The nostalgia goggles you get today are crap; they were so much better back in my day.
"Nostalgia is a seductive liar."
— George Ball, American politician
There is a tendency for some adults and some teenagers to see newer material in a medium (be it music, film, animation, or comic books) as inferior to the older classics that they knew in their youth.
There are many causes for this. First, people's tastes are generally based on the art they knew as they grew up, and they continue to inform themselves on this basis. This is especially problematic when Values Dissonance
comes into play: Modern day art (be it music, film, television, etc.) may positively depict contemporary societal norms and developments that would have been frowned on when you were growing up. Second, tastes can refine or limit as one ages; what may have seemed brilliant to a child or teen would seem crude or laughable to most adults, but the memories of how great something from one's youth seemed linger long afterward, making the familiar examples seem better than more or less equivalent modern ones in comparison. Third, change in most art forms comes in waves, rather than developing continuously, and the transition from one wave to another can be jarring and unfamiliar — while the periods between waves tend to be uninspired across the board.
Another possible important cause of this nostalgia is a consequence of Sturgeon's Law
combined with the passage of time: As new material is released, the vast majority will be of mediocre or worse quality, but over time, a powerful selection pressure causes all but the best material (and in some infamous cases, the worst
) to be rapidly forgotten, leaving an increasingly inaccurate impression of the overall quality of the genre over time. This is known as "the nostalgia filter", and can be easily demonstrated by a careful review of the period works that are not
remembered today. The distance of time also compresses the memories of past eras, causing the best work to seem more continuous than it was, whereas "new" is a continually moving frontier: between this memory compression and the selective memories of "the good stuff", the past of the genre is remembered as a time when "it all was good".
The most impressionable time is during pre-adolescent, adolescent, and teenage years (with the absolute latest being the twentysomething years). These are the years where one is young and undistracted (or less distracted in the case of twentysomethings) by the full responsibilities of adulthood and the burdens of getting older. For many, they are also years that may lack significant distraction due to sexual matters. For boys especially, this may either be due to not "having discovered girls yet" or being "too nerdy" to appeal to girls. Apart from schoolwork, they simply could afford time to enjoy the pop culture or cult genre of the time, be it film, music, video games, or TV shows and give it more attention allowing it to engrain itself on your senses, thus influencing your tastes for probably the rest of your life. But these days, you tend to have a life.
One final possible reason: most developers/authors/artists/musicians/etc. create whatever is popular at that day and age. This means that what was popular last year isn't being produced in the same density. If a person's preference is for something that is out of fashion right now, they may have little choice besides 'hang onto the older version' or 'give up on it completely'.
Of course, this is certainly not to imply that newer is automatically better or that the Nostalgia Filter applies to every single case; just because a person prefers an older work to more modern things doesn't mean they only like it because of nostalgia. Sometimes the older work is
better, or at least has its own appeal that the present things don't — even beyond "Charm", which is often thrown around to describe stuff mostly to just mean "It's nostalgic".
Sam Viviano, art director of MAD
, has a saying which defines the Nostalgia Filter
was at its best whenever you first started reading it." A corollary to that is that, if you didn't like MAD
, it was at its best shortly before
you started reading it.
You'll notice that this trope sometimes overlaps with the Periphery Hatedom
. Almost always, when people complain about how new stuff sucks, they bring up examples of things which were marketed towards the youth of their own generation as examples of "good" or even "classic" works in the genre. Never mind that 20 years ago, when it was being marketed towards them, many of the adults back then were saying the exact same thing
we are today. It's a neverending cycle. This trope also frequently overlaps with Future Loser
, where the individual (consciously or not) feels his own life
was better in those days than it is now.
It most importantly must be mentioned that not every adult uncontrollably succumbs to this.
While adults abusing the Nostalgia Filter
has become a bit of a cliché (particularly in media aimed at teens and/or preteens), there are many Real Life
adults (of various ages) who enjoy both old and new media in equal measures. This is especially true for those who are socially active and hang around a diverse group of people. How many real people subscribe to it is highly debatable. However, one thing is for certain: Those who abuse it or abuse the concept of it tend to be very vocal about it.
See also Nothing But Hits
, They Don't Make Them Like They Used To
, Nostalgia Ain't Like It Used to Be
, and Appeal To Tradition
. Another reason for this trope is that True Art Is Ancient
. Contrast Deader Than Disco
and They Changed It, Now It Sucks
Please list examples of Nostalgia Filters worn in works
. Pretty much any genre or form is subjected to this in Real Life
, so such examples aren't really necessary. Plus, such examples are very prone to age stereotyping
, which we don't want on this page.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Invoked in Code Geass, with a drug called Refrain, that causes one to experience hallucinogenic flashbacks to past pleasant experiences.
