The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Modern films set in the past are our way of avoiding the present

There is a recent trend with television shows and movies being set in the past. Is this because people want to romanticize the past by reliving nostalgia or want to live in any time but the present?

Most would agree this year has not been the best in most aspects. Between it being an election year, natural disasters hitting hard and living through a pandemic, the need for an escape is at an all-time high. 

Escape is only a click away with streaming platforms to go to a land far, far away. However, it is not science fiction which takes the cake. Instead, there has been a sudden surge of films and television shows being set in previous decades. 

This is not a new tactic, since storytellers have always been known to harp on the past and reimagine the times from not so long ago. 

Matt Warren with Film Independent notes how filmmakers will always inevitably view the past, no matter what year it is, as a more glamorous and cinematic platform to tell stories.

One streaming platform which has taken a liking to setting their content in the past is Netflix with creations such as Stranger Things (1980s), Hollywood (1940s), The Boys in the Band (1960s) and Derry Girls (1990s). These shows/films are all made in the present but set in some era in the past.

However, this is not surprising since it is natural for humans to feel comfort in the past. The events have already happened, so there is no uncertainty about what will occur. This goes both for media and memories in the way that there is a sense of nostalgia.

It is a comfort to be free from current issues and to watch representations of characters who are dealing with the same things we are, even if these characters do not share the same time period as us. 

Krystine Batcho with the American Psychological Association explains how there is comfort in the past since it “reminds us that although we don’t know what the future is going to bring, what we do know is that we know who we have been and who we really are.”

This same feeling is the sensation many refer to as “the good ole days.” Adults who lived through the 20th century see themselves and their friends in these characters. It is not just a story but a personal memory.

They see the old soda pop bar they used to frequent in their teenage years, the high school prom which had far too much hairspray or a character which reminds them of their mother. This is because art is a representation of life, so it will always have a familiarity with its audience.

This nostalgia is what media corporations thrive on and is why there are so many flashbacks into time. Humans have and will always be fascinated with time. According to science writer and guest speaker James Gleick in Steve Paulson’s radio show To the Best of Our Knowledge, “time is what we care about, time rules our lives. Time creates possibilities for us and also terminates possibilities for us.”

As long as humans remain on Earth, time will be of the essence. We may not always be able to change our present state, but at least we can relive the past.

About the Contributor
Emma Dotson
Emma Dotson, Former Opinion Editor
Emma Dotson served as the Opinion Editor from 2021 to 2022.
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Modern films set in the past are our way of avoiding the present