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Stranger Things: Why Nostalgia is Effective in Television and Movies?

The trailer for the fourth season of Stranger Things shows that we love nostalgia and that we consume products that appeal to this feeling.

Still from the series 'Stranger Things 4'

Photo: Netflix

LatinAmerican Post | Ariel Cipolla

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Leer en español: Stranger Things: ¿Por qué la nostalgia es efectiva en televisión y cine?

Stranger Things will premiere its fourth season. In 2016, Netflix launched this series, which was one of the biggest streaming successes to date. For the following year, the application launched its second season, while for the third it was necessary to wait until 2019. What explains that, years later, a fourth installment arises that causes so many expectations?

Stranger Things and Nostalgia

Well, the first thing that stands out is the element of nostalgia. Stranger Things has a great success, which is the recreation of a past atmosphere. The phrase "every past time was always better" seems to live in these stories, especially in a pandemic context, where we remember better times.

Precisely, in Stranger Things reference is made to a return to childhood, where we are able to imagine things, both funny and fearful. In this way, when we see Stranger Things, we not only see a fictional plot, but we also recognize a kind of representation of our own lives.

That is to say, the music, the clothes, the aesthetics and even the dialogues can remind us of the moment of the past. If we empathize with the characters, it is not only because the narrative is well done, but it also happens because we see ourselves reflected in them. In this way, the series seeks to be a refuge for our minds and our enthusiasm.

Thus, nostalgia not only appears with the characterizations of the period, but also with the introduction of elements from the past into the present. In other words, there are movies or series that emerged successfully at a certain time, without evoking nostalgic feelings back then, but they do so now after the passing of the years.

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Examples of "successful" nostalgia today

A clear example occurred with Spider-Man. Sam Raimi's classic trilogy created a furore in the early 2000s because of its own production, not past sentiment. As time passed and the actors aged, the wishes of the fans of a hypothetical return materialized euphorically on social networks.

Something similar even happened with the saga of The Amazing Spider-Man, which came out in the early 2010s as a reboot of the previous character. In other words, if the saga starring Tobey Maguire represented the childhood of many young people, Andrew Garfield's meant a return to adolescence.

For this reason, Spider-Man: No Way Home was a real success at the box office . The return of old characters made many go to the big screen to live, already in adulthood, some of the sensations experienced in childhood and adolescence. And, although it was not the same, the appearance of the original actors moved the public.

Well, Spider-Man: No Way Home was not the only case. For example, the Star Wars saga has always invoked the past, both in its movies and in its series. A case will occur with Kenobi, the future Disney Plus series that will seek to "reach" the public that grew up with the prequels.

Likewise, "secondary" nostalgia is also tapped into, something we're seeing in Fantastic Beasts. In this case, the original actors are not the same, but a new story is created within an already known cinematic universe. So, a question remains: do people go to see these movies or series because of the new things they have to offer? Or just to see the references to previous productions?

For example, Fantastic Beasts 3 was very strong in terms of its narrative and the action scenes themselves. However, its effectiveness in the public seems to be more linked to the references to the original films than to the new proposals. That is why the reunion of the main actors, in the special year-end documentary, caused so much emotion in the fans, even more than the new films. And therein lies the main problem of nostalgia.

If all productions must necessarily have a reference to the past to achieve success, this limits the generation of new independent stories. Thus, the authors are "forced" to resort to the same gags and formulas that served in the past, avoiding building new 100% original plots.

Finally, it is possible that this effect of nostalgia will be seen in a few years with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. When there are no more stories left to explore, it should come as no surprise that the franchise takes a "break" and reboots. In other words, new stories, but based on the original universes of superheroes.

In this way, it is explained why there was such a furor over Stranger Things before the premiere of the trailer for its fourth season. Its effective construction of an ancient era generates many sensations among viewers, which is why it became the most successful Netflix production. And you, will you see it when it is released?