- A common device in Revolutionary Girl Utena. The first we get is Miki, who yearns to return to his childhood, when he and his sister were musical prodigies. In truth, his sister was a poor piano player and he was the real prodigy. The second is Utena herself, when we find out that her childhood wasn't as fairy tale-ish as we're led to believe. The third is Souji Mikage, the second arc's antagonist, who longs to return to the past when he lived happily with the Chida family.
- Fairy Tail: Subverted where the titular guildhall, a simple two-story pub, gets demolished by an enemy guild and renovated into a much bigger, more lavish building. Natsu, a guild member by six years, is the only one put off by all the changes made (though in the dub, he does mumble out that he isn't good with change)—now there's a stage, an outdoor pool, a rec room, and the guy who destroyed the old guildhall is a member (though everyone agrees with Natsu on this)—but once a huge Bar Brawl breaks out like it normally would, he quickly feels right at home.
- England from Axis Powers Hetalia has a tight pair on when it comes to his days as an empire. Especially with America. England is often moping about how America was so cute and obedient when he was a child under his rule, unlike the brash and rude country he's grown up to be. Then we see flashbacks of adorable little colony America yelling "go to hell, Engwand!".
- The Archie comic "Nostalgia Gets Ya!" plays this trope obnoxiously straight, talking about how much better life was back in The Gay Nineties when policemen were always treated with respect, women were put on pedestals, and nobody worried about pollution.
- Viz has a running joke about how it "isn't as funny as it used to be".
- The Crisis Crossover Infinite Crisis basically revolves around this trope, which the surviving heroes of Crisis on Infinite Earths hold to with varying degrees of fanaticism; having decided that the universe that resulted from the end of the earlier crossover has gone wrong and that their more innocent worlds were 'better' than the current status quo, they have decided to change the state of affairs by any means necessary. It has been noted that this has a certain similarity to frequent fan-criticisms of the current DC Universe. In the end, while Superboy-Prime and Alexander Luthor ended up crossing the Moral Event Horizon because of this, Earth-2 Superman's belief in this trope and the 'perfection' of his universe was shaken and ultimately defied by an observation his alternate self made about the universe he came from:
- The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers had a mid-70s story where Fat Freddy is raving over how great the 1950s were. He fondly recalls a New Years teen party that we see from Phineas's perspective - everyone converges at his parents' house over his objections, people get stupid drunk, he and Franklin get beaten up by hoods who crash the party, and the house and family car end up destroyed just before the parents get home.
- In The Sandman, there's a scene in the 1480s, where the immortal Hob Gadling, now about 130 or so, overhears an old man complaining about these newfangled chimneys, and reminiscing about the days when "we did have a good honest brazier in the house," when nobody suffered from "rheumes and cattarhs" and the smoke was "good medicine for the man and his family." Hob mutters to Dream about how foolish the old man is, and how back then everyone was coughing and wheezing from the smoke, and occasionally you'd find whole families that had asphyxiated in the night. In the book's final volume (wherein he's several hundred years old) he attacks people nostalgic for times when they weren't even alive by criticizing the very concept of a Renaissance Faire.
- Lady Gaga #1 has a middle aged man moping about how the music in the present is nowhere near as good as the music in his day (i.e. the second half of the 1970s).
- Toyed with in an issue of The Brave and the Bold dealing with Brother Power. The character fondly reminisces about how much "better" everything was in the 60's and 70's, before remembering the violence, racial unrest, and turmoil of the era.
- Inverted with Miho in Necessary To Win. As a result of the circumstances of her departure from her old school, Black Forest, she initially only has less than fond memories of that school, and of tankery in general. However, in the course of telling her story to her friends, she starts to realize that she had some good times there, and made some friends. She also comes to the realization that she never disliked tankery, but merely the Nishizumi approach to it.
- This is a big part of the plot of Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris. The story features Gil, a writer played by Owen Wilson, who is writing a novel about a man that runs a nostalgia shop, and the writer himself has a nostalgic view of the 1920s in Paris as a sort of Golden Age, something that his fiance and her family constantly rag on him for. Eventually, Gil discovers a mysterious taxi cab that arrives every night at midnight and transports him back to a nostalgia filtered 1920s Paris, where he meets many famous authors and falls in love with Adriana, a woman who is at the time Picasso's mistress. As time goes on, the writer discovers that Adriana has feelings for him too and decides to live in the 1920s with her. However, soon after Gil confesses his love for Adriana, they are picked up by a mysterious carriage that transports them back to La Belle Epoque of the late 1800s, where they meet various artists, writers, and other famous folk. Adrianna immediately proposes they stay here, as in her mind, this is the Golden Age of Paris. However, the artists of that era pine for the The Renaissance. Gil decides that despite the allure of the nostalgia filter, it's best to take the present for what it is, and decides to go back to the present.
