American Dreams, American Nightmares
Genre/Nostalgia 2021 Videos
Watch panels from our Genre/Nostalgia conference, which took place between 5 - 6 January 2021.
In Episode 6 of Watchmen, protagonist Angela Abar is transported back in time after overdosing on a medication called Nostalgia. In these pills are the memories of Angela’s grandfather, Will Reeves, which she then experiences. Rather than a Back to the Future style trip back to the ‘good old days’, Angela experiences American history from the perspective of an African American man whose life is marked by a series of traumatic events. Will’s trauma is part of a wider, collective trauma, a direct result of having to live in a racist society that does not recognise or acknowledge its history of injustice and inequality.
Nostalgia in this context becomes a literal poison. As Lady Trieu explains, the drug Nostalgia is often abused by patients as a way to relive bad memories, compelled to repeat past trauma. In this essay I will explore the many ways the show challenges nostalgia, its alternative history acting as a corrective to the nostalgic view of American history as one that is righteous and just, a narrative reinforced by the superhero narratives that are so currently in vogue (and so often present the superhero as almost exclusively white and male). Echoing Watchmen comic co-creator Alan Moore’s statement that the first superhero film was DW Griffith’s Birth of a Nation, the television series, just as the comic did before it, provides an alternative history (and present) that deconstructs the superhero narrative, revealing the trauma that is so often (literally) masked.
- Lindsay Hallam, University of East London: “So, you’ve taken someone else’s Nostalgia”: Trauma, Nostalgia and American Hero Stories
- Emily Holland, University of Auckland: Grindhouse Nostalgia, Mediated Corporeality and 9/11 in Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror
- Craig Clark, Northumbria University: Interpreting the American Dream as a Nostalgic Genre: A Study of Easy Rider and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
- Sabrina Mittermeier, University of Kassel: Ryan Murphy’s Hollywood and Queer Nostalgia.
Back to the Future Past: Nostalgia and Temporality
In their explicit and constant negotiations between past, present, and future (Kathleen Loock, 2018), television revivals are a prime platform for examining the materialization of nostalgic longing and the confrontation with time’s irreversibility. In this sense, even if nostalgia has always been an intrinsic part of Twin Peaks (1990-1991), the series’ revival, Twin Peaks: The Return (2017), also had to come to terms with a different type of past: its very own. Although discourse on Twin Peaks: The Return has mainly interpreted the revival as a disruption of fan expectations (Matt Hills, 2018), this presentation is grounded on the notion of a paradox: Twin Peaks: The Return, in its refusal to accommodate to the expectations developed around Twin Peaks, actually repeats —and is nostalgic for— the dissonant/differential effect the prequel Fire Walk With Me (1992) had on the tone, geography and character construction of the original series. Taking into consideration the role familiar faces and spaces play on television revivals, this presentation focuses on a narrative and visual analysis of the characters of Dale Cooper, Laura Palmer, and Sarah Palmer through a comparative lens. Along the revival, their characterizations and the visual evocations they enact do more than highlight the material passage of time: they convey a series of repetitions and differences that embody Twin Peaks: The Return’s exacerbated tension between familiarity and defamiliarization, a dynamic also at the heart of reflective nostalgia (Svetlana Boym, 2001).
- Brunella Tedesco-Barlocco, Pompeu Fabra University: “Through the darkness of future past”: the paradoxical nostalgia behind Twin Peaks: The Return
- Christoffer Bagger, University of Copenhagen: The Future Happening Right Now: The Mythic Ages Genre and Cloud Atlas
- Michael Fuchs, University of Oldenburg: Returning to Jurassic Park: Serializing Necrofuturistic Cycles of De-Extinction and Re-Extinction.
(De)constructing National Mythologies and Narratives
This paper explores the relationship between gender narration, Nanking Massacre in China and The Flower of War (2011) directed by Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou. Adapted from Chinese American writer Yan Geling’s novel，this film narrates a history about Nanking Massacre, which took place in December of 1937 during Sino-Japanese war(1937-45), by focusing a group of marginal people-fourteen prostitutes from Qing Huai River in Nanking. Rather than depict directly the braveness, heroism and patriotism of Chinese soldiers in this event of National Trauma, this movie narrates an episode of serious modern Chinese history by a fictional story about how these 14 women behaved in face of death. Therefore, the film could be regarded as a special way for Chinese people to commemorate the trauma of the state. I begin with a review of Nanking Massacre as a historical event and national trauma, as well as the previous cinematic representation. Then, I examine how this film creates an affective experience of national trauma for the viewer by the use of close-up shot and point-of-view shot in the process of narrating an episode of women’s history. After that, I analyze the character of Yumo-the heroine in this film with the theories of Lacan and postfeminism. I conclude by considering why this movie is successful internationally, how the fictional story with a marginal historical background communicates in the world without requiring knowledge about Chinese historical background and language.
