recently, but I doubt people in the future will look back on this as some kind of influential period in history, except for the pace of vaccine developments, of course. Because of that, people are trying to borrow old ideas to freshen up the paradigm, or whatever, because there’s a shortage of fresh ideas to go around right now. Is it possible the prevalence of escapist fantasy and retro nostalgia is directly correlated to the boringness of life?

— Alex

Mark my words, there will someday be hipsters who have retro nostalgia for the early 2020s. I don’t know when this will happen, but it will happen. I don’t know what it’ll be like, but I know it will seem to make perfect sense at the time because, I’ll be perfectly honest on this one, retro visions of anything are so much better than the original.

Contemporary literary and cinematic visions of the past gloss over many of the things you’d rather forget. There’s no Reaganomics in Stranger Things, and New Coke gets a shoutout instead of universal condemnation from the consuming public. The shamefully Nicholas Cage-less 2020 remake of Valley Girl doesn’t exactly draw your attention to skyrocketing unemployment and second-hand smoke clinging to every indoor surface. Most movies set in the ’60s are long on free love and rock n’ roll, but short on drugs prescribed for minor ailments which somehow end up causing terminal cancer. When you get right down to it, almost anything about the ’70s is better than the actual ’70s, and if you have a hard time believing me, go spend more than five minutes within spitting distance of a Chevy Vega and report back.

Someday, somebody will claim that right now was the Golden Age of something. Maybe it’s the Golden Age of Bingeable Post-Pandemic Streaming TV, or maybe it’s a Golden Age of Yoga Pants. I don’t know. The trouble with Golden Ages is you’ve got no capacity to recognize them until they’re over. I think very few people, perhaps no people, have ever agreed they were living in a Golden Age of anything at the time they were living in it. This is probably because various Ages don’t start to look particularly Golden until we’ve conveniently expurgated all the DDT, New Coke, and Chevy Vegas from our collective consciousness.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Some day, when future hipsters first start to wax nostalgic about the present, they’ll create a way better version of today’s world, and that better version will convince future people that we were all much better people than we actually are, and those future people will try to be like us at our best. Someday, the Golden Age we cannot now appreciate, even as we live through it, will be a model for people trying to make their own world better by making it more like our world.

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Events June 24-June 26, 2021
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Wallace Stevens, Chekhov, Susan Cheever, Annie Dillard, Hemingway, Anita Brookner

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