But Does it Hold Up?


By Shawn Robare

It’s weird when you come to the realization that you’re getting older, especially when you’re a kid at heart. Sure, we all tick off each year with a birthday and we watch the holidays and seasons fly by, but as we run through our twenties and thirties, it’s hard not to continuously feel like a teenager.  I make plenty of jokes about being the grump out on the stoop shaking a toy lightsaber at the “youngins” barking at them to get off my lawn, but it wasn’t until the past few years when I really started to feel older.  It started with generally losing track of the music scene and who the comedians were on the cast of Saturday Night Live, but the next thing I knew I was walking out of the movie theater bitching about all the teens texting and how loud and ridiculously disorienting the film was.  Then at work I found myself explaining to my younger co-workers what 8-Trac and cassette tapes are, as well as describing what playing the original Nintendo Entertainment System was so much fun.  They couldn’t get past the fact that most games didn’t have save points or that you couldn’t respawn where your character bit the dust and that you’d have to play the whole level over again from scratch.  Long story short, I really began to start feeling old, like I was officially part of a generation removed that is no longer driving pop culture at all.

cassette1_3033301bI can totally accept that, but there are aspects to this shift in generation that bug me, and it’s not just feeling like I have to defend my pop culture to a younger generation, what really bothers me is having to defend it to my own. I get why the younger generation mocks the TV shows and cartoons that I grew up on, I mean I did the same thing to a certain extent with my parent’s pop culture.  It’s just a symptom of the changing of the guard.  But what really kills me is when folks my age look back to our shared pop culture experiences and they sneer and inevitably say the four words that really burrow under my skin in the worst way, “It Doesn’t Hold Up.”  This typically comes after I’ve been chatting with someone and I mention that I collect 80s era ephemera and cartoons on DVD.  I’ll bring up a series like the Silverhawks or Jem and they’re get really excited as they remember something that’s long been buried in their psyche.  “Oh, I used to love that show!” is what they say, followed by a promise to look it up on Netflix or Hulu.  Then, about a week or so later I’ll run into them again and there will be a weird hostility in their voice as they inform me that they watched a few episodes of that long forgotten cartoon and they were “sooooo disappointed…” because “It Didn’t Hold Up.”

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This always makes me wonder what exactly folks are expecting out of revisiting the pop culture of their youth. Are they expecting the shows to feel like they were written today, with current day ethics and attention spans taken into consideration?  Are they expecting there to be a layer of adult innuendo that they missed as a kid?  Or are they simply hoping that what made them excited, laugh or smile as a kid would still be the thing that hit them in the same place as an adult?  Honestly, it’s probably all three, and after realizing that the first two expectations didn’t pan out they’re disappointed (sometimes angrily so.)  This typically also leads to the ranking game, the “what were the best (fill in the blank) back in the day”, that also usually raises my hackles a little.  Don’t get me wrong.  I have no problem with folks ranking their favorite shows or movies, but it inevitably becomes a competition (well a perceived one at least) where I’m asked to make my list for comparison.  I hate being put in that position as it makes me feel defensive and weird if the other person has already decided something on my list “doesn’t hold up.”  Nostalgia is a celebration and an acknowledgement of the shared pop culture experience, it’s not a competition or a dick measuring contest.

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I think this also brings me back to an ideal that I try very hard to adhere to when writing for Branded, the idea that every cartoon, comic book, toy, live action show, sitcom, band, song and movie is someone’s favorite thing in the world.  Even the Mon Chi Chi’s Rubix the Amazing Cube, or the seasons of Diff’rent Strokes with Danny Cooksey.

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I always try my best to invoke this perspective when I approach a subject, to put myself in the shoes of a superfan so that I can get to the heart of why something works or is cool.  In this online era of negativity with all the snark, butt-hurt expectations and angry backlash from fandom at the mere mention of re-launching a dormant brand for a new generation, I truly believe that I have to take the optimistic perspective and earn the right to bag on something.  I know it’s not popular to continuously play the optimist, but I’d rather sacrifice pageviews, comments, likes and followers for a more fun and upbeat nostalgia experience.  It’s not simply just a matter of “If you don’t have nothing nice to say…”, because I think there is a very important place for dissent, criticism, and anger.  But I do think that that perspective has to be earned or else it rings hollow, argumentative or baiting.

