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Money for Emotions

Nostalgia is great, isn’t it? The odd moment when your mind rests for a few seconds and a random memory comes to mind that makes you smile and may even bring a wee tear to your eye. (Wee as in ‘little’, not the other one. That would be weird.) According to studies, reminiscing on the past and experiencing nostalgia can help people when they’re feeling a bit down in the dumps and can help with motivating yourself and even communicating with others by sharing your experiences. Apparently it was even considered as a mental disorder in the past, and even now is viewed as a means of mental protection for those who are in a crisis or feeling lonely.

I experience it on a fairly regular basis. (So lonely.) Facebook will throw some ‘memories’ at me when it feels neglected. There are apps that link you to your social media accounts and will send you notifications saying ‘Hey, you posted this on this day! Remember this?’ Even mere moments before I started writing this, I quickly checked by Facebook and the first thing I saw was a picture I put up seven years ago. It was a photo of my old desk, with my old laptop that I don’t use any more, a statuette of Queen Elizabeth that has since smashed and been thrown away, a plastic set of drawers that I still have and are right next to me as I write (admittedly a bit worse for wear now) and some Japanese study books that I also still have. Even the desktop wallpaper on my old PC was of my old dog back in the UK who has since sadly passed.

Just when I wanted the photo, I couldn’t find it. Here is a photo of some… photos.

This one image gave me very mixed emotions, nostalgia of course being the strongest. It brought up both happiness and sadness; two very conflicting emotions. I remember how happy I was when I would take my dog out for long walks in the countryside. I remember the weird joy that the statuette gave me when I received it as a gift and then the eventual sadness I felt when it broke. It reminded me of my time in Okayama when things were very different to how they are now. It also gave me a strong sense of both disappointment but also determination.

When I saw the Japanese textbooks from seven years ago, I assumed at first that they were for N2 (the second highest level in the Japanese language proficiency test that I obtained years ago), but it was actually for N1, which I just wrote about recently as a goal of mine to pass this year. The disappointment of course comes from the fact that it has been seven years since I started studying for it and realising that throughout the years I had tried time and time again to do it, but ultimately gave up or simply lost interest. However, on the plus side, seeing this image really gave me a strong sense of how much time has passed without my even realising and that this time I will really give it a proper shot. Nostalgia can be a strong drive when you can reflect on your past failures as a way to influence your future in a positive and encouraging way.

One of the books in question.

Despite the upsides to nostalgia, it can also be used as a mighty weapon. A weapon which I notice more frequently seems to be wielded haphazardly by many companies who want to capitalise on these feelings, sometimes without even trying to hide it. I remember my grandmother’s partner who would often watch Tom and Jerry when it was on TV and I am quite sure he got the same nostalgic feeling for watching that as I would when watching a random classic episode of Pokémon now. The biggest difference between that and Pokémon is that, unlike Pokémon, Tom and Jerry hasn’t been milked for all its worth or exploited in the same way for the purpose of profiting off of its fan base. My grandmother’s partner would likely only experience this when it just so happened be on the TV, not every day with a new YouTube upload by one of hundreds of PokeTubers or Google consistently trying to remind me of my childhood with articles written by someone who probably wasn’t even born when Pokémon came out.

The comparison may be a bit unfair, but it was the first that came to mind. Tom and Jerry is (in my mind) just a cartoon from the 1960’s (actually earlier) and Pokémon is a machine that grew exponentially after its enormous success in the late 1990’s, ranging from video games to cereal. In its earlier days it was fairly modest in its ambition. It was a video game created by a few guys who spent years programming it and trying to get it off the ground. It very nearly didn’t even happen, but I’m glad it did. As much as I may criticise a lot of Pokémon for what it is today, I still love it at its core and I don’t think that will change.

It was just about a boy who wanted to catch some magical monsters, that’s all.

This is not exclusive to Pokémon. I previously wrote a post on how I felt that fandoms ruin things that I like and I will still argue that they are best steered clear of. But these fandoms are nurtured. By creating too much of something in such a short period of time, they become more and more obsessed with it and more entitled, thinking that the series they love somehow belongs to them, and therefore they will criticise it any given opportunity if it doesn’t meet their expectations. Star Wars is another perfect example. Nearly all of the sequel trilogy is nostalgia. Episode 7 doesn’t hide it, and episode 9 used it in an attempt to claw back its audience that were so disappointed with episode 8. I’m also a bit guilty of a slight squeal of joy when I heard Emperor Palpatine’s laugh at the end of the first teaser trailer, despite my mind telling me that it made absolutely no sense that he was there and that it was playing into my old memories of Star Wars and if you want to go a little further, the memories of my grandmother. How dare they. Ultimately I didn’t really like the film but it was kind of cool to see Palpatine again. There you go, Disney. You won that round. (Never again.)

‘No-one’s ever really gone’ – Oh, you bastards.

