Marvel Does Not Need to Make Crystal Pepsi or Coke II: On Nostalgia
It’s clear I suck at keeping up with this thing, especially when there’s only three posts a year and two of those begin with it’s been a long time, I shouldn’t have left you, without a dope beat to step to. That’s not to say things haven’t been happening. It’s been fairly active in my world. I’m touching up my novel In the House of In Between, beefing it up, expanding some themes, turning it into a proper novel. I’ve had a taste of conversing with an agent. I’m getting a handle on Twitter (sort of) and that helped me get in touch with more people in the “industry.” In between those efforts I wrote the first draft of the beginning of something quite large. I’ll reserve revealing too much on that until there’s something more substantial to report.
There’s been my efforts to play more games, to kill my backlog, my stack of shame. Since January I’ve played over thirty games, and beat some of those, some with the help of my buddy Dave (@keebnuts) as we co-op online. I’m keeping track and that itself is probably its own post to expand on.
Then there’s movies and why I started this post. I’ve seen a lot I haven’t reported on, I won’t go over it all, I’m here for Guardians of the Galaxy. But I will say that seeing Lucy last week was fun, but entirely fluff. I knew going in the science was so much crap it would hurt, but I was able to switch off and for the most part enjoy the fodder it was. With a co-worker I compared it to a Trapper-Keeper. Pretty digital art but the more you open it up the more it falls apart.
Guardians of the Galaxy opened by smashing records. It broke Bourne Ultimatum’s record, but fell shy of Rush Hour 2’s. It neared this year’s opening weekend winner, Transformers 4. The important thing to take away from all that? This is an “original” property. The Guardians have never been represented on film before, in fact the team present hasn’t existed in the comics up to now. Even comics fans were going into this blind. The only thing any of us had going in was that it was Marvel and OOGA CHAKA! Everything else is a sequel, an established property, a recognizable product. This asked us to just come along for the ride.
I realized while watching the film, between fits of laughter and FUCK YEAHs, that this was a hardcore love letter to people my age. Generation X, Y, maybe Millennials, had these awesome childhoods in the late 70’s, 80’s, & 90’s. We saw great new movies and heard awesome new music and understood the stuff that inspired it thanks to our parents’ love of the same thing thanks to major artistic movements of the decades before. We had a great rise upward for years and this movie’s protagonist, Peter Quill, sits perennially at the top of that wave.
Chris Pratt was playing a man-child on Parks & Rec, casting him was genius. Even if he didn’t lose the weight and gain the muscles, he would have been perfect in his delivery. He’s the forever kid. From the opening “dance number” to trusting his friends by the end, there was a lot here that was straight out of Saturday morning cartoons and after school specials. Despite being crass, a known criminal, and an A-hole, he’s the one who jumps at joining a team of misfits. He misses some semblance of family thanks to losing his mother and subsequently his entire species. He’s alone; but the pain from which he ran, he’s okay with that. I know that pain, I’ve wished I was the only human living among outlandish freaks in a space empire; when I was a kid and as recently as…right now as I write this.
The nostalgia rampant in the movie, and in Hollywood and TV and video games and music, it’s directed right at me. I realized sitting in the theater, probably when he’s asking the team to really come together, that Peter Quill hasn’t lost hope. Yeah, he’s living an impossible adventure, but if you look at his character alone, he left in 1988, he’s old enough to remember TMNT and Alyssa Milano fondly, but he never dealt with impeachment proceedings, blue dresses, hanging chads, and 9/11.
We’re so eager to dip back into the past not just because we grew up, but because of what we grew up into. I turned 22 on September 5th, 2001–an awesome time for most young adults, still young enough to be naïve, but old enough to party down and be responsible for your actions (even if you’re not very responsible)–then six days later the world ended. It’s been downhill ever since, wars and growing political unrest and dubstep have made my adulthood just a major ball of stress.
Quill doesn’t have that, the denizens of the galaxy go on oblivious to our depression, and every time a re-master, re-make, re-boot, or re-group comes around, we’re desperate to clutch at it in hopes of finding the happiness we once knew. The movie is so jam-packed with quotables that that seems like a bit of the love letter, too. This is Indiana Jones and Star Wars and Saturday morning and riding my bike halfway across town to hang out with friends and first cars and kisses and drinks all rolled into a mix tape.
It’s the world we’re supposed to live in. But that possible future was stolen from us and nostalgia is the tattered gift given to us by people who understand but still want to make a buck. Except James Gunn gets it. There’s the dick (though not 100% a dick) who hides a hurt kid behind machismo, the rageaholic with no sense of humor hiding the hurt of loss, the abused adopted child who will always be running away, the bullied outcast, and the dope who is way smarter and beautiful than anyone is willing to give him credit. These aren’t just good hero archetypes, they’re the Breakfast Club, and they’re us. They are losers in that sense of having loss, and every last one of us struggling to recapture our past suffer that loss in many different ways as well. Grabbing onto those things that hurt us the most is important for saving the day and our lives, but not by yourself. The power of friendship saved the day and that was so epic it hurt.
Marvel expanded their universe and they stuck to the formula that has worked so far, but there’s no need to change that right now. If a good thing works, don’t tweak it, change can sometimes really screw things up. Plus, Marvel’s got plenty of opportunity to shake things up with upcoming projects. Guardians reached out and told me there’s nothing to be ashamed of in nostalgia, but it also showed that you must wear it like a badge and move forward. Never let go of the past, but never let the past hold you back.
And if life gets too rough, dance. We can save the day. We can be like Kevin Bacon.