I guess this all leads me to a few questions.  Am I weird for not caring if a show or movie from my childhood “holds up” or not?  Does anyone think that today’s pop culture will hold up twenty years from now?  Have you ever been in a situation where you felt weird for loving a TV show or movie that everyone around you thought was stupid because it didn’t hold up for them?  If there is a show that doesn’t hold up for you, have you still been able to find any enjoyment revisiting it, or does it sort of become something that you divorce yourself from?

  • Paxton Holley

    Does it “hold up” is a dumb question/measuring stick anyway. What does that really even mean? Those 80s cartoons/TV shows aren’t SUPPOSED to hold up. That wasn’t the point. They were supposed to entertain us for the time they were on, not last the ages so people 1000 years from now when pop culture is so vastly different would also enjoy it. Something that was awesome back in the 80s when you were 10 that maybe isn’t as good now when you are 40 doesn’t mean it sucks. It just means you’ve changed. The world has changed. You’ve lived your life.

    I think many people have trouble still appreciating something even if they currently “don’t like it”. Internet culture is binary. You have to like it or you don’t. For instance, I re-watched a few Dungeons & Dragons cartoons and on the whole I still love it because it was something I loved when I was a kid and the nostalgia pours over me like a warm bath whenever I watch it. But honestly, it’s not something I’d watch all the time. It’s a bit hokey in points. But I can still appreciate it because I can still watch it with my 10 year old eyes. Bravestarr. Same thing.

    That’s the difference and probably why you and I do the things we do with the blogs and the podcasts. I follow a very similar rule to you, Shawn. I try not to trounce and bash things because I know someone out there likes them. It was a tightrope I really tried to walk for the Star Wars prequel drilldowns we did on Nerd Lunch. Those would have been really easy to slip into “all of this sucks” mode and I didn’t want that. I wanted a discussion. I may talk critically about these types of things, especially with people that like them, because I want to understand what they like about it. But if I don’t like it and that other person does, I want to be at the very least respectful.

    Unless it’s about Buckaroo Banzai. Because that’s absurd.

    Sorry to run on so much. You hit a button for a lot of us with this article. Well done.

    Pax

    • That was something that I really appreciated about your Prequel discussions on NL because I fall into the bashing camp and even though I joke around on twitter and stuff with you guys about those flicks, I’d never write a full on hate piece. I really dug that you managed to keep the conversation upbeat and balanced. Again, any negativity in those episodes was completely earned.

      Yeah, I still struggle with the black & white, soundbite nature of the internet. We have such an amazing tool at our fingertips and instead of starting constructive conversations (like the letters columns in zines and comics did back in the day) everybody is in a race to mock or extremely praise something. Middle ground man, it’s where we all actually live.

      And I’ll make you see another side of Buckaroo. You won’t be wearing humongous chaps and a ridiculous 20 gallon hat at the end, but you might find something positive ;)

      • Paxton Holley

        If anyone can change my mind on that it’s you. Or CT. But it’ll probably have to be both of you. Ganging up on me.

        ;-P

        • I have a feeling the process will look a lot like this…

  • You know, I recently went on a rant about people getting ridiculous about the new Power Rangers costumes. It drives me insane the level of anger for things not being “like I remember it” for people.

    I’ve said the words, “it doesn’t hold up,” but usually when I do it’s to point out that it’s the MEMORY of the show that you love and miss and crave. It’s the time you spent, the excitement that you felt…you were a kid. Power Rangers was dumb, but when you’re a kid, it was the coolest thing in the world. AND THAT IS OKAY. It’s okay for things to not be AS great to you now that you’re an adult. You have to ride different bikes and get jobs and find new shows to love.

    You can still love the old stuff, but people’s context HAS to change when they go to watch it.

    For instance, I’ve been rewatching the 90’s TMNT with my kids. It’s so dumb as I’m watching it as an adult, but my kids are LOVING it and that makes me so happy. It doesn’t MATTER what I think about it anymore. It’s about the memories I have of my favorites from 20-30 years ago.

    Just because “it doesn’t hold up” doesn’t mean it’s not still good, or fun, or that my memories of it are irrelevant now or that it’s somehow ruined my childhood. It’s just different. My tastes have changed, but that doesn’t mean I can’t share my old favorites with my kids or other people.

