Nostalgia Ain't Like It Used to Be
"Do you remember a time when chocolate chip cookies came fresh from the oven? Pepperidge Farm remembers. Do you remember a time when women couldn't vote and certain folk weren't allowed on golf courses? Pepperidge Farm remembers."
One of the reasons for Hollywood History
is the average scriptwriter or executive having a very cursory understanding of the era in which they're setting the story. Usually, they just want to take advantage of the basic 'theme' of that period, and figure that most viewers won't be able to tell the difference
The other, equally onerous culprit for simplifying history is nostalgia, especially where dealing with recent history. For example, you almost never will find a movie or show set in The Sixties
that does not paint the time as an idealistic period. In that period, we're told, every person below the age of 25 was a free-thinker and activist, kids cared about the future and were willing to fight for it, everybody had orgies all the time, and revolution was just around the corner ... or that's how nostalgia would have it seem. (Unless the story focuses on the Vietnam War, in which case The Sixties
will come across as a dark time when the government sent thousands of men to their deaths.)
It gets worse with The Fifties
. Since many writers grew up in the Fifties, it's rarely shown as anything but wholesome and brilliant, with Nothing But Hits
blaring out of every radio and every teenager playing rock'n'roll. Despite the continuing mistreatment of black people, the lead in paint, gasoline and food cans
, and the threat of nuclear war, the Fifties is often considered something of a golden age. The worst parts of earlier decades are similarly not brought up or even totally ignored
The reverse is also often true; later decades such as The Seventies
and The Eighties
— which, not entirely coincidentally, many of these writers were no longer growing up in, being adults — will be painted in a very negative light, with all innocence lost and the dream most definitely
being over. The negative aspects of these decades will be stressed, and any positive things quietly ignored. Also, the creativity and experimentalism of such decades is often understated in favor of overemphasis on the camp
, cheesy, and kitch aspects of their popular culture. This causes later generations to not take these decades seriously
This is so all-pervading that it affects even younger writers who weren't even alive during the decade in question, as a kind of "proto-nostalgia". This could have something to do with the way pop-cultural output is treated; between the 20- and 30- years ago mark is when the clothes go from hideously dated to retro chic, the TV shows from ubiquitous reruns to material that has to be sought out, the cars from clapped-out clunkers to seldom-seen, cherished classics and the music from stuff the "new music" stations play on the commercial-free Sunday afternoons to bona-fide oldies. Similarly, the cultural output that is remembered and stands the test of time tends to be the good stuff
(or at least, the stuff that the majority of people enjoyed), with the rubbish being quickly left behind or forgotten; as such, we tend to remember The Sixties
as being a time of great music because the stronger music of the decade keeps getting played and covered and included on soundtracks, whereas the rubbish music (or at least, the music that no one listened to) has been quietly forgotten.
Of course, there are plenty of (often younger) writers who happen to like the present fine, thank you very much, and can be quite keen on skewering this trope by pointing out exactly what they think was wrong about the past (often with a none-too-subtle 'screw you
' directed at the perpetrators of this kind of mindset in the process). This is not surprising, as all the writers mentioned above did the same thing
when they were young. Suffice to say that these young, hip writers so eager to take the past down a peg will in twenty years' time be as irrationally nostalgic for the 2010s as George Lucas
is for the late Fifties.
This trope is not nearly as awesome today as it was in past centuries. For example, to Stendhal
(1783-1842), everything went downhill after the fall of Napoleon; Gibbon thought the world went to hell after the death of Marcus Aurelius, in 180 AD. Hesiod
insisted things had been going wrong at least since the invention of iron
, making the trope Older Than Feudalism
See also Ye Goode Olde Days
and Nostalgia Filter
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- Across the Universe is a film that eulogizes the passing of the 1960s.
- May actually be a bit of a subversion, since (for example) the hippy spiritualist is a massive dick, the antiwar protester is a mad bomber, and the general veneer of "man, the 60's were awesome!" is relatively thin over rather more realistic depictions of the era.
- Actually that stuff is a reference to the perception that the anti-war and hippie movements lost their "innocence" when the seventies rolled around. The "mad bomber" is a reference to the Weather Underground, and the asshole spiritualist is meant to represent the "movement" selling out and moving to the west coast.
