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 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. Second, tastes refine as one matures; 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.
However, it is likely that the most 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. These are the years where one is young and undistracted by the responsibilities of adulthood. For many, they are also years that 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 live and breathe for that "next episode", favorite rerun, new video game, or that new superhero movie opening next week and have them engrained into their psyche. But these days, you 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: "MAD 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 must be mentioned that not every adult succumbs to this. While abuse of the Nostalgia Filter is a popular adult stereotype (particularly in media aimed at children or teenagers), there are also many Real Life adults who are perfectly up-to-date and culturally aware. This is especially true for those who are socially active and hang around a diverse group of people. Whether the tendency to abuse this trope even applies to the majority of Real Life adults is debatable. However, one thing is for certain: Those who abuse it tend to be extremely vocal about it.
See also Nothing But Hits and Nostalgia Ain't Like It Used To Be. Another reason for this trope is that True Art Is Ancient. Contrast Deader than Disco.
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.
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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.
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 CrossoverInfinite 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 subverted 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.
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.
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 somewhat 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 its time he moved on.
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.
"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!"
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.
Live Action TV
The opening theme for All in the Family has Archie and Edith singing about how ideal their childhood was. Thing is, they both grew up during the Great Depression.
Savagely mocked in thisThe Daily Show clip which satirises 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 pundits such as Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Bill O'Reilly grew up in which they discuss how things weren't really that great, John Oliver comes to the "realization" that the reason these pundits constantly look back to these times as happier and less complicated times is because those were the periods when they were children, and the world always seems happier and less complicated when you're a child.
How the Doctor chooses to remember the Time Lords in the new series of Doctor Who. Of course, viewers of the original series know they weren't sweetness and light, and when they do turn up for a moment in the new series, it's clear the Time War disimproved them. Such that the Doctor takes up a gun immediately upon realizing their return.
In A Game Of Thrones, King Robert is fond of reminiscing about the good old days. His brother Renly eventually gets sick of this and asks him exactly which days he's talking about - the time when the entire country was plunged into a bloody civil war, the time when Aerys roasted people alive because of the voices in his head, or the time when dragons went around burning villages to the ground.
The entire premise of Happy Days is built on nostalgia for the 50s.
In It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Dennis and Dee take a trip to the Jersey Shore because they have fond memories of visiting there during their childhood years. When they arrive, they are subjected to a series of painful and terrifying experiences that completely shatter their previous conceptions of the Jersey Shore.
Also used in the Christmas special with Charlie and Mac. The two fondly tell each other about their favorite Christmas traditions from their childhood, but after the other hears about it they realize that they aren't in any way near as positive as they remembered: Mac's family stole Christmas gifts from other homes, while Charlie is horrified to realize that his mom was a whore who had sex with a bunch of men (poorly) dressed up like Santa.
The show Mad Men does a lot to show how with all the awesome music and fashions of the '60s came rampant sexism, racism, and homophobia, and how the values of the previous decade held over and were difficult to dismantle. Considering how saturated the culture was (and still is) with '60s nostalgia when the show first debuted, it was exactly what the doctor ordered.
Cold Case was every bit as brutal as Mad Men, but spanned a lot more eras. Often, the murderer was sympathetic, and the attitudes about race, gender, and sexuality were the real villains.
Saturday Night Live: Dana Carvey's recurring Weekend Update character, the Grumpy Old Man, parodies this by being nostalgic for the bad things about the past, such as having no water filters, no air conditioning, no improved technology, and even no Christmas Caroling.
The Twilight Zone episode "The Incredible World of Horace Ford" has a toy designer who keeps lapsing into daydreams of his idyllic childhood while ignoring his slowly collapsing present. In the end, it turns out he was repressing the memory of the day the other kids beat him up because they weren't invited to his birthday party, and he's forced to come to grips with the brutal truth that his childhood wasn't nearly the fairyland he wanted to believe it was.
Top Gear did an episode where James May finally got to drive the Lamborghini Countach that had adorned his bedroom wall back in the day and found out that it was a truly awful car.
A somewhat hilarious In-Universe case happens in Rome. Octavian asks his old friend Titus Pullo to accompany him on the invasion of Egypt, saying that it'll be just like one of their old adventures. Pullo gives a nervous smile because he remembers that the "old adventures" tended to include torturing and murdering people.
Continuum has an in-universe Fantastic Drug Retrevinol or "Flash", first appearing in episode 'Second Thoughts', that causes hallucinogenic flashbacks to pleasant past experiences that are far more satisfying than was the actual event being remembered, meaning the drug "cannot be trusted".
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 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.
"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.
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 E Ps and first album. They like to remind people of this with playing their first two E Ps 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.
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.
Parodied in a Fox Trot 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.
Actually it is pretty clear he liked it because he was a kid and that it ALWAYS sucked. It's his tastes that changed more than the comic.
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?"
In another strip, Walt gets angry at a song Jeremy is listening to, resulting in this exchange,
Tom the Dancing Bug advanced a theory that popular culture was at its height when you, the reader, were twelve years old.
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.
The Bible alludes to this at Ecclesiates 7:10, making this Older than Dirt. "Do not say: 'Why has it happened that the former days proved to be better than these?' for it is not due to wisdom that you have asked about this."