    • I think that’s the healthy mentality to strive for. I see too many people that don’t follow through with that thought process, they just get disappointed and then angry or dismissive. Of course kid’s shows are a little goofy, they were made to make kids happy and kids are goofy as all get out. It’s all about perspective, appreciation and framing.

      I guess I get a little bummed out about it because I find a great sense of joy in revisiting what it feels like to be a kid from time to time. I think it grounds me and lights the fire inside that I need to tackle all of the adult crap that gets heaped on us all every single day and I feel bad that others can’t seem to find that spark.

      Thanks for putting in your two cents, very good points.

      • Paxton Holley

        Yes, excellent points, Brian. Especially about the kids. I know my kids love TMNT now but I never really got into when I was younger, but I’m loving them now. Most of that has to do with the new show. But kids change/add lots of context and perspective to things. Things I never would have thought I’d like suddenly turn into things I like because my kids are so passionate about them.

        Another extreme to this, which you touched on Brian, are the “my childhood is sacred and anything today doesn’t/can’t match up EVER” people. I have a friend that will not accept anything new with things he liked when growing up. He and I collected comics together for YEARS, but he gave up comics because they “suck” now. But ask him what he’s reading and he’ll tell you, “I’m not reading comics and haven’t for like 15 years”. So in actuality, he doesn’t know they “suck”. And no amount of my telling him comics are good now and giving him examples changes his opinion. The Chris Claremont years of the X-Men were the best ever. Period. No argument. Despite the fact I KNOW we used to make fun of Claremont’s glacial pace in moving his plots forward. Ugh, it’s so frustrating talking to someone that completely shuts down like that.

        I had a similar conversation with him about the new Star Wars. He wrote me at least 20 emails, 5-6 paragraphs long of all the things he saw were “wrong” with the new Star Wars movie and why the originals were so much better. AND he’s including the prequels in his discussions. You can’t talk to someone like that. Their argument is based on their perceptions of the past and not on there experiences of the future. SO FRUSTRATING.

        Ugh, did it again. Sorry Shawn. This subject has been a real hot button for me the last year or so with several of my friends.

        • No apologies Pax, this is the exact kind of conversations I was hoping to evoke with the piece. It’s weird, I can relate to that mentality of “my past is sacred”, but at the same time I really don’t understand it. I have the same initial reactions to announcements of Ghostbusters remakes or new Star Wars flicks, etc, but then I put all that aside and give the new stuff a chance.

          I also found when I was watching movies from the 30s-60s that I had to try extra hard to watch them from the perspective of someone who hasn’t seen modern films. It’s hard, but not impossible, and when I do that a whole world of awesome stuff pops up. When I watch Citizen Kane I can see how genius it was for the time, whereas if you just hold it up to similar films today it “doesn’t hold up”.

          Also, I challenge all the folks who think that stuff from the 70s and 80s was perfect to rewatch it with a very critical eye. All of that stuff is just as flawed as the remakes that everyone gets so angry about…

          • Paxton Holley

            EGGS. ZACTLY.

          • and that’s why we have a podcast together :)

  • DUSTINDUSTRIES

    My home internet was down for 6 days recently and it was like going back in time. I actually got more of my projects done ( Pax there is a few cool X-Men items I custom made from Original comic pages I will show you on Twitter )

    After going through some old computer files I found 4gb and over 400 old commercials that I had downloaded a few years ago. Some amazing gems including a Tonka MOTU power bike/ big wheel ad.

    • Oh neat! Yeah, it’s kinda scary how productive we can become when we just step back and unplug for a bit…

  • DUSTINDUSTRIES

    I like watching old movies and TV shows now and looking for old packaging, advertising and now obsolete electronics in the background. For me a lot of old movies and TV shows still hold up if you look at them in the right light. Planes, Trains and Automobiles was on TV recently and it was as Awesome as ever, if not more so as it was on TV in a bunch of homes at the same time in 2016.