- Back to the Future plays with this. At first, shows the Fifties to be extremely bright and happy. But then some darker aspects show up. Racism is mentioned, for instance. Marty's mother is shown to be a somewhat promiscuous smoker and drinker, and Biff Tannen is a Grade A bully and attempted-rapist.
- Played with in Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day; the movie is something of a pastiche of 1930s screwball comedies, and so is set amongst a wide array of glitzy fashion houses and nightclubs and glamorous apartments, with everyone having lots of fun and living it up, and everything's swanky and wonderful... but it's set in 1939, and there's plenty of ominous foreshadowing that World War II is on it's way and about to really shake things up for these people. Furthermore, the titular protagonist starts the movie homeless, and her miserable situation isn't entirely glossed over.
- Appears in Boogie Nights, which is set in the Los Angeles porn scene during the late seventies and early eighties. Whilst not exactly perfect — it is the porn industry, after all — The Seventies are depicted as being a colorful and carefree time, and considering the setting quite innocent as well; everyone's largely happy, everything's going well, and everything's bright and cheerful. Then along come The Eighties. The Eighties suck for all concerned. Truth in Television, the porn industry took a hit in the 80's with the onset of AIDS, VHS replacing film and the Reagan administration declaring war on it.
- The movie follows a similar plot structure to Goodfellas, which depicts The Seventies as being a time when everything's going pretty well, and The Eighties as a really sucky time for everyone. Although even less rosy than Boogie Nights - Goodfellas, after all, deals with The Mafia - the similar structure nevertheless paints The Seventies as a time of optimism for its characters, and The Eighties as a time when everything came crashing down. In both cases cocaine (and the main characters' increasing addiction to it) plays a strong role in the misery that follows.
- The Sixties are portrayed even more idyllically in Goodfellas, with Henry describing it (in almost those exact words) as the Golden Age of Wiseguys.
- The specific idealization of The Fifties is parodied and ultimately subverted in Pleasantville; the Leave It to Beaver-style television show is initially an innocent and 'wholesome' reflection of the 1950s and the elements of which that are usually yearned after (the nuclear family, clean and pleasant suburbia, etc). Then, when the 'color' that the two real-life kids who have entered the world of the show begins to spread, the resulting tensions between the citizens who are in color and those who are still black-and-white begin to reflect and demonstrate the uglier side of the decade that is often played down, such as racial discrimination and political repression. However, the movie does this in such an anvilicious fashion that some believe it acts to the detriment of the film (the town literally has no world outside it at first, sex literally doesn't exist instead of happening offscreen, etc).
- The Richard Curtis film The Boat That Rocked (Pirate Radio in the US) is a nostalgic celebration of the The Sixties counterculture but also notes some of the less pleasant elements, especially the way 'free love' could morph into selfishness and amoral hedonism. As one character puts it: "the dark side of rock and roll."
- In the René Clair film Les Belles de nuit (1952), Gérard Philipe's character has vivid Walter-Mitty-like dreams which always start out romantically but which end with him getting into trouble. In them he always meets an old man who tells him how bad this particular era is and how much better things were in the old days, setting up that the next dream will be set in the "good old days" referred to. Thus the first dream is set in the Sahara before World War 1, the second during the French Revolution etc. In the end he dreams of being in the Stone Age and even there the old man shows up to tell him how things have gone downhill since the good old days.
- Dazed and Confused both plays this straight and subverts it. It portrays, for the most part, an idealized, nostalgia-inducing view of the 1970's, yet also shows how people are often discontent with a period simply because it's the present. At one point in the film, a girl is shown talking about the "every other decade rule"; the 50's were lame, the 60's were great, and the 70's obviously suck, and maybe the 80's will be awesome. Additionally, Pink says "If I ever start referring to these as the best years of my life, remind me to kill myself."
- Played with and ultimately subverted in No Country for Old Men. Throughout the plot, Sheriff Bell despairs for the modern world and how it could let someone like Anton Chigurh live unmolested in it, and generally holds the belief that nobody like Chigurh would have been able to do so much evil in the old days. However, towards the end Bell talks to his Uncle, who relays the story of how his grandfather was killed - Shot on his own porch by a group of Native Americans, who stood and watched as he bled to death on his own steps. Bell's uncle tells him that men like Chigurh have always existed and always have done evil, and bluntly tells Bell that thinking the past was any better is no more than vanity.
