Nostalgia is a Powerful Drug

Welcome to Miyagi Fang.


Every night, my wife and I go to sleep to reruns of The Golden Girls. It is such a ritual that when Hallmark Channel ditches the sitcom during the Christmas season in favor of their signature non-stop holiday movies, we both long for their return in January.

When The Golden Girls was on television, I was in college. I was aware of this show, but I never watched it. The demographic they were looking for did not include me and I’m sure it would’ve been torture to sit through an episode. I was too busy watching Star Trek: The Next Generation and MTV. Looking back, I can’t think of any network show that I watched all the time. Maybe The Cosby Show?

Watching The Golden Girls today is like going back in time. There are certain shows that are products of their eras. It’s not surprising to me that it feels nostalgic, but it also makes me feel old. I am the age now the leads were on the show. It is slightly disconcerting.

With the recent passing of Betty White, all the girls are now gone. Most of the guest stars are gone too. Of course, they are permanently fixed in the late 80s as much as the cast of Friends is stuck in the 90s.

The Golden Girls was all about the next chapter in their lives after divorce or becoming widows. At 53–55, the girls seemed so old to me back then. Even today, when I watch the show, they seem older than their years would suggest. It’s probably the hair. Today, we can get a follow-up series to Sex in the City and all three of those leads are the same age as Blanche, Rose, and Dorothy. Funny, how they don’t seem so old. Again, it’s the hair.

My experience with watching The Golden Girls today is more a nostalgic trip for that period in my life. I get that same feeling when I watch Stranger Things or Cobra Kai.

Nostalgia is the best kind of narcotic.

I recently finished season four of Cobra Kai on Netflix and had an absolute blast. I thought the creators of the show were firing on all cylinders with this installment. While nothing tops that first season, the best thing it did was set the tone for the whole series.

If you are not a child of the 80s like me, the show is a continuation of the storyline from the Karate Kid movies. Ralph Macchio, who plays Daniel Larusso, and William Zabka, who plays Johnny Lawrence, are ostensibly the stars, but their “kids” are also just as important.

As the series has moved forward, showrunners Hayden Schlossberg, Josh Heald, and Jon Hurwitz continue to bring back older characters from all three Karate Kid movies. Adding Martin Cove as John Kreese was a smart choice and a great stinger back in season one. Seeing characters from the first three movies has been exactly what you might imagine — a jolt of nostalgia with a soap opera veneer. I never once thought that this show would live long enough or become popular enough to bring back Elizabeth Shue… and then they did it. I was kind of in awe at how the creators pushed the maniacal Terry Silver from the not-so-beloved Karate Kid Part 3. Thomas Ian Griffith chewed every bit of scenery and is the perfect bad guy for at least season five.

I’ve got a few theories on how season 5 might play out. A Chozen versus Silver match-up, Samantha joining Cobra Kai so she can team up with Tori to take it down, Johnny going all Rambo to save Miguel, Mike Barnes earning his title of Bad Boy of Karate by taking Daniel out, and, of course, a season-ending stinger of Julie Pierce showing up at Mr. Miyagi’s gravestone. It’s fun to play showrunner on popular franchises.

I guess I’m old enough now that all this nostalgia hits me right in the feels. Is that such a bad thing?

I haven’t seen Spider-Man: No Way Home or The Matrix Resurrections, but I know full well that lump in my throat is coming when I see certain characters back on the screen. It will be coming when I see Michael Keaton in full 1989 Batman regalia in the upcoming Flash movie.

While the world enters season three of the pandemic, safety and comfort seem to be at the forefront. Retreading on a successful past is always the safe option. From reunion tours of musical acts to reunion specials focused on Friends or Harry Potter, it is classic and familiar.

It’s no mystery to me why the geekiest of pursuits during the 1980s (Dungeons and Dragons, Star Wars, Ghostbusters, Marvel comics, etc.) has enjoyed a resurgence — the men and women making this art today were the ones who were the outcasts back then. They get to play in the sandbox now and they are taking pop culture backward while trying to push the envelope forward.

It’s certainly working on me.

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