Nostalgia is a delightful feeling when it’s felt naturally and by pure chance. When I look through my bookcase and come across my old copy of the Hobbit that my grandmother gave me and read her little message inside, I get a strong sense of nostalgia. When I get a little tipsy and listen to Enya’s May It Be, I get a little bleary eyed as it brings back memories of secondary school and seeing the Lord of the Rings films with my friends. Recently I’ve picked up the Pokémon card game and that was only because I had some cards left over resulting from a favour I did for someone back home, but holding those cards and putting them into sleeves not only reminded me of my old Pokémon cards, but also all the time I spent playing Yu-Gi-Oh! back in the day.

Life is tough and nostalgia does give everyone a bit of a break away from it all. This was clearly evident during the pandemic when a lot of people were in lockdown, possibly on furlough or having lost their jobs. Pokemon cards surged in popularity again as sales soared and some shops even going so far as to stop selling them due to the behaviour of the customers to the staff. There were lots of rich YouTubers who jumped on the bandwagon as well, purchasing extremely expensive unopened boxes of old packs and then filming themselves opening them to very high view ratings. I think this in particular was of very poor taste and is an obvious attempt at making some quick cash while tugging at the heart strings of those nostalgic viewers – whether intentional or not – who can only dream of having what they have. Either way it seems like it was a popular trend and I guess generally speaking people don’t care. So why should I?

This I hate.

Of course there is nothing I can do about it and that is not my intention of writing this. I wanted to take the opportunity to write down some of my thoughts on something that I think had been bugging me unconsciously for some time. After realising the link between some of the previous posts I had made on how the Internet over saturated my mind with things that I like to the point that it all became too much and gradually was leading to a loss of interest in my favourite things, and using nostalgia as the most basic means of grabbing views and clicks, I had to get it all down.

What is referred to as ‘nostalgia marketing’ is apparently a very effective way of taking money off of millennials in particular. This is of no surprise to me whatsoever. Millennials likely have the largest pool of cultural references and media to draw nostalgia from and many companies are more than aware. TV and film are also using it as a way to grab viewers. Just to list a very small few: Home Alone, Ghostbusters, Pokemon, Harry Potter, Marvel, Star Wars, etc. All of these thrived from nostalgia marketing (particularly Ghostbusters that was suffering from its awful attempt a few years ago that left the fan base hurling virtual turds at pretty much everyone involved). It’s a difficult game to play when it seems like all everyone wants it the same thing over and over that fits within their ideal. My reaction to that generally, though, is that in that case it’s probably best just not to make it all. But hey, money. Disney are also rampant with their live-action remakes of ‘classic’ Disney films that we all loved as children, and are literally making money from people’s nostalgia. Pure cash cows.

There are countless websites that are also guilty of this. Time and time again I see articles that are absolutely pointless and that use nostalgia as a way to grab the reader in and get that click. BuzzFeed (ugh) and pretty much any other ‘pop culture’ website does this constantly with vapid listicles and the like that are there just to waste your time. It’s basically like selling drugs.

I certainly won’t be getting any nostalgia in the future from this black hole of a website.

Music is something that can bring out nostalgia in anyone. Some artists combine their music with the aforementioned nostalgia marketing (Adele and basically any Christmas song being good examples), but those aside, everyone surely has at least one song that drags up a memory or two that they associate with that song, whether it was designed to encourage an emotion or not. It may even be an entire album. And they can be connected to the oddest of memories that for some reason bring forth a warm fuzzy feeling, even for the mundane. Personally I always get a bit nostalgic whenever I listen to The Darkness’s Hot Cakes album. You’d be forgiven in assuming that this would be their debut album Permission To Land that was released during the very influential teen years, which although does also make me a bit nostalgic, doesn’t have quite the same memories attached to it. I would listen to this album in my last year in the UK driving back and forth to the old people’s home I worked at before I left. It was released that same year and the feelings I remember thinking about how I would be leaving made me sad at the time and yet for some reason it gives me a good feeling when I think back to it. Perhaps it tells me that in the end, everything was all right and there was no need to worry.

The lyrics do not represent the way about my hometown, but the timing couldn’t have been better. Listen to whole album; it’s great!

Whether nostalgia will gradually wane as we become older, I do not know. I only that whenever I speak to my mother about something I think she would like (such as James Bond, which I know she likes or liked?) that she could not care any less for what they release nowadays, or for the past 50 years at that. Sean Connery is James Bond and there is nothing more to be said. It looks like my mother is the winner this round.

‘Daniel who?’

While nostalgia can be viewed as a positive thing in many cases, the fact that some people don’t experience it much on a daily basis I think is indicative of someone with a very contented life. That is not to say, however, that I think people who do experience is regularly are necessarily weak. I myself look back at my younger years a lot with joy and I do realise it can sometimes get in the way of the here and now, and also the future as well. My knowledge of this topic is, of course, rather limited. I feel like this is a topic more for a university dissertation that I quite honestly don’t have enough time or patience to put together, but in a very small nutshell: nostalgia is a fantastic way to make oneself feel better when down and random nostalgia is the best. It can make you a little sad at times, but ultimately is positive and can help you look forward by remembering what once was. Nostalgic marketing, on the other hand, is a vile way of creating capital, a lazy way of producing something and stifles creativity in many circles. Please stop.

Thank you for reading.

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