You Can Never Go Home Again
Married white male, 35, wakes up one morning. Maybe it’s a weekday and he’s decided to call in “sick” to work. Maybe it’s a Saturday and the wife’s out doing yoga or pilates or whatever for a couple of hours. Jack shit to do, he pulls out some tortilla chips and a bowl of his favorite salsa and settles down on the couch to veg out on some mindless TV. Well it just so happens that not too long ago he torrented the entire first season of the original Transformers cartoon. “Perfect,” he thinks, echoing the sentiment he had when he first decided to download the files, “queue up those bad boys! I’ll enjoy an hour or so with Optimus Prime and Bumblebee and the gang. I remember that cartoon being awesome!”
Oh, how wrong he was.
For you see, as it turns out, the original Transformers cartoon was actually crap. The storylines were all basically the same from episode to episode, dialogue was stilted at best, and the animation was surprisingly shoddy. Characters would bizarrely appear to hover in front of obstacles, suddenly moving from one spot to another with no transitional frames. Battlefield quips that seemed so clever at 8 years old suddenly became corny. What happened? Did the cartoons change? Is 35 simply too old to enjoy a cartoon designed to sell toys to prepubescents? Or, rather, was the cartoon always crap and one is simply too caught up in the moment to realize it?
Let’s look at another example: The Crow. I remember The Crow being the proverbial shit in 1994. I was 18 (you haven’t yet figured out that our 35-year-old hero is me? Silly you!) and here was this dark, mysterious comic book movie about a guy who comes back from the dead to take revenge on his murderers. It’s dark. There’s rain. There’s a crow, which we all know is the creepiest of all possible harbingers. There’s a kickass soundtrack featuring appropriately dark and edgy songs by all my favorite bands (and a few I hate, but we’ll just skip over those tracks on the CD.) Perhaps you, dear reader, remember these things as well.
Right. Now go back and watch it again.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?! That movie was garbage! Campy, pompous, shallow garbage! How could this happen? But… but… but I loved it so much! I went as Eric Draven for Halloween in ’95! My world is shattered. I cannot live in a world where the Crow is no longer cool.
That’s the reality, dear reader. That’s how you know you’ve grown up. It’s not when you realize the stuff you liked as a kid is considered lame by today’s kids. That happens everyday and is trite and bourgeois and inevitable. The kind of realization I’m talking about is much more devastating. It’s when you realize the stuff you liked as a kid was actually lame. Not contextually. Not ironically. But objectively lame. Along with this realization comes a gripping fear. What if everything I’ve ever liked was lame and by extension made my life lame and meaningless? Fear not. I posit that everyone has something in their past that they loved that was objectively lame. We can’t all be right, but we can all be wrong.
I brought this idea to the Facebook community the other day. I asked my (oh so numerous) friends to come forth with similar stories. A few missed the point (likely my fault as I did not word my question properly) and suggested things that they had simply grown out of over time, or things that had become so ubiquitous and had lost their luster. A few parents suggested movies that their kids had watched so many times they’ve grown to hate the mere mention of the movie’s title. I certainly sympathize; having worked with children, I know they can obsess over certain movies and often want to watch them over and over again ad nauseam. But I was really looking for occasions when we have excitedly popped in a DVD or an old CD expecting to be transported to a place of bliss only to be confronted with the work’s bleak banality. I’m talking about the self-doubt that accompanies this.
A friend brought up Miami Vice. Once the pinnacle of gritty, television crime drama, the source of many a Friday night gathering, it has been exposed as slick and silly; a polished turd. Another friend suggested the Roger Moore James Bond movies, and I agreed. I wasted many years thinking they were just as good as the earlier Sean Connery stuff. Upon realizing otherwise, my confidence was shaken and I found myself doubting even the best films of the series. (I eventually overcame this, but that’s another story.)
One cannot help but wonder what works we enjoy today will be seen in a different light tomorrow.
And so, dear reader, once again we come to the audience participation portion of our show. Tell us your tale. Discuss below or on our Facebook page. And don’t worry. It’ll be OK. I’m right there with you.
PS: Hey thirtysomethings, want to really torture yourself? Try watching Reality Bites or Natural Born Killers again. Bring tissue.