It’s been bubbling up for a while, but until now I couldn’t put a name to it. I’m calling it Dystopian Nostalgia; the undeniable affection and nostalgia that people in their 20s and 30s have for tropes of their 80s and 90s (i.e. pre mass adoption of the internet) childhoods, deliberately and perversely spiked with adult animus. It finds particularly vivid expression in online videos, and frequently goes viral. There’s probably a book or a PhD paper in pulling apart the reasons for it. Possibly it’s television itself taking the sublimated flak for the parents who left so many children to be babysat by the CRT. If so, get ready for some really vicious dystopian nostalgia when the touch screen babies come of age. Or perhaps optimism and hope for the future have finally died and this is a generation’s revenge on the medium that seemed so intent upon instilling and reifying optimism and hope when they apparently aren’t viable options any more, at least not for 99% of people on the planet who aren’t obscenely wealthy. Note that all three of the videos on this page have a definite pivot point where the mask of sanity and bonhomie slips… and then slips some more, and keeps on going.
I don’t want to seem like I’m on my high horse about it, because I enjoy a lot of this stuff. I just find it fascinating to see it emerging as a distinct cultural phenomenon.
One of the best examples is Becky Sloan and Joseph Pelling’s Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared series. I’ve drawn attention to their videos before, because they’re incredibly perceptive, funny and dark. I also supported their recent Kickstarter campaign to make more of them and on that subject here’s a massively important aside from me as an artist, writer and film maker:
I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to support independent artists, film makers, documentarians, musicians and other creative people on Kickstarter, Patreon, etc., or by buying their stuff directly from them. Even if you only put in a few £, $, or € on one occasion or every month, it’s the best way we have right now of counteracting the mainstream media industries’ contempt for makers and ensuring artists can make a living, because making a living also means we can keep on making the things you enjoy and evidently want us to make. There are links to my own work on the right, HINT.
Now we’ve talked about Responsibility and Patronage, let’s talk about Love. The King of Love is called Malcolm, and he eats gravel.
Lesley meets the Duke and stares into the abyss in Lesley the Pony has a A+ Day! by Christian Larrave:
Finally, Too Many Cooks, which is like the Bohemian Rhapsody of Dystopian Nostalgia, starting as a painfully extended 80s sitcom title sequence before escalating recursively into a lengthy orgy of madness and murder.