Nostalgia rules at the movies and on TV, but new takes on old properties don’t always live up to everyone’s expectations. And the hate spewed over reboots and remakes from the ’80s and ’90s is among the most savage out there. Listen, I’m a 30-something who was there the first time around. I’ve lived to see everything from Transformers to the Rubix Cube make a comeback. And I’m here to tell you, your childhood has NOT been ruined.
Whenever there’s a new iteration of something people in my generation fell in love with as kids, there are always — and I mean always — a large group of people who complain that is new iteration is bad. Sometimes they make this judgment without actually seeing the new thing. It could be for reasons as simplistic as a character having a different gender or race. The phrase you’ll hear oft-repeated is that so-and-so is “ruining their childhood.” Whether it be a movie studio, toy makers, a segment of society, or George Lucas… someone takes the blame.
If you have ever uttered the phrase “they’re ruining my childhood” in a serious way, we need to talk. Your childhood hasn’t been ruined. For example, no matter how many Transformers movies he makes, unless Michael Bay builds a time machine, goes back in time and personally harms you, he has not and never will never destroy your childhood. If you still think so, here are some counter arguments…
Just because you have nostalgic feelings about something… that doesn’t mean it was good the first time around.
I was a kid when a lot of the popular television shows of the 1980s and early ’90s first came out. I saw them all. I loved them all. Transformers, He-Man, G.I. Joe, The “Real” Ghostbusters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I saw the original Robocop, Karate Kid, and Ghostbusters in theaters. And, of course, there was Star Wars.
Yet, when these classics get rebooted, remade, or re-envisioned, some fans have a fit because their beloved movie/show/toyline/comic are being changed. How DARE they? Well, we’ll get into why that actually makes sense in a minute, but let’s talk about nostalgia first…
That thing you remember? It probably wasn’t so great because your childhood had really crappy production values.
Have you actually gone back and re-watched any of those old television shows? Those old movies? I have, and through an objective lens, I have to tell you that they weren’t all that great. Sorry to burst your bubble.
First of all, all of those Saturday morning cartoons you loved? The majority of them were vehicles to advertise toys. As I’ve mentioned before, they came out at a time that regulations on children’s entertainment basically gutted. It was the wild west and content creators could excessively commercialize their product. It was a mad dash to turn the latest toy craze into a cartoon and because of that, there wasn’t a whole lot of quality control.
I don’t know how many episodes of Transformers you can remember watching, but it was rife with all sorts of animation errors. So many so, the Transformers Wiki has an entire page devoted to them. The same can be said about G.I. Joe and every other cartoon Hasbro licensed in the 80s.
Do you remember Masters of the Universe being actioned-packed and exciting? It wasn’t! In fact, for a show that could’ve had a lot of cool swordfights, it was mostly characters talking about their feelings.
That’s because the writers tried to make the series as wholesome as possible. If you go back and watch the entire run, you’ll notice He-Man never hits anyone, or use his sword against anything living. While the show might have been entertaining as a kid, it’s incredibly dull and repetitive to watch now.
That’s a LOT of hugging for a show about barbarians.
Honestly, the majority of the cartoons we grew up watching were of very poor quality. In addition to the aforementioned animation errors, the writing was bad and continuity was wildly inconsistent. The only thing that mattered was you asking your parents to buy you Optimus Prime for Christmas.
Compare that to today: Sure, the big-budget Hollywood remakes of Transformers, Ninja Turtles or G.I. Joe might suffer from some poor writing, but millions of dollars went into their creation. You will not find the level of production errors in these movies as you found in the cartoons you grew up with.
Consider this: A lot of stuff that seemed awesome really wasn’t. It just looked amazing because you were a kid. And you’re not still a child… are you?
When you saw the original thing, you were a kid. Everything in the world was new and amazing. There’s awe and wonder to be found in every single experience, particularly things that played to your imagination like entertainment. You also didn’t have to worry about anything else, and could commit your full attention to whatever thing.
A kid who sees Star Wars in the theater for the first time has probably never seen anything like it. It’s going to set his imagination on fire. And because playing the latest Super Mario Brothers game, or finishing math homework, is probably his biggest worry, he can spend countless hours mentally wandering and pretend-playing in that world.
As an adult, things are more complicated. We can’t always disconnect and watch a movie in the way we could as children. Moreover, unless it’s something seriously groundbreaking, you’ve probably seen some variation of it before on screen.
At the end of the day, you’re not one of the Lost Boys — not even the vampire kind. You’ve grown up. The problem isn’t with the entertainment. It’s because, regardless how open you are to new experience, they are blunted by the experience of life.