- Fifties nostalgia was subverted by the film Pleasantville, which initially presented its idyllic '50s sitcom world through the nostalgia filter, then slowly stripped it away and highlighted the racism and sexual repression of the era.
- Stand by Me is nostalgic, but presents gritty truths as well. After all, the kids are out to find a stranger's dead body. Oh, and the main character's parents ignore him, not to mention his older brother had been recently killed.
- Also, all four boys smoke. At age twelve.
- A Christmas Story, with its nostalgia for old toys, radio programs, music, Christmas decorations and still believing in Santa Claus. But while it had all the great holiday memories, it didn't leave out the anger, disillusionment, disappointment, frustration, humiliation and other crappy things about being a kid at Christmas that most movies filter out.
- In Star Trek: Generations, Picard and the Enterprise command crew are holding a promotion ceremony for Worf on a holodeck version of HMS Enterprise. Picard gets all nostalgic for the age of Wooden Ships and Iron Men. The ever-practical Riker, on the other hand...
Picard: Just imagine what it was like. No engines, no computers. Just the wind and the sea and the stars to guide you.
Riker: Bad food, brutal discipline, no women.
- One episode of the TV show, "Relics", has Picard and Scotty drinking together and reminiscing about their first starships (The Stargazer and the original Enterprise, respectively). Both bask in nostalgia for the earlier days and fondness of the old times, but Picard admits that the Stargazer is, in basically every aspect, inferior to the Enterprise-D, and Scotty eventually gets disgusted with himself for getting so hung-up on the past, realizing it's time he moved on.
- Good Bye, Lenin! plays with this for the old East Germany (the phenomenon known more broadly as ''Ostalgie''). The whole idea revolves around the main character, Alex, trying to pretend to his mother (who was in a coma and missed the fall of the Berlin Wall) that Communism still exists and there is no re-unification process going on, to the point of creating fake news broadcasts and putting capitalist products in old-style communist-brand packaging. Many of the older supporting characters (who have ended up losing their jobs and security) find the environment to be something of a refuge from the changes happening around them, and Alex himself begins to become almost nostalgic, not necessarily for the real East Germany (he is seen protesting in the beginning of the film) but for the country that could have been, and the ideals it claimed to represent. The film itself is careful to show the good and bad sides of both capitalism and communism (or at least, the former's absurdity).
- In The Ref, Caroline has this for the days when she and her husband Lloyd were a young couple living in New York, and she'll go on and on about it, especially when she's had enough to drink. Towards the end of the movie he finally calls her out on this, her Self-Serving Memory, and blaming him for everything that has gone wrong their lives since.
I told you what moving here could mean, but you were the one who said we should consider it! Not the actual moving, just the considering. The actual moving in part was left to me! Why? Because you didn't know what to do. You were... confused, you didn't know if it was the right thing. But you were sure as hell sick and tired of living in a one-bedroom apartment in New York City, so don't hand me that 'it was the best of times' bullshit! You didn't want to work anymore and you didn't want any help with the baby because you wanted to do it all by yourself! And you hated New York because we weren't as rich as your college friends were to enjoy it! We couldn't afford a bigger place, and you were miserable being around people who could! AND... we were up to our EARS in debt!
- In Snow White & the Huntsman, when William starts talking about how he used to follow Snow White everywhere and she inspired him, Snow White remembers it quite differently and mentions how they used to fight a lot. In actuality, this was the first clue that it's not the real William but Ravenna in disguise.
- Eddie Felton in The Color of Money has this in regards to the present-day popularity of nine ball pool, which he thinks is simpler, faster, and easier than the straight pool he used to play.
Eddie: This ain't pool. This is for bangers. Straight pool is pool. This is like hand-ball, or cribbage, or something. Straight pool, you gotta be a real surgeon to get 'em, you know? It's all finesse. Now, every thing is nine-ball, 'cause it's fast, good for T.V., good for a lot of break shots.
- In Back To The Future: Part III, Doc Brown goes on about how the Old West in the 1880s is his favorite time period, but after a Hideous Hangover Cure due to drinking a single shot of whiskey, he mentions how much he misses Tylenol in 1985.
