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Retro is dead!! Long Live Retro!!!! June 15, 2006

Posted by doctorolove in Pop Culture Rants, TV.
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I cried today.

I’m a guy, so you may think one of a few things. I stubbed a toe or missed a nail with a hammer. I again watched Rudy on Cinemax (I usually lose it when the screen says “Since 1975, no other Notre Dame player has been carried off the field.”) Or maybe I was on a date with some girl who I really needed to impress. Let me clear those rumors up: I hate tools and wear boots, even when waddling around the house. Cinemax is running every Pauly Shore movie back to back, or so it seems. And I’m married: the race is over, I’ve taken off the uniform, if you know what I mean.

No, I cried because, on an accidental surf around imdb, I came across the opening to the Nickelodeon show of the early eighties, Pinwheel. Just saying it should put the tune in your head (Pinwheel, pinwheel, spinning around…). They were all there: the duck in the pirate hat, the weird molelike thing in the tree, and the strange Asian mime who looks like she was trying out for the lead in Quiet Tiger, Shushing Dragon. Sure, I don’t remember their names or what they did on the show, but the song and the visuals were like a stiff kick to the tear ducts. I looked at the Pinwheel and saw what I found: a period of mourning.

But I wasn’t crying in remembering a simpler time. I wasn’t crying because of some deep seeded issue that was brought up by my remembering the Summer 0f ’81. I didn’t even cry at the song rekindling a joy in my heart (which it did because I no longer have to hum through the words when I sing the song amongst nostalgia hungry friends.) No, I cried because I know my kids will never have this feeling. Ever.

Retro is cool, but retro is dead. Our generation killed it.

Sure, we are still wearing our eighties inspired sweaters, and most of the bands now are going grunge again. But Gen xers created retro and we went ahead and killed it.

Yup, we created it. The generations before us never had a pop culture. The options for where they got their mass entertainment were minimal. Television had three channels, newspapers were ran by a few wire services, and music stations were so filled with payola and structure that most obscure pop songs were only obscure because the mainstream kids didn’t like them. We, on the other hand, were the generation of cable. We had channels everywhere. We had parents who had to work to raise us, so they left our parenting in the capable hands of the puppets and strange 70’s folk songs of Sesame Street. I learned most of what I know about sex from that episode of Facts of Life where Tootie gets her period (which, come to think of it, explains my unhealthy obsession involving older women with braces.) I’m not indicting them: Most of us turned out all right. But we were saturated with pop culture telling us how to live, who to listen to, and most important how to count to eight. Eight. Ha! Ha! Ha! (Cue badly puppetereed bats, Count.)

SO when we all grew up, we found ourselves longing for remembrance. We had to find some way to relive those memories. And the media noticed. So they packaged the sitcoms of our youth onto Retro networks. They re-united casts for hastily produced reunion specials. They plastered iron-on decals of the Wagon Wheel Cheese guy and the skeleton fish from the Great Space Coaster onto shirts. And then the Internet came along, giving every junkie with a video to mpeg converter the chance to share his VHS collection with the world. Hence, I found Pinwheel.

So we created Retro and we bask in it. Heck, Vh1 is well on its way to creating a network out its’ retro shows that focus on, well, being retro. None of this is bad. I am just as much a whore for reliving my childhood as everyone else. Reliving the past in fashion, media and general culture is not bad provided we are all moving forward as a society. I won’t get into a large debate, but deep down, you all know we are. 

But it’s sad for me to now that my child will never stumble across, say, a Sponge Bob cartoon on his cranial implanted sim card several decades from now. Because retro is moving too fast for us to create time enough to want them.

There are full DVD’s of entire runs of television series. Charlie Sheen’s boxers haven’t even stopped smoking and the retro networks have already managed to pigeon hole Spin City into a time slot. And if I see another Vote for Pedro shirt and am pressured to feel the need to giggle at it, I’m shoving a stick of Napoleon Dynamite up someone’s ass.

Retro works because we miss something. A Pulp Fiction shirt is not cool when I have an original and yours is fresh off the rack. Unless you missed out on a season due to a coma, you do not need to relive any game on ESPN classic. I do not feel a pang of goodness when I can recite the entire episode of Friends when Joey loses Chandler’s wedding ring. I feel angry because that means I’ve seen the entire episode enough in reruns in the few short years since it first aired. That and I’m probably watching TBS.

Can you or I fix this? Probably not. The mass media that helped us create Retro knows that we’ll still buy and watch whatever they feed us. I’m just mourning the feeling of knowing you can go home again. My children will probably never have to leave it, so they’ll never know.

We’re still creating new and pop culture worthy things that may not stand the test of mass market based time. Something tells me they won’t have an Arrested Development reunion show anytime soon. And our past still has a few jewels left they haven’t unearthed for pop culture goodness. Pinwheel. And I still haven’t seen that episode of Beverly Hills 90210 where Emily Valentine spikes Brandon’s drink with ecstasy in at least, what, six years.

So, if you’ll excuse I have to catch the opening strains of the USA Cartoon Express before I have to pay for it or they remake it with Owen Wilson and the Spanish kid from the 70’s show.

If that happens, at least, you’ll know why I cried this time right off the bat.

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