    • Yeah, I do love starring at the stuff in the background. So much fun stuff. I live movies like Manhunter partly because of the scenes shot in the grocery store. Same for the Legend of Billie Jean for the mall scenes…

  • WishItWas1984

    First I’ll say that we most definitely not the generation driving pop culture anymore. Nor should we be. That’s for the young. However, I think there’s something new now thanks to the internet, the ability to have multiple “pop cultures”. We have disposable income, and with the internet, the ability to surround ourselves with OUR pop culture. Therefore, new products come out that appeal to us specifically. So I think there’s multiple pop cultures out there now.

    To the “Doesn’t Hold Up” point…man the adults who truly get angry or disappointed need a reality check. The mind of a 1980s kid vs. that of a 2016 adult is DRASTICALLY different. How any can even think it’s possible to enjoy some of this as gripping TV or film, is pretty funny. They honestly shouldn’t still work, which is what makes the stuff that does so amazing. And there’s so much of it.

    Watching an old cartoon or movie, playing an old game or listening to old music is first and foremost a trip down memory lane. Nostalgia pure and simple. The same as holding an old toy or looking at an old photo.

    But when that old still brings actual pleasure past nostalgia because it was created so well, that’s something special and like I said, we have so much of it.

    The younger generations crapping on our childhoods is amusing. I remember distinctly being shocked when hearing how my grandfather played as a kid. It made me appreciate the (then) cool crap I had access to.

    We might not have had the internet, HD video, digital music or hyper-realistic video games…but it should give a kid pause when we say we wouldn’t change a thing. We were there for nearly all of it, from the start to the apex to the decline. Computers, video games, board games, electronics, home media, color television, cable, the internet….

    The 80s was the golden age of all pop culture. Where we had a million unique things, got to experience the highlights of the 50s-70s and then we lived through every amazing moment of the dawn of the digital age.

    I’ve heard many young people say they wish they were us. The ones that don’t, just have no idea what they missed out on.

    • Yeah, I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. The 80s in America appear to exist in a hyper-reality filled with idiotic
      consumerism, over indulgence and some pretty bad music, but the decade was
      the nexus at which point pop culture and corporate branding, both at an
      apex, merged into one gargantuan beast that changed the direction of
      entertainment and the general perception for most of the planet. Technology, entertainment, consumerism all at a height that shaped the world into something new.

      And you’re 100% right, the mindset and likes of a child should not equal that of an adult. But the ability for an adult to slip into that childhood mindset from time to time is one of the easily and most visceral ways to recharge one’s battery, to realign your thoughts and to remember where you came from so that you can more clearly see where you are going.

  • OK, so the “doesn’t hold up” thing really doesn’t bother me especially when people really give it a chance. We all have measuring sticks in our minds and sometimes things (like I believe you and Nerd Lunch mentioned about VHS covers) are just best left alone or not revisited. It has to do with expectations when you do “rediscover” something. If you really hold something that highly as a kid, wouldn’t it carry over to today? What really kills me is the “childhood ruined or even raped” crowd. Are all these reboots really so big that they have consumed your memories and everything to do with the property? If they have, chance are it’s something that you feel didn’t held up to begin with.

    • Yeah, “the you ruined my childhood” mentality is pretty crazy. I mean, that like saying just because you had a bad slice of pizza, that it taints every other slice you’ve ever eaten. That’s just crazy entitlement…

  • zevadof1978

    “Doesn’t hold up.” Yeah they are looking through adult eyes. Which is the mistake. You can’t use your adult eyes to look at this stuff. You have to use the inner child. If you use the adult you’ll over analyze everything. Notice all the mistakes. Not that I didn’t notice that as a kid as it was weird to see a character’s voice come from another character’s body. But yeah the adult mind will dissect it. Look at the plot holes. Continuity errors. If you do all that then of course you’ll have a sour experience. I admit my mind does both. Always have. I remember hating Rodimus Prime because I blamed him for Optimus Prime. Now? The hate is gone but now I’m more annoyed with him if anything.

    I recently got the entire Centurions series through Warner Archive as well as Galdar and the Golden Lance. Can’t wait to see how both my inner child and adult self will react.

    And hey you got to get that cartoon dvd link updated. Centurions is now complete. So is Go-Bots. And they did a complete release of Star Com too! http://www.amazon.com/Retro-TV-Toons-Starcom-Complete/dp/B00QMWEIQ2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1463321385&sr=8-1&keywords=starcom
    Thanks for the great site!
    Zevad of 1978 aka twitter handle zeta_mecha

    • Yeah, behind the scenes stuff has totally kept me from updating that 80s cartoon list. Need to get on that.
      Yeah, I think most people have a hard time switching perspectives (or even realizing that their perspective has in fact changed.) Change is happening all the time and sometimes it’s so slow you don’t realize it’s happening.