- Randy and Cassidy in The Wrestler believe that the '80s were the golden age of rock music thanks to bands like Guns N' Roses, Ratt, and Def Leppard, and that grunge was the downfall of rock, the two of them calling Kurt Cobain a pussy who didn't know how to have a good time. This scene only highlights the problems that Randy and Cassidy face, the two of them both being stuck in the past (Randy being a washed-up pro wrestler and Cassidy an aging stripper) and unable to face the modern world.
- Famously lampooned by Charles Dickens in the opening passage of A Tale of Two Cities:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way — in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
- Or, as it is quoted in The Lawyer's Handbook, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the New York Times."
- In Animorphs there is an in-universe example: at the end of the series, Marco sees the years he spent fighting Yeerks as the "good old days". He remembers life-and-death battles as "cool, rock 'em sock 'em battles". He doesn't really seem to remember how much they scared the crap out of him at the time. But then, it's said that Marco has a much easier time adjusting to civilian life than the others, because he doesn't feel guilty about the things he's done.
- In the Satyricon, published some time in the 1st century AD (and in the very, very strange Fellini movie), the poet Agamemnon complains about the failing quality of contemporary literature and poetry, compared to the good old days, making this at least Older Than Feudalism.
- In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "The Phoenix on the Sword", the last king is viewed with this, especially by Rinaldo.
"Now in Mitra's temple there come to burn incense to Numedides' memory, men whom his hangmen maimed and blinded, men whose sons died in his dungeons, whose wives and daughters were dragged into his seraglio. The fickle fools!"
- The epigram from Chapter II of that story sums it up neatly:
When I was a fighting-man, the kettle-drums they beat,
The people scattered gold-dust before my horse's feet;
But now I am a great king, the people hound my track
With poison in my wine-cup, and daggers at my back.
- William Shakespeare's Sonnet 106 complains that the ancients, who did not see this beauty, could have expressed it worthily, but mere current day poets aren't up to it.
- This and the example from the Satyricon above are examples of this as applied to the field of linguistics. Language was always at its best when your grandparents were speaking it. You can trace a line of bitching critics from decade to decade to the fifteenth century in English alone.
- In Time and Again, Si Morley does his best to consider the ways in which life in New York in 1882 was inequitable and harsh... but after he goes back to the present (1970), he becomes overwhelmed by a preference for the lifestyle and people of 1882. Even though he's well aware of what working conditions are like for ordinary people, and his reason for returning was to escape from corrupt policemen who have not heard of Miranda rights...
- In at least two of his books, including his autobiography, Isaac Asimov recounts the following:
Mrs. Asimov: I wish we lived a hundred years ago, when it was easy to get servants.
Asimov: That would be terrible!
Mrs. Asimov: Why?
Asimov: Because we'd be the servants.
- Galaxy of Fear: Big plot hinge in "The Hunger", the series' last book. Due to nostalgia, the now-grown children of a doomed exploration team don't realize what a desperation move by their parents feeding them meat from the corpses of the deceased members of the team was. Thanks to the nostalgia filter, they view human meat as a cherished childhood dish. It takes a Force-induced restore and replay of the log record to show them the truth.
- In The Extinction Parade, the narrator describes the Emergency and the 1969 race riots in Malaysia through such a lens. They sucked for humans, obviously, but for vampires like her and Laila, they were a buffet, as the backdrop of war and civil unrest made it easy to get away with murder.
- Invoked in Three Men in a Boat: The narrator muses on the Victorian fascination with antique items with no real value apart from being old, and wonders if, in the 20th and 21st centuries, people will adore commonplace knick-knacks from Victorian England and display them in museums, with Japanese tourists lining up to buy them and take them home as precious antiquities. Almost prophetic...
- Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle criticized this approach in his autobiography, My Shit Life so Far: "How long will it be before you're standing at a bus stop and you hear someone saying, 'Say what you like about Saddam, but that country's gone to hell without him'?"
Live Action TV
- Nostalgia for the classical period of ancient Greece and Rome and the idea that the Middle Ages were 1000 years of Dark Ages was one of the things that inspired the Renaissance. Yeah, it's a real-life example, but still technically woven in works considering that it fueled a lot of the artwork at the time.
- "The Green, Green Grass of Home," with two popular versions – country, by Porter Wagoner, and pop by Tom Jones – abounding. The song begins with a picturesque homecoming, obviously after a long time away, with a man stepping off a train and being welcomed by his family and his girlfriend, Mary ("hair of gold and lips like cherry"). The young man walks through his hometown, and it hasn't changed a bit ... even the old oak tree he used to play on is still there, majestic in its glory. It sounds too good to be true ... because it is. The scene suddenly takes a dark turn as the man awakens from what's to be his final night in bed ... he was only dreaming, and he's staring at four dank, dark gray walls. He's in prison, presumably a prisoner of war and awaiting execution at dawn ("For there's a guard, and there's a sad old padre/Arm in arm, we'll walk at daybreak"). That he'll be laid to rest beneath that green, green grass of home gives him little comfort in his final hours.