- Explored in Midnight in Paris: Owen Wilson's character is transported back to the 1920s, a time period he idolizes. While there, he meets a woman from that time period, and both of them are transported back even further to the Belle Époque, which time period she idolizes. The artists there, however, idolize the Renaissance. Owen Wilson realizes that it's better to just make the most of the present than try to live in the past.
- Averted remarkably in Far From Heaven. Roger Ebert notes the great pains the filmmakers took to film it like a movie from 1950s Connecticut, which is an extraordinary accomplishment. note Gender roles are paralyzingly rigid for both men and women: sex is a chore for housewives to giggle at over martinis, and they work hard to maintain an outward appearance of flawlessness and gaiety only to lash out in infinitely subtle ways. White people are generally in favor of some nebulous concept called "equal rights for the Negro" but openly criticize integration. Black people are hardly champions of racial harmony either - when a Black man brings a White woman to a Black establishment for dinner and dancing, the other patrons see it as a violation of their safe space. A doctor gently tells his patient he has a modern view of homosexuality - if you're willing to work hard enough, there's a small chance you can be cured. And there's no scene where people defiantly flaunt their liberal views, and everybody has a change of heart from The Power of Love. The Black love interest decides to put on elephant-sized blinders and simply ignore the way everyone else sees his friendship with a White woman (in the dinner scene everyone is staring at them angrily, making comments, and he smiles and says, "See? This is a welcoming place!") and he and his family end up paying for it dearly.
- A Bronx Tale is rife with this. While the narrator does fondly remember his youth during the 50's and 60's, the movie doesn't shy away from showing the racial tension and violence of the era. Even C's father, one of the nicer and less-bigoted characters, states that people should only marry within their own race. That's not even getting into the horribly racist attitudes displayed by C's Italian-American buddies...
- Bill Bryson's childhood memoir The Life & Times of The Thunderbolt Kid really wallows in 'fifties nostalgia when it comes to the stuff of 'Kid World': comic books, crummy TV, small Iowa farming towns and their many 'Mabels', Atomic Toilets, rocket-powered mail, electric football games and Dick & Jane books. More serious stuff is handled more objectively.
- Even the nostalgic parts are qualified with a cheerful acknowledgment of how lame most of "Kid World" seems in retrospect, Bryson seeming to take the position that nostalgia should exist despite the flaws of the period, rather than because of their perceived absence, subverting the usual Nostalgia Filter.
- Consider the fact that he wrote about many of the same subjects in The Lost Continent with a decidedly anti-nostalgic bent.
- Kim Newman's Diogenes Club story "The End Of The Pier Show' skewers nostalgia for World War II; a group of old veterans have used magic to force an old seaside town to be as it was during the war because they don't like modern times and preferred the war, when everyone 'pulled together' and things were 'much better'. Curiously, the 'modern times' they can't get the hang of are the 1970s, and the hero bluntly tells them that whilst the decade isn't perfect, they have to suck it up and move on; they have no right to force their outdated ways on the present just because they can't get the hang of decimalisation. He also notes that in their rosy-eyed view of the war years, they've conveniently forgotten the rather nasty group of people over the channel who were the whole reason for the war in the first place — and who also have a presence in their little fantasy-land...
- The King by Rudyard Kipling makes fun of the retroactive romanticism with "Nostalgia is Older Than They Think". The author projects this trend into the Stone Age and Twenty Minutes into the Future, thus predicting Steam Punk just as a natural continuation of this.
- One of the guys who started all this was the Greek poet Hesiod who put the myth of the Golden, Silver, Bronze etc. Ages into writing. Just think of how in particular the term of the "Golden Age" came to be applied to anything from national histories ("the Golden Age of Spain") to popular media and genres ("the Golden Age of Superheroes").
- Nostalgia Isn't What It Used To Be is the title of French actress Simone Signoret's memoirs (first published in 1975 in French as La nostalgie n'est plus ce qu'elle était). Signoret said the title was inspired by a graffiti she found in New York City.
- Averted in Carnivàle. The 30s seem like a craptastic world where America is replaced by a wasteland that actively tries to kill anyone, no institutionalized justice exists, bigotry is rampant, the poor are callously abused and imprisoned, and even Messiahs have to harm people to perform miracles. This makes sense since probably the only people who have ever idealized the Thirties were those who were actually there, and for the most part they probably only did it while they were actually happening - because, after all, how else are you supposed to get through a rough time?