  • CalRob

    On the whole, I find very few things that were widely acclaimed / liked / loved in the 1980s that aren’t still high-quality today. Back to the Future, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Romancing the Stone – these are all still great movies. G.I.Joe & Transformers were the best cartoons then, and remain the best cartoons of that era today – the ones most likely to “hold up.” The thing is that the “best” is old hat. Most of us have already seen those and are looking for more from that magical decade. The “more” that we find is usually scraping the sides of the barrel rather than culling the cream from the top. Go-Bots was always an also-ran to Transformers – of course it “doesn’t hold up.” It wasn’t that good then or now (I just watched this mini-series a few weeks ago, incidentally).

    It is difficult and often times impossible to embrace the un-jaded, un-critical mindset we once had that allows us to accept and enjoy these “sub-par” shows. It isn’t just kids’ TV – ’80s adult shows aren’t always that good, either. Part of it is simply the wealth of entertainment options now available. Whereas in the ’80s many of us had three to six channels, now we have umpteen million options – all on-demand via streaming TV. With limited options, we learned to enjoy what was available; with unlimited options, critical evaluation becomes more key so that we don’t “waste time” on something that is boring or uninteresting.

    What makes the 1980s unique is the spirit of optimism and the relative clean-ness of the story. The good guys win, the guy gets the girl in the end, and they manage to pull it off without it always seeming cheesy or ironic, and without having to throw some “twist” on things, and without making their soul black with anti-hero attitudes and actions. Those are the attributes that have allowed my wife – who is quite a bit younger than I am – to really enjoy the 1980s and come around to my point of view that the decade and what it has to offer is far superior to anything that came before or has come about since.

    • Shawn Robare

      Granted this is going to be a taste/perspective difference, but I think there were a lot of other great shows and movies that most folks missed or never gave a chance. I’m thinking of stuff like the Silverhawks or ThunderCats, the Rankin/Bass animated cartoon series stuff, or movies like The Monster Squad or Rad. That being said, I will attest that there is definitely a whole range of quality in the 80s output. But even the “bad stuff” usually has interesting aspects that make it worth visiting for fans of that decade. For instance, you brought up the Go-Bots, and I’ll surely concede that the cartoon series was a bit derivative of the Transformers (even if the property preceded Transformers, at least the American incarnation of Transformers, by at least a year or so.) But at the same time G0-Bots was doing stuff that the Transformers cartoon didn’t attempt broaching until well into the later seasons like female robot characters or a deeper explanation of how these robot beings came to be.

      I think there’s also a bit of a misconception, or maybe more accurately a miscategorization, of what constitutes “sub par” or “bad” entertainment. I think people tend to link a level of goofiness or silliness in the tone or storytelling with bad execution when I think in many instances this was 100% intentional on the creator’s parts. I think of shows like the Dukes of Hazzard where people mock the fact that there are hidden ramps everywhere in Hazzard county and that there is no reason for the Duke boys to always be launching their Challenger in the air in card chases. But I’d argue that it’s essential to the spirit of the show. It is called Hazzard country after all, and who doesn’t love seeing a car jump at least once an episode. It’s awesome! So one person’s goofy, is another’s exciting. I’m not pointing this example at you, just illustrating the point that it boils down to perspective. Again, every show, no matter how derided or mocked, is someone’s favorite, and there has to be a reason for that (and no, you can’t just level that at the viewer either.) I think of the new TMNT live action movies. I can’t stand them, and I wholeheartedly think they are both badly written and badly executed. But I know a lot of hardcore TMNT fans (whose opinions on the brand I trust) who love that first one and are stoked for the second.

      I realize that this beings the topic dangerously close to the idea that there is no such thing as bad entertainment or that it’s wrong to criticize shows you don’t dig, neither of which I feel is the case. But I think there is something to be said for celebrating the stuff you love, and not bothering to take the time to focus too much on the stuff you don’t (unless it’s your job as a critic I guess.)