Scarlett Billinghurst explores...
Nostalgia provides us all with comfort through difficult times; a way of reminiscing on the easer periods of life is a tried and tested form of escapism.
However, the Covid-19 pandemic has lead to an explosion in nostalgia-based content flooding our social media feeds. It’s not surprising that in such an arduous time people sought an escape. The link between nostalgia and feelings of social connectedness is one that has often been explored but has become so much more prevalent in the last year, following the widespread loneliness of lockdowns. Within the pandemic, Spotify reported a 54% rise in users creating nostalgia themed playlists. Twitter reported that the number of tweets containing the words ‘I miss you’ increased by nearly 63% globally. It is clear that our newfound affinity for the nostalgic past has found itself seeping into the online world.
While nostalgia usually describes a longing for a period in your own past, Generation Z’s nostalgia for the 1990s and early 00s shows that they find comfort in imagining what life would have been like in periods they can’t even remember. The emergence of the YZK fashion trend and the resurgence of popularity in 90s and 00s cult teen films seems to be a comforting and fun form of expression for the generation to romanticise the year from hell. The release of Ariana Grande’s ‘thank u, next’ music video in 2018 alluded to the future of a generation obsessed with classic 00s tropes. The video features a number of celebrities acting out scenes from Mean Girls, as well as Bring It On, 13 Going on 30 and Legally Blonde. The video garnered over 680 million views with over 12 million likes and was particularly popular with the Gen Z.
The nostalgia for 00s cult films seems to have reached a peak in the resurgence of appreciation for the Twilight films. The vampire vs werewolf book series originally came out in 2005 and was later turned into a film series in 2008. The release of Midnight Sun in 2020, a retelling of Twilight from Edward Cullen’s perspective, boosted the already increasing interest in the series; the books were not reaching a Gen Z audience as well as the original Millennial fans. The series was even added to Netflix in July 2021, reaching their 209 million users and helping to recirculate the love for the films. The strong connection to Twilight felt by most fans becomes evidently clear just by searching ‘Twilight’ in the TikTok search bar. The hashtag #bellswan has over 1.9 billion views with users cos-playing beloved characters (such as @maryalicebradnon’s impression of Alice Cullen) or recreating Bella Swan themed outfits (a trend known as #bellaswancore). Some fans have even filmed their journey to Forks, Washington, documenting their attendance at the annual Forever Twilight in Forks festival.
The interest in the supernatural genre does not just stop at Twilight. Another film that has gained cult status in recent years is Jennifer’s Body. Released in 2009 and written by Oscar winner Diablo Cody, the film tells the story of best friends Jennifer (Megan Fox) and Needy (Amanda Seyfried) whose lives are turned upside down when rock band Low Shoulder attempt to sacrifice Jennifer to Satan. Upon release the film was a box office flop and was harshly rated by critics due to its mis-marketing to a female audience. Cody wrote the film intending on it appealing to a predominantly female audience with the underlying themes of complex female friendships and the compelling portrayal of bisexual women. However, 20th Century Fox focused on pushing Megan Fox’s ‘sex appeal’, leading to the film being completely misunderstood. In recent years, Jennifer’s body has been rediscovered by Gen Z, who connected with it’s witty humour and satirical edge. The film has become so popular that fast fashion websites such as AliExpress have started to mass produce their own knock-off version of Jennifer’s infamous heart print hoodie.
While the end of the pandemic is hopefully looming, Generation Z’s nostalgic interest in cult classic films does not seem to be slowing down. It poses the question: how many more previously misunderstood films will be rediscovered in 2022?
Words by Scarlett Billinghurst