- Lampshaded and then some in an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Sisko called out a holodeck program specifically for being period inaccurate with regard to the various prejudices of the day. It was then immediately pointed out to Sisko that it wasn't supposed to be an accurate representation of the era, but the era as it should have been.
- An episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch has the title character travelling back to the 60's via a Timey-Wimey Ball. She's initially fond of the era for extremely shallow reasons (the "groovy" music, culture, and fashion), but ultimately decides to return to her own time after experiencing the rampant sexism of the period.
- Actively averted in Foyle's War, which attempts to explode the myth of wartime Britain being a rosy place where everyone pulled together for the common good by showing just how desperate, venal and damaged people were by World War II, a common theme being that war changes people, usually for the worse. Corruption is rife, as people attempt to exploit their positions to either profit from the war or avoid it altogether, people are at times cowardly and incompetent and scarred by the necessities of war (namely hundreds to thousands of people being killed by or killing hundreds to thousands of other people on an almost daily basis) both physically and psychologically, and in the early seasons particularly there's a sense of defeat as the Nazis seem to be an unstoppable, omnipotent war machine crushing all in its path, with Britain likely to prove no different. Furthermore, the government is quite willing to let people get away literally with murder if there's a chance that they can help kill even more Germans, thus raising the question of what the point of investigating murders and other 'trivial' crimes during wartime actually is. Of course, it's not an entirely hopeless place, and there are decent, brave and even heroic people around as well.
- People who were around at the time, on the other hand, think Foyle's War went much too far in the other direction, portraying Britain as more hopeless and venal than it really was. Most people at the time didn't really change that much: war just highlighted the best and worst of what had already existed. (And no, the government wasn't so soft-headed as to let murderers get away, even to kill Germans: they knew that would be a disaster in the long run.)
- Averted by Mad Men. Set at the transition point between The Fifties and The Sixties (culturally, it's the 50s; JFK isn't dead until the end of the third season), the people behind the show go to great lengths to avoid the nostalgia factor. And not with mere background details; what appears often serves to make situations that would be easily resolved in our time hopelessly complicated. In other words (the show is trying to say), although The Sixties weren't that long ago, they really were incredibly different, and were not by any stretch of the imagination "better" than our time. Nevertheless, the characters are so engaging and the visual style so distinctive that the series really has to work hard to avoid Truffaut's Theorem.
- Savagely mocked in this The Daily Show clip, in which John Oliver satirizes conservative pundits harking back to a simpler, better America than the one they believe is being ruined. After interviewing several people from each of the periods that pundits such as Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly grew up in which they discuss how things weren't really that great, Oliver claims that the reason these pundits constantly look back to and reference these times as happier and less complicated is because they were children then, and the world usually seems happier and less complicated when you're a child.
- Averted on The Red Green Show when Red talks to teenagers and advises them not to listen to older people who become nostalgic for The Sixties. Giving viewers the real story from someone who was there, he explains that a lot of people did in fact try free love...but then they went to the free clinic. And yes, a lot of people did try new stuff...but then they had their stomachs pumped. And yes, half a million people showed up at Woodstock...but a lot more than that went overseas to Vietnam. And yes, the decade did have a lot of great protest songs...but they also had bands like the 1910 Fruitgum Company. He concludes by advising today's youth that, whenever an adult rips on them for not being born in the 1960s, they can just hum back "Yummy Yummy Yummy/I Got Love In My Tummy."
- Both subverted and played straight on Married... with Children. Al Bundy relishes The Sixties and the classic oldies songs from when he was in high school, but another episode has him ripping on The Seventies, claiming that the fashion, music and culture all really sucked.
- Dads Army mostly averts this, although there are times when things are glossed over.
- Thoroughly deconstructed in Penn & Teller: Bullshit! where over the top nostalgia was presented as being at best misguided (the fans of Leave It to Beaver preferring The Fifties to modern life) to actually harmful and an indicator of psychological problems.
- Mocked in an episode of Modern Family, where Jay talks about how great things were when he was growing up in the 50's and 60's. His Latina wife Gloria says things were certainly great...unless you were African-American, Hispanic, gay, or a woman. Jay acknowledges her point and amends his previous statement by saying things really were great...as long as you were a heterosexual white male, like him.