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 probably regularlypanned by the magazine when they were the Top 40 of the day.
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.
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 trope. 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, Camp 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/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 more and more gay people are settling down, getting married, raising kids and becoming "normal".
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.
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.
"10 Things That Will Make You SUPER Nostalgic For The '90s" is a 2013 slideshow of real photos of all the great times/things of the era — starting with Rwandan genocide corpses and going on to Columbine, the Oklahoma City bombing, Somalian refugees, etc. (plus, for some reason, Alan Alda)!
The Nostalgia Critic's job is showing the world that the '80s and early '90s had their fair share of utterly terrible shows and movies, as you can guess by his name. The Nostalgia Filter attitude was also mocked in the end of his Pokémon: The First Movie review, where after spending a good portion of the review complaining about the weirdness of the premise, comes to the realization that popular eighties cartoons like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Alvin and the Chipmunks, and The Care Bears had pretty ridiculous premises themselves before shouting "THOSE WERE THE DAYS!".
In the Gundamn! podcast's segment on Transformers: The Movie, they mention that most of the fanbase's regard for Transformers Generation 1 really comes from the movie, rather than the TV series, which was pretty formulaic ("What stupid plan will Megatron come up with to steal more Energon cubes? How will Starscream try to betray Megatron and fail yet again?")
For those who don't speak internet; the imageboard /b/, the source of most memes, is full of people who have matured to the point where the rather immature, gross-out and horrible humor of /b/ no longer amuses them, and complain about the new users, claiming that they are the "cancer that is killing /b/."
Skewered here by Benzaie, who alleges that all the problems that gamers complain about today (genre oversaturation, Mission Pack Sequels, etc.) were just as present in The Nineties, the "golden age" of gaming.
This tweet by Discographies on Journey sums up the phenomenon perfectly.
Candle Cove starts out playing this trope straight, but is later subverted as we learn about all the gory details.
Pitchfork of Socks Make People Sexy is quite guilty of this; tasked with doing a Final Fantasy Retrospective, he started with declaring his blind admiration for classics and then to...well, let's just say that Final Fantasy XIII didn't help. At all.
Any Sporcle music quiz regarding recent music (Billboard year-end lists, United States of Pop, #1 hits...) will be filled with comments both blasting today's songs and praising the ones from their age.
Moviebob has discussed his own (quite strong) nostalgia filter for '80s and early '90s gaming on several occasions.
Played straight and averted, respectively, with his treatment of The Eighties and The Nineties. Bob is not a fan of the latter decade, frequently accompanying mentions of it with a stock photo of Randy "The Ram" Robinson with the caption "The '90s sucked", and he has little love for most of the pop culture trends of that era (Nineties anti heroes, post-modern teen horror, et cetera). On the other hand, he loves the '80s, cheesiness and all. He states that this was because the '90s were his awkward, schlubby teen years that came in between his wondrous childhood in the '80s and his present-day success as an internet personality.
Averted, and examined, with his treatment of The Simpsons. While going over the older seasons, Bob noticed that most of the episodes he thought were comic gold as a kid didn't age well, while the episodes he thought were boring when they first aired became much better now that he was old enough to appreciate the humor. He concludes that The Simpsons didn't jump the shark like its fans thought it did, but rather, its fans grew up and their tastes in humor changed, and the show didn't change with them. Plus, there's the fact that the show, a broad satire of the greater pop culture, is a relic of a time stretching from roughly 1950-2000 when pop culture was largely monolithicnote As in, most mainstream Americans, apart from those on the cultural fringes, watched the same three or four TV networks and the same movies, received the same news, listened to the same music, read the same books, et cetera. — the early '00s, the time most commonly cited as when The Simpsons "stopped being funny", is also the time when the internet and cable television fragmented pop culture into a million little shards and subcultures.
"This week, thanks to the big Final Fantasy sale, I bought FFIX on PSN to play on my Vita. I wanted to play it again with fresh eyes. Problem is, when you play a game with fresh eyes, you suddenly start to notice problems that you forgot about over the years, like the ridiculous random encounter rate and the 5-10 seconds it takes for the 'disc' to load before each battle even starts. I put 'disc' in scare-quotes because, remember, there is no PS1 disc. This is an emulator on my Vita running the game."
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 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.
And another episode, in when Timmy and his dad were cleaning their attic, Timmy finds his dad's tiny box of dreams. He picks it up and it breaks. Timmy's dad was OK with it though, because his dreams were crushed many years ago.
Timmy: How many years ago?
Mr. Turner: How old are you?
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.
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.
Another example occurs when Jake finds some old home movies from back when he was a kid and is eager to see them despite Helen's failed attempts at reminding him that his childhood wasn't that great. The truth comes rushing back to him once he watches them however. Helen later lampshaded this tendency in Is It College Yet.
Helen: Your father needs to maintain certain illusions about his youth in order to function. It's... cute...
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. Also a bit of a deconstruction because 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 episode 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. The episode deconstructs the fondly-remembered "Golden Age" of comic books in numerous ways, with the most blatant examples being the casual sexism and racism Green Lantern encounters.
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