- "20 Years Ago" by Kenny Rogers, who reflects on a simpler time – the mid-1960s – in his 1987 hit, noting about good times at the drugstore counter and the now-recently closed movie house, and noting that an ordinary dime had lots of buying power. However, the nostalgia is tinged with bitterness and darkness, particularly as he reflects on the death of a close high school friend who was killed in action in Vietnam.
- The Statler Brothers found great success with a number of songs reflecting on old times, sometimes fun — "Do You Remember These," a 1972 top 5 hit reflecting on popular culture from the late 1930s through the end of the 1950s; and "The Movies," a 1977 country hit that was a roll call of all the great movies from the earliest days to the then-present — and sometimes bittersweet, most notably "Class of '57."
- Merle Haggard: For as many songs he recorded that bitterly recalled certain memories, the "Okie from Muskogee" recorded many songs that recalled good times. Some examples:
- "Okie From Muskogee": A 1969 song paying homage to small-town life, where conservative values were the norm and outsiders with ideals contrary to the established way of life – e.g., patriotic values, with residents not using drugs, adopting hippie lifestyles, attempt to dodge the draft or challenge authority - were considered just that ... "outsiders."
- "The Roots of My Raising" and "The Way It Was in '51": A two-sided hit from 1976 which played upon the values of home and growing up in a carefree era. "The Roots of My Raising," about a young man who visits home for the first time in several years, reflects on such childhood memories as the one-room schoolhouse, the homestead, father and bankers who had absolute faith in their customers' ability to repay loans. "The Way it Was in '51," which became a minor hit of its own in 1978 (and still gets classic country airplay today as a "B"-side) spoke about a now middle-aged man's teenage years, before rock music and Interstate highways, when camaraderie was found amongst small town residents and neighbors and Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell were unquestionably the most popular singers of the day. "The Way it Was in '51" made a reference to the Korean War, and the line "servicemen were proud of what they'd done" was perhaps a sly reference to the Vietnam War, where not all veterans were "proud" of their service and they were shunned when they got back.
- The song "I used to love H.E.R" by Common just reeks of this trope. In this case Common is reminiscing about how Hip-hop changed with the times, but at a certain point it's clear he feels saddened by what it eventually became.
- The Futureheads song "Christmas Was Better in the 80's".
- Bob Seger basically built his career on nostalgia, with songs like "Old Time Rock and Roll" and "Night Moves".
- And "Against the Wind" and "Like a Rock" and "Still the Same" and "Main Street." Pretty much every song is about how awesome things were when Seger was younger.
- "Summer of '69" by Bryan Adams could be considered to use this in response to the Glory Days trope.
- Also "Boys of Summer" by Don Henley.
- The most popular interpretation of Don McLean's epic America Pie is a tribute to the rock 'n' roll of the 1950s, and an indictment of where rock music had gone astray from there by the early 1970s.
- The Kinks would often wax nostalgic for a bygone England that possibly never existed, but could also show some perspective, like "Where Have All the Good Times Gone", heard here.
- Meat Loaf, kinda. From Bat out of Hell 3 is the song "The Future Just Ain't What It Used to Be". So, all about how the future looked brighter when he was younger.
- "From a Dead Beat to an Old Greaser" by Jethro Tull has the main protagonist, Ray Lomas, bump into a man waxing nostalgic about his beatnik days. Lomas takes no interest in the beat's stories, saying "I didn't care, friend. I wasn't there, friend". If the comic from the sleeve of the song's parent album, Too Old to Rock 'N' Roll: Too Young to Die!, is any indication, Lomas is just as prone to this, especially in the title track.
- Averted by Billy Joel's "Keeping the Faith":
You know, the good old days weren't always good, and tomorrow ain't as bad as it seems!
- "All Summer Long" by Kid Rock looks back at the summer of 1989 as a carefree time of young love and having fun down at the lake.
- "The Way We Were" by Barbra Streisand.
Memories can be beautiful, and yet
What's too painful to remember
We simply choose to forget...
- Some of Funeral for a Friend's fanbase complained when the band went slightly poppier for their second album Hours, and even more for their progressive third album Tales Don't Tell Themselves. The band realised this and have based the subsequent part of their career around 'getting back to their hardcore roots', specifically their first two EPs and first album. They like to remind people of this with playing their first two EPs live in order, calling the four songs recorded for their best of 'an EP's worth of new songs', bringing back screamed vocals, releasing an independent EP called The Young and Defenseless, of which two songs went on the album and two didn't (mirroring their EP Four Ways to Scream Your Name). Their album Conduit is a return to the hardcore roots they had before they even recorded an EP. Despite this, some fans still say they aren't as good as those early works, even though they've produced many songs in that style since.