- Occurs in-universe in Game of Thrones when King Robert fondly reminisces of when he was younger and he was a warrior instead of a king, and Renly calls him out on glorifying a period when the empire was torn apart by civil war and a senile, destructive king.
- Averted in Cold Case many of its cases date back from 1900's to the present, and they usually show the mentality and attitudes in those days. From racism, misogyny, or just plain assholeness.
- The Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode "Old School" centers around Peralta's idealization of 70's police work. Eventually, Captain Holt ends up informing him that the 70's were a dark time for the NYPD, and that in addition to the drug epidemic and high crime rates, the department itself was a hotbed of racism, misogyny, and homophobia.
- Candorville demonstrates this trope for less than a strip during a bout of Mental Time Travel, then subverts it in the last panel. The time traveled to is the U.S. right before Lincoln's assassination, and while the American Civil War may be over, the prevailing attitude towards blacks hasn't changed much.
- The Fallout series inverts this, showing a United States where culturally the Fifties never ended as a shallow, corporation-run nightmare that barely hides the fact that democracy fell by the wayside to Red Scare paranoia. The Federal Government basically became the Nazis.
- BioShock 1, BioShock 2, and BioShock Infinite are all full of this trope. The third game in particular drew a lot of attention for its very frank and honest depiction of the rampant racism found in the early 20th century. Expect a lot of Deliberate Values Dissonance, especially when it comes to matter of race or gender.
- Pretty much the entire point of The Nostalgia Critic and The Nostalgia Chick is deconstructing this trope. It's argued, however, that all they really do is deconstruct it for what they don't like.
- Similarly, The Angry Video Game Nerd. Though he tends to mostly review things that are already widely considered to be bad for the sake of watching him suffer, they're still almost exclusively old games.
- Cracked did an article where Adam Tod Brown outlined things people needed to stop feeling nostalgic for. They included Cassette tapes (Impossible to fast forward accurately and easy to break), mom and pop stores (How many people actually use them?), talking instead of text messaging, and neighbourhood crime (That's right, there are actually people who think being able to walk through the streets of Manhattan without the very real fear of death is a step down from the old days).
- This trope is called out in one episode of The Real Ghostbusters. Ray reminisces on the Fifties and notes what a simpler time they are. Egon tells him that there's no inherent proof of that, and that each decade has its own individual challenges.
- An episode of Justice League does this when some of the heroes end up in a Golden Age-style alternate universe. Green Lantern doesn't quite know how to take being called a credit to his race. The episode could also be viewed as a more pragmatic look at the comic books released during that time, free from the usual Nostalgia Filter fans look through with them. The catchphrases and corny lines are often painful to listen to and the villains behave in such absurd ways you get the sense a story like this would never be published today. On the other hand, all those elements were a ton of fun to watch due to how goofy they were. Notably, the original draft of the script had the Justice Society of America as characters, but the creators were forced to change the characters to Captain Ersatz versions of the originals called the Justice Guild, apparently because DC Comics was hesitant to have the real characters show in that light.
- Stan Smith and Hank Hill are both very nostalgic for The Eighties, due in no small part to the fact that Ronald Reagan was President at the time.
- Stan, despite not having grown up in the early 20th century, longed for the "simpler days" where men ruled everything and women had no say. When his boss sends him to Saudi Arabia, he is reluctant until he realizes they hold the "old fashioned values" he held dear. This eventually backfired when Francine was about to be executed for singing and dancing in public while wearing lingerie and kissing other men.
- Of course, Saudi Arabia makes American culture even at its most puritanical look pretty open-minded. The Saudi government bans women's underwear ads, for example.
- The Venture Bros. is a whole show built around this trope. It's both a love letter to and a brutal Deconstruction of 60's animation and Silver Age comic books, and takes pains to illustrate "No, the 60's weren't necessarily the paradise people built it up to be." The flashback scenes almost always contain Deliberate Values Dissonance, such as shocking instances of casual racism or misogyny that were deemed perfectly okay back then.
- The Trope Namer is a popular aphorism of unknown origin; suggested sources include satirist Peter de Vries and, of course, Yogi Berra. Used by French actress Simone Signoret as the title of her autobiography: "La nostalgie n'est plus qu'elle était" ("Nostalgia Isn't What It Used To Be").
