The 40-year cycle of pop cultural nostalgia  APR 16 2012

In the new issue of the New Yorker, Adam Gopnik talks about pop culture's 40-year cycle of nostalgia.

So it seems time to pronounce a rule about American popular culture: the Golden Forty-Year Rule. The prime site of nostalgia is always whatever happened, or is thought to have happened, in the decade between forty and fifty years past. (And the particular force of nostalgia, one should bear in mind, is not simply that it is a good setting for a story but that it is a good setting for you.)

If you combine this with Kurt Andersen's recent piece about the slowing rate of change of pop culture, perhaps there's another lesson here other than Gopnik's assertion that we'll be nostalgic for the Obama age 40 years from now. Maybe we've reached Peak Nostalgia and in an effort to find more and more nostalgia for an ever-increasing audience, culturemakers are mining more from those eras outside of the appointed 40-year era and as a result, pop culture is feeling more timeless, echoing all eras, until it becomes a culture that can't draw upon anything but itself.

And if not, I'm looking forward to the return of 70s-style moviemaking in the coming decade.

Read more posts on kottke.org about:
Adam Gopnik   Kurt Andersen

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