- Bowling for Soup's song "1985" is about this. A middle-aged suburban soccer mom can't cope with the fact that it's not The Eighties any more, that she's not going to be a star, or that the musicians she grew up listening to are now played on the oldies and classic rock stations, and she wants to go back to when she was a teenager.
- Boards of Canada's music, despite being entirely instrumental (with the exception of occasional voice samples), is suffused with a sense of vague nostalgia, frequently described by both reviewers and listeners as sounding like hazy, half-forgotten memories or something along those lines.
- One of many things mocked in "God Save The Queen" by The Sex Pistols, which basically says that there is no future if you try to use a Nostalgia Filter to solve your problems.
- "Back in the Day" by Ahmad, a hip-hop song that's filled with syrupy nostalgia. It's arguably the poster child for nostalgia in the hip-hop community, along with songs like "T.R.O.Y." by Pete Rock & CL Smooth, and "Passin Me By" by Pharcyde.i
- In "Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head", by They Might Be Giants, the first verse touches on this, with lines such as "It was not, not, not so great"
- "Baggy Trousers" (from Absolutely) and "Our House" (from The Rise And Fall) are both nostalgic songs by Madness about their school boy days and living with their family at home. Despite being sentimental, they are also comical since they basically depict the children as having all kinds of hijinks and misbehaving.
- "Those Were The Days" by Mary Hopkin is a nostalgic song about the joys of the past. It was released during The Sixties, but is ironically often used in nostalgic TV shows about the 1960s, even though it originally didn't reflect on that time period.
- "As Time Goes By", made famous by the film Casablanca looks back on the memories of a love from long ago.
- "Things We Said Today" from A Hard Days Night and "In My Life" from Rubber Soul are The Beatles songs who are both an example as well as an subversion. They look nostalgically back at now from the viewpoint of the future.
- "We'll Meet Again" by Vera Lynn has become extremely nostalgic for people who went through World War Two in Great Britain. It's united the country in a way that was so powerful that virtually every World War Two film or series set in Great Britain has to resist the tendency to use it, because it has become such a Standard Snippet. Which is odd considering that the time period looked back on was when Britain was bombed by German airplanes and people had to tighten their belts because of rationing.
- "Summer Of '69" by Bryan Adams, though it doesn't look back at 1969 as much, as well on the sexually position of the same name, done in that wonderful summer.
- "Mon Enfance" by Jacques Brel looks back at his childhood and how the illusions were destroyed by World War Two. "Rosa Rosa Rosa" is a more playful song about his school days as a young boy.
- Parodied in a FoxTrot series in which Andy has to pick a strip in the newspaper she works for to cancel. Roger is incensed that she picked "Captain Goofball," because it was his favorite strip as a kid, even though it sucks now.
- Also, the Steve Jobs tribute comic. Recall how the iFruit used to torment Jason to no end a decade ago. Although Bill Amend is a Mac fan from day one and Jason did eventually make peace with the iFruit, this comic still come down with the trope if you read the comic and then jump to one that's 15 years older.
- Lampshaded in a comic strip of Zits where the Duncans take a trip to a cabin where Walt went when he was younger. Jeremy hates it, but Walt, for some reason, has all these pleasant memories of the place. Yet, Jeremy finds a tree into which Walt had carved, "I hate this %^@&% Dump!!" and Walt mentions, "Wow, time has a way of blurring things, does it?"
- Tom the Dancing Bug advanced a theory that popular culture was at its height when you, the reader, were twelve years old.
- In Calvin and Hobbes Calvin's dad was this Up to Eleven, he was often seen complaining to Calvin or his wife about how everything was better back in the day and how evil modern technology is. Calvin hates this, once saying that he is "a 21st century kid stuck with 19th century parents."
- The four audiobook volumes of The Alan Cross Guide to Alternative Rock, based on the author's radio series The Ongoing History of New Music, appear guilty of this: most of the bands are from the 1980s or early 1990s, several are from the 1960s and 1970s, and the ones from the 2000s that are covered are treated briefly. Cross, a history major, averts this by noting it's far easier to objectively measure the cultural impact of older artists, while for most newer artists it's too soon to tell if they'll be influential.
- When I was a kid, my mother would send me down to the corner store with a dollar, and I'd come back with five pounds of potatoes, two loaves of bread, three pints of milk, a pound of cheese, a packet of tea, and half a dozen eggs. You can't do that now. Too damn many security cameras.