- Most of the nostalgia towards the past is based on Nostalgia Filter. The good stuff is remembered and the bad stuff ignored, forgotten or not even taken in account. When it's about a time period Two Decades Behind people will be nostalgic for it because they experienced it themselves, but from the viewpoint of a child or a teenager, when they didn't have to worry about all the adult stuff that depresses them nowadays, because the grownups took care of all that: taxes, work, bills, tragic news events,... If the nostalgia is about a time period people didn't directly experience themselves the romanticism is even more rampant. People will base their rosy posy image of that time period on stuff they have seen and read in books, comic strips, cartoons, TV series, films, old photos and/or fond memories of older family members. Usually they aren't aware that many things they now take for granted didn't always exist back then or were still considered highly controversial.
- The glories of Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome are exemplified by the idea that you could see magnificent buildings and civilizations built from scratch. Everyone is able to enlist in the army and see the world while doing so. You can go and enyoy watching Olympic Games, a play in the theater or watch and exciting fight in the arena. (Not taken in account: class systems, people dying early of diseases we nowadays have proper treatment for, slavery, democracy only for rich upperclass white males, bloody battles, Roman military service had to be fulfilled several years! before you could retire and start a civilian life, women having no rights and not even allowed to watch sporting games,...)
- The Middle Ages are usually romanticized as a glorious past with chivalrous knights fighting for the honor of beautiful princesses and defending castles against invaders. (Not taken in account: The Plague, wars, mercenaries and soldiers plundering farms and villages, filthy streets, people dying at a young age because of insufficient knowledge of diseases, the injustice of the feudal system, monarchs and the Catholic Church being oppressive towards people with other viewpoints, high illiteracy, people executed and tortured for audience's pleasure and often without anything resembling a fair trial, women considered being lesser in status than men, famine whenever harvests failed,...)
- Golden Age of Piracy is one big adventure where you could go on a boat trip with pirates and have fun attacking other ships, taking gold and bury or search for treasure on some Deserted Island. Men were real men with a Badass Beard and cool looking eye patches, hooks for hands and wooden legs. (Not taken in account: scurvy, people forced to do what their captain told them, your ship being attacked by other ships and losing, keelhauling, loot just being spent instead of buried, anti piracy laws could get you arrested and hanged, storms could destroy your ship, all the cool looking eye patches, hooks for hands and wooden legs were just practical solutions for grievous injuries suffered during fights,...)
- The Renaissance and The Enlightment are the time when society finally got out of the bleak, primitive and God fearing Dark Middle Ages and gained wisdom by discovering a lot of stuff. Kings and queens never looked more magnificent. Artists and sculptors painted the finest works and humanists, philosophers and Protestants learned humanity to think for themselves. You could enjoy a Shakespeare play, listen to baroque classical music or have a swashbuckling duel. (Not taken in account: A lot of new thought and discoveries in the field of science were very slowly adapted into society. Mostly because a lot of royals, religious authorities and other government officials surpressed these dangerous new ideas. Compared to those primitive Middle Ages more people have been hanged or burned on the stake for their beliefs and/or on the assumption that they were witches during the 1500s, 1600s and 1700s than in the centuries before! The Reformation and Contrareformation divided Europe and caused many casualties. All the great books and art works created during this era were only enjoyed or experienced by the very rich. Wars still ravaged Europe, colonization exploited other continents, slavery became a real industry and absolutism made the monarchy and nobility so powerful and decadent that they didn't care about the lower classes. Duels weren't glorious at all, just a matter of killing off your opponent.)
- The Wild West is a fun era where you could roam the prairie on a horse, visit saloons and shoot outlaws and Indians. (Not taken in account: slavery was not abolished until deep in the 19th century and still going on in many colonies or remote place in the American South, cowboys took care of cattle and didn't engage in gun fights, gun violence was just as illegal as it is nowadays and could get you arrested by local sherrifs, outlaws could actually remain on the loose for several years, Native Americans being massacred by white settlers and armies, black people having no basic human rights, The Ku Klux Klan was a respected organization, ...)
