Being drawn ceaselessly into the past

Ryan deBiase

As teenagers make the leap into full-fledged adulthood associated with the big 18, the future appears bright and welcoming, a departure from the days of asking older friends to purchase cigarettes and porn. Looking forward, never behind, they stride toward a horizon rife with possibilities and new experiences. The influences that defined their childhood are simultaneously cast aside, not even worth considering in the progression toward the more mature realms of NC-17 rated films and 18-and-over shows at the Odeon.

This fore-glancing mentality lurks for, oh, say, another three years, until these feckless journeymen are confronted with the mammoth 21. Now all bets are off, all boundaries surpassed, hurtles cleared. The once optimistic young adult now stares down a different path: (college) graduation, career, family, mid-life crises, banality, conformity and, eventually, death. Suddenly, looking back is no longer as unappealing.

I cannot help but notice a trend developing among this generation of young adults who are constantly looking back at the influences that defined us. One simply has to survey the programming for VH-1 to witness this wave of “I (heart) my childhood.”

These cut-and-paste “documentaries” analyze the influences that defined our childhood. Clips from “Saved by the Bell” are used as marketing tools for making us reflect deeply on seemingly insignificant bits and pieces from the ‘80s and ‘90s. Now, I enjoy reminiscing as much as the next guy, but it becomes slightly ludicrous when a group of friends in their early twenties sits and reflects upon the “Remember 1999” installment of “I Love the ‘90s.” Is there really a need to dedicate an hour of our lives to remember something that should be in our recent memory, anyway?

Yet, when discussing this with a few of my friends, I too was swallowed into full-fledged reminiscence, embarking on an hour-long-in-depth conversation on the role of the “Ghostbusters” cartoon on all our lives. Its role was startling, to say the least, and I can’t deny that the conversation was quite fun and entertaining.

Still, if left unrestrained, this looking-back trend could quickly spiral out of control. Soon, we’ll be seeing advertisements for “I Love May-June 2005” sometime this September. Extremely recent events will be lauded as definitive in our existence. “Oh my God, Becky, did you see that show on VH-1 about last March? Remember that show, ‘The Office’? Me neither, but the clips they showed looked funny, I wish I was there.”And the wave of DVDs will flood the shelves at Best Buy, urging us all to remember remembering our memories the first time all over again.

Confusing? You bet.

But we must realize that as we grow older, we come closer and closer to becoming full-fledged consumers, with our memories feeding the gaping orifice of the media industry. Be selective in choosing which memories to cherish or rather, purchase; don’t leap for those featuring 10-second clips of “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse” and “U Can’t Touch This.” For glancing into the past remains a fun endeavor, and one we all undoubtedly enjoy.

F. Scott Fitzgerald summed it best in The Great Gatsby: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

Ryan deBiase is an English Major and columnist for the Summer Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].