- When Windows XP came out, people reacted to the new user interface in the same way, as they did now to the Windows 8. Endless rants were on forums and computer magazines about how childish it was, its impact on system performance was even worse (that time, only a minimal graphic acceleation was used for the GUI, most of it was done by the CPU). But well, first you could turn it off, second it followed the god-awful Windows ME, third it was a long runner and almost everybody forgot about it.
- Weaponized (of course) in Warhammer. Dwarf Longbeards are, well old dwarves who've Seen It All, and "always grumble about how today's Goblins are smaller and weedier than they used to be, and how nothing is as well made today as it was in their days". Dwarves near them do their best not to fail Leadership tests lest it set off another round of Grumpy Old Man complaining.
- A line in Gorkamorka says that orks sell their craptastic first gun as soon as they can to buy a better one. But once they get older and better equipped, seeing younger orks running around with their own craptastic shootas make them briefly nostalgic.
- The Rolling Stone magazine article: "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time." Written in 2004, it included only 3 songs from the 2000s and a truly massive number from the 1960s and early '70s, roughly coinciding with the rise of the magazine itself. Probably 400 or so of those songs (and their artists) were regularly panned by the magazine when they were the Top 40 of the day. This is to say nothing of the fact that only a small fraction of the songs are from before the 60's.
- Similarly, TV Guide compiled a list of the greatest TV shows in history. It was revealed later that the hardest decision they had was which of two shows should be named #1: I Love Lucy or Seinfeld. They decided go with Seinfeld. The decision was met with quite a lot of backlash.
- In these two cases, they were probably justified for the reasons given above in the introduction. It's far too early to be able to pick out what the good songs, or good TV shows of today are. The half century old songs and shows that are bad are forgotten so the ones that are remembered are, most certainly, among the best ever.
- Chicago Tribune writer Mary Schmich, in her column "Advice, Like Youth, Probably Just Wasted on the Young" (which was later used as the basis of the late-90s dance hit "(Everybody's Free to) Wear Sunscreen") referenced this trope frequently; early on she advised her young readers, "Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they've faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked." Toward the end of her column she added, "Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth."
- In Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse, Sam comes across a bucket of fish from the original Lucasarts game Hit The Road and fondly remembers how much simpler things were back then. Max quips that things were a LOT more complicated back then.
- Donkey Kong Country: Cranky Kong is this. Three-fourths of the time, he's grumping on how better much games were back in his day, and how overrated our current gaming features are.
- Not to say he hasn't good reason to be bitter; he's supposed to be the the original Donkey Kong from the arcade game.
- Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony has the eponymous Tony Prince, an aging, flamboyantly gay nightclub entrepreneur who grew up back when the gay rights movement was still on the fringes of social discourse. In one scene, he longs for the days when most young gay men were runaways and exiles from a disapproving middle America who were lost in the big city and easier to seduce, and claims that gay culture has lost its touch now that growing numbers of LGBT people are settling down, getting married, raising kids, and becoming "normal".
- Likewise, Grand Theft Auto V has the song "I Like Things Just the Way They Are" by Samantha Muldoon, who performs it during her appearance on Blaine County Talk Radio. It's a Deconstructive Parody of the use of this trope in modern Country Music, with its idealization of small-town Americana barely concealing a vicious streak of reactionary politics, racism, and militant Christian nationalism.
- Arthur Geis of Rebel FM stated that the Xbox LIVE Arcade game Perfect Dark HD was what gamers remembered what the original version of Perfect Dark was like.
- Mega Man 9 and 10 were designed to look and play similar to the original Mega Man games to cater to this.
- IGN's strongly critical review of the 20th anniversary rerelease of Another World claims that, while it was a classic game in its time, the only reason why it's still a classic today is because of this trope, and that time and nostalgia have caused people to forget about the game's poor controls and frustrating gameplay.
- They lobbied the exact same comment at the Wii virtual console rerelease of Cruis'n USA, arguing that it was "never a good game" despite what this trope might suggest.
- Crossing over with Meta above, this is why Retro Gaming exists.
- This is the whole reason behind the existence of Shovel Knight. It's a Retraux game that borrows liberally from what are widely considered to be among the best games ever on the Nintendo Entertainment System.
- Defied in Mass Effect 2 - when Shepard asks Joker if he misses how things were in the first game, he's quick to point out that those only seem like "the good old days" in retrospect.
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trials & Tribulations. Victor Kudo, a grumpy-beyond-reason old man. He constantly laments the old days and how everything was better and how he hates all the new gadgets and all their fancy names. Feels all the more awkward considering he occasionally rants about "the old bushido values of Japan" among all things, while localization made the setting clearly American.