- The 19th century and The Edwardian Era were a classy time period where everybody was impeccably dressed and had good manners. You could take a coach ride, read some of the greatest novels in history and enjoy a world still untouched by modern industry. Life in the colonies was even more fun because you so many countries were still unexplored territory and the ideal place for adventure. (Not taken in account: Victorian values were dominant, women couldn't vote, poor people couldn't vote, industrialization didn't have any health, safety or ethical rules to obey, child labor was rampant, workers had no rights, factories were very harmful to people's health and the environment, city rivers were open sewers, upper class had all the advantages upon the lower class, people could be sent to the poor house when they couldn't pay their debts, just like today there were novels that were pure pulp, colonization was great for white Europeans but not as much for the oppressed native population, animals were still hunted down as trophees, people who looked different were exploited in freak shows and circuses for spectators to Come to Gawk,...)
- The Interbellum (1920s and 1930s): Between the two world wars life was great. Everybody went to night clubs and/or revue theaters where they could enjoy great jazz and big band music. The movie theaters were a great place to be, because fantastic cinematic masterpieces were made. On the radio you could great music and radio serials and newspapers published the best and most engaging comic strips ever printed. (Not taken in account: From 1920 until 1933 alcohol was prohibited in the USA, so having an alcoholic drink was impossible without getting arrested or dying because of bad homemade brew. Crime was able to organize itself in a way that will probably never get unentangled again. Many people got murdered in gangster violence. The Great Depression between 1929 and 1940 caused major unemployment and poverty in many civilized countries, also forcing quite some people to start a life in crime. Germany was particularly struck hard, because the country was still paying huge war debts to other countries, causing mass poverty and the ideal atmosphere for Nazism to gain voters. Many countries during this time period suffered under either Nazism, Fascism or Communism. From 1933 on Jewish, homosexual, Roma and left wing people were already persecuted in Nazi Germany. War was already brewing in Europe and the Far East, when Japan invaded China and South East Asia. Many countries were still colonies, which wasn't a great deal for the natives there. Afro-Americans were still second class citizens and the Ku Klux K Lan was still quite powerful in many political circles.)
- World War II, the time where the entire country was united against a common evil foe and soldiers could still fight a just cause. Everybody worked together to defeat the Nazis or Japanese, while enjoying great Hollywood films and jazz and big band records on the radio. (Not taken in account: Not everyone was united against the Axis. Numerous people didn't consider Nazism or Fascism anything bad or felt their country should stay neutral in the war. During the occupation many people were arrested, deported and murdered. People couldn't trust anyone, because your neighbour might be a Nazi collaborator or a spy who would turn you in to the authorities. The Nazis banned American and English music and films in Europe. Millions of young soldiers were drafted and died on the battlefield. )
- The Fifties: The last truly great time period in history. Music, films, politicians were nice, clean and decent. There was a general optimistic feeling about the future, exemplified in sunny fashions, interiors and technology. The youth enjoyed some great rock 'n' roll on their transistor radios and the early TV shows show how happy and pleased everybody was. (Not taken in account: The Cold War, The Red Scare, anti-communist witch hunts, the Korean War, the War in French Indo-China, many European countries tried violently oppressing the inevitable independence of their colonies, Afro-Americans were still second rate citizens in the USA and had to fight for human rights, homosexuals were forced to keep their sexual identity silent in many countries, the traditional role of women as housewives was still encouraged in many Western countries, a lot of music in the hit parade was bland, square, formulaic and sappy crooner music, adults were scared of early rock 'n' roll and actually did everything to surpress the youth from listening to it and becoming teenage delinquents, the TV shows and films of that decade were so escapist that they ignored every controversial element,...)
- The Sixties and The Seventies, a great time when everybody was a beatnik or a hippie and enjoyed fantastic rock music, marihuana and LSD and free love. The young demonstrated for more democratic rights and everything changed for the better. (Not taken in account: the older generation looked down upon hippies, the Vietnam War cost many lives, The Cuba Missile Crisis nearly caused a nuclear war between the USA and USSR, Afro-Americans still had to fight for civil rights, just like today there were just as much idealistisc but naïve demonstrators who merely wasted time smoking pot instead of actually doing something, drug casualties were just as rampant back then as they are today, not all demonstrators were pacifistic in their approach and it's an open question whether everything actually changed for the better, ...)
- The Eighties: Oh yes. A great decade for pop culture with many good TV shows, catchy pop music and finally a TV channel that showed your favorite bands 24/7. The Cold War came to an end, the Berlin Wall and Apartheid fell. Everybody felt a bright future coming along. (Not taken in account: The early 1980s had many people fear the Cold War wasn't going to end well. President Reagan wanted more nuclear missiles in Europe, envisioned the Star Wars defense system and spoke offensive language against the Soviet Union which he defined as an Evil Empire. Many protested and feared The Bomb. The Cold War, Berlin Wall and Apartheid did fall, but only near the end of the decade. Unemployment and economic crisis were a huge problem in many Western countries, not helped by Reaganomics and Thatcherism which benefited the rich but not the lower classes. AIDS caused many victims because governments were slow to inform the general public on this disease which many people at first dismissed as just a problem for blacks, gays and drug users. MTV did bring music videos on TV, but the downside was that how a pop star looked and danced became more important than the music, causing a disadvantage for more serious musical artists. The nuclear power plant explosion in Chernobyl caused another major fear among people about the dangers of nuclear power.)
- The 'Dark Ages' are still seen as a bleak and decrepit period where human advancement stopped dead....despite the fact that there is no evidence for this and historians have considered the idea bunkum for around eighty years. The reason we think of them as the dark ages at all? Nostalgia inspired by the grand works of the ancient Greeks and Romans. The idea that the Church suppressed learning? While it's true that a lot of stuff that went against the Church's teachings was considered blasphemous at the same time many monks actually preserved very many Pagan writings and ideas and encouraged literacy (among other things).
- Note also another idea central to the 'Dark Ages' being a block to 'human advancement' - that Europe was inevitably going to lead the world into the industrial era. Not because a centuries-long, highly complex tale of economic factor forces saw investments in instruments and mechanisation which almost accidentally led to unprecedented scientific breakthroughs (encouraged by rising labour costs, the result of mass-migration to the New World at a time when north Europe's regional economies were growing). Not because of conflicts, political intrigue and social trends (along unforeseen events like the Black Death or the Fall of Constantinople) further encouraging the environment that made the Renaissance possible. but because the innate superiority of Christian European civilisation made it inevitable.
- Made worse by elementary schools' equating of "Middle Ages" (a period of roughly 1000 years) with "Dark Ages" (the first few centuries of this period, called "Dark" because there is proportionally little written information compared to earlier and later periods).
- Almost ubiquitous in the message of political "culture warriors": apparently, the arrival of The Beatles is roughly when either (a) everything worthwhile started, or (b) it all went to hell.
- The Gay Nineties
- As noted in the Phonogram example above, Britpop curmudgeon Luke Haines is famous for decrying nostalgia in all its forms, because of the way it warps people's perceptions of things.
- The Hagakure, by Yamamoto Tsunetomo, notes the futility of nostalgia, saying that it's necessary to make the best out of each generation. However, Yamamoto not only claims that the good old days were actually better, he notes that each generation is less than the one before it because the world is coming to an end.
- With crime rates declining in the US, some criminals have begun pining for the good old days. In the words of one former crack dealer: "These few blocks here were the murder capital of the world, and right here's where I did my business. Made a lot of money too. Even sold it down by the White House. Could do anything back then. We owned this city. Now it's like everywhere else. One giant coffee shop."
- Speaking of crime rates, crime has steadily decreased in America over the past few decades, but a large percentage of people are convinced that crime has risen to out of control levels. The rise of the 24-hour news cycle is probably at least partially to blame.
- Despite the belief that they're a recent phenomenon, mass shootings (and persons killed in mass shootings) in the US peaked in the 1930s, the golden age of violent bank robbers.
- Invoked by many pages on Facebook claiming "Only a real nineties kid would remember X" (where "X" is something nostalgic to the era, regardless of when it actually originated) or that "If you were born in the years 1990-1999 you're in the last generation with common sense." Ignoring the fact that in 2013, if you were born after The Nineties you are thirteen at the oldest, this is probably the most confusing example of No True Scotsman ever.
- This New York Times article discusses "rockism", which is the common belief that rock music is more "authentic" than other genres. It basically says that many critics have an idealized version of the heyday of rock music and rock stars that never actually existed, which they then compare unrelated genres such as hip-hop or electronica to.
- Something related to this is the idea that metal is more manly than other genres, which is largely based on the image it represents, not the demographic it appeals to (often socially awkward people who think listening to it makes them tough).
- Much of the popularity of pixel art and chiptunes stems from the nostalgia of 8-bit video games.