Victor Kudo: In the good old days, we would have drank every last drop, eaten the cup, and then died!
Phoenix: (Congratulations. You have earned the title of Battiest Man To Grace A Courtroom.)
- Penny Arcade summed it up pretty well in one strip. "It's the job of young people to make things which old people despise. It's the job of old people to denigrate the work of the young. That is the system. Someday, we will hate them ourselves."
- Not Invented Here: Desmond feels like a kid again when his first computer is mailed to him by his uncle Lou. He snaps out of it when Geordi mentions every remaining computer of that model working together would roughly equal the computing power of one iPhone, but use way more electricity.
- The Whiteboard: Sent up in the paintball domain here and in the next strip, comparing paintballing in the past to that in the present.
- Parodied in this Cyanide and Happiness strip. The old man misses the "good old days" because of the rampant intolerance. His younger relative cheerfully claims this is why he never visits.
- This trope is played with in Recess, when Vince apparently does not notice that his brother (who was revered by Vince's peers around his age) was a stereotypical nerd, remembering instead how "cool" he used to be. The other kids later realise that it only made sense since no 'cool' older kid would ever have willingly played with them when they were younger.
- He's still cool in his own way. When a bully that Vince stopped brought his older brother, Vince's own brother threatened to quit being his tutor. He backed off immediately.
- The Fairly OddParents: In one episode, Timmy's dad constantly speaks of his fond childhood memories of spending time in an Old West town, and Timmy goes through the trouble of making sure it doesn't get torn down for his dad's sake. However, actually being there again makes Timmy's dad realize how much his childhood sucked and has the place demolished for a few bucks.
- Phineas and Ferb: Phineas reflects on the little kiddie rides outside of the mall, leading to an exciting scene of young Phineas flying into space and shooting lasers off with Ferb. Cut to him riding it in reality...
Phineas: You know, in retrospect, I may have over-romanticized those memories...
- This attitude is called out in one episode of The Real Ghostbusters, where Ray is talking about how the fifties were a much simpler time. Egon points out that there's no inherent proof of that, as each decade has its own individual challenges.
- In the Be Careful What You Wish For episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, Billy's dad wants to relive his high school days. He soon realizes it wasn't as good as he thought it was.
- Given a quick jab in the ribs from The Oblongs, as Bob wonders fitfully about his children being sold drugs.
Bob: This stuff wasn't around when we were kids.
Pickles: Bob, we grew up in the sixties. Drugs were everywhere.
Bob: ...No, I think you're wrong.
- Daria once called a guy Jane was dating out on this.
Nathan: Well, I've always dug the beauty and elegance of post-war American design. People had a sense of timeless style and civilized decorum back then.
Daria: Well, yeah. But you also had the timeless style of Cold War conformity and the civilized decorum of segregation.
- In the South Park episode "You're Getting Old", as soon as Stan turns ten, he ends up hearing and seeing all the "new and hip" stuff around him to be literally "shitty," ranging from tracks from band called "Tween Wave" featuring nothing but funky beats with fart sounds in the background to seeing turds in movie trailers and in various parts of the town. It completely alienates him from his friends. In the second part to this episode, he has to resort to taking alcohol in order to stop seeing things as shit.
- Also makes up the plot of "4th Grade". After moving up a grade in class, the boys dislike it and wish they could still be in the 3rd grade instead as things were so much better back then. At the very end, Kyle realizes that it's a load of bull and they hated the 3rd grade just as much as the 4th.
- Also briefly mocked in "Osama Bin Laden Has Farty Pants", the first episode produced after the tragedies of September 11th, 2001 in New York, New York, Arlington, Virginia, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. It opens with the boys at the bus stop wearing gas masks. Kyle remarks, "Remember when life used to be simple and cool?" To which Cartman replies, "... Not really."
- Mocked in the Doug episode "Doug's Shock Therapy," when a temporarily insane Mr. Bone mis-remembers his own childhood as (literally!) a "magical time with rainbows and lakes of hot chocolate."
- Toyed with in the Justice League episode "Legends," where the team meets a pastiche of the JSA. It's all about the fondly-remembered "Golden Age" but also includes casual sexism and racism Green Lantern encounters.
- One episode of American Dad! features a CIA holodeck machine that scans memories of people and projects them into the holodeck. The machine has a literal Nostalgia Filter. When Stan revisits his childhood with the filter on, it's bright, warm, comforting, and his dad is a nice person. Turned off, the place is a dump and his father is cruel, as it really was. (not that Stan is bothered by it)
This page was so much better back in the day. But today...it just sucks.