- Wei Dong, University of Nottingham Ningbo China: Gender, National Trauma and The Flowers of War (2011)
- Liam Ball, University of Sheffield: “Sorry, Skippy!” The development of nostalgia in Australian horror cinema
- Zhun Gu, Fudan University: The Analysis of Nostalgic Narratives in the Documentary of Li Ziqi under the Background of China’s Soft Power Communication
- Cathrin Bengesser, Aarhus University: When everything is as is used to be: Christmas television as a stage for public service legitimacy.
Dark Pasts: Rethinking Historical Eras and Figures
Jerome de Groot (2009) argues that ‘modern historical artefact[s]’ are often characterised by what he calls ‘Historioglossia’, marked by multiple intersecting historical and cultural discourses and only fully decipherable ‘though a multi-platform consideration’ of their placement within these (2009: 12–3). The Weimar Germany-set programme Babylon Berlin (ARD/ Sky, 2017–) demonstrates this phenomenon; it loosely adapts Volker Kutscher’s Gereon Rath mystery novels (themselves blends of generic detective fiction and factual history) but also draws from, among other things, cinematic genres like film noir and the musical, Weimar cultural modes like German Expressionism, jazz and cabaret, additional historical resources, and ‘quality’ TV conventions in comparable non-German television dramas like Boardwalk Empire (HBO, 2010–4) and Peaky Blinders (BBC, 2013–).
On one level, the programme’s discursive hybridity allows it to appeal widely to German audiences while also travelling well transnationally. However, Babylon Berlin also demonstrates the reflective possibilities that genre hybridity affords for serialised historical drama. This paper will consider how the programme utilises the webs of historical and cultural meaning around its two governing screen genres—film noir and the musical—to contend with the era’s profound complexities. The programme exploits, on one hand, film noir’s historical link to German Expressionism and its embodiment of cultural anxieties and, on the other, the musical’s connection to the progressive, gender-fluid Weimar cabaret culture and its cultural associations with liberation and hope to explore competing cultural forces too multifaceted to easily articulate within the bounds of historical realism. As such, Babylon Berlin offers a window into Germany’s past which, albeit distanced from historical fact, encourages critical historical reflection in a way that demonstrates what Jane M. Gaines (2000) calls the ‘utopianizing effect’ (2000: 109), or political potential, of cinematic fantasy and excess.
- Caitlin Shaw, University of Hertfordshire: To the truth, to the light: Genericity and historicity in Babylon Berlin
- Tom Watson, Teeside University: ‘Based on Truth, Lies…and what actually happened’: Representations of Norwegian Black Metal and Prosthetic Memory in Jonas Åkerlund’s Lords of Chaos (2018)
- Vincent M. Gaine, King's College London: The Spy with the Blood-Tinted Glasses: Nostalgic Espionage of the 21st Century
- Stella Gaynor, University of Salford: Better the devil you know: nostalgia for the captured killer in Netflix's Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes.
Gender in Genre Film and TV: Women and Nostalgia
Superhero blockbuster Captain Marvel (Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, 2019) was framed in popular discourse as a breakthrough for Marvel Studios, the company’s first women-led (and co-directed) film, a ground-breaking “feminist” triumph. Focusing on a character established in Marvel comics in the late-1960s as a response of sorts to US second-wave feminism, the shape of the character in the film bears complex intertextual links to her publication histories.
The film plays into wider representational conventions in recent popular culture through its use of a 1990s setting, inserting the character into distant but still familiar environment inhabited by Blockbuster video stores and grunge music. However, Captain Marvel’s use of nostalgia also reaches into established and ongoing conventions of revisionism and self-reflexivity that extend far into the history of superhero comics form and publishing. This has explicit implications for the character of Captain Marvel, who carries a history through comics and other media as a woman-, or “feminist,” superhero and frequently occupies distinctly a postfeminist subjectivity and temporality.
This video essay examines how the film’s use of 1990s nostalgia ties into ongoing issues of superhero revisionism in the character’s adaptation to a highly politicised, contemporary popular feminist media landscape. Here, Trump-era politics were often overtly criticised, while the film maintained a sense of ideological complacency around meanings of “tough” femininity (e.g. through its construction of military femininity).
- Miriam Kent, University of Essex: ‘You look like somebody’s disaffected niece’: Gender, Genre and ‘90s Nostalgia in Captain Marvel (2019). Watch the video essay on vimeo
- Cat Mahoney, University of Liverpool: 'History is a beautiful thing': Feminising the recent past in Derry Girls and GLOW
- Lynne Stahl, West Virginia University: Perverting Nostalgia: Authoriality, Ambivalence, and Tomboy Narrative in Greta Gerwig’s Little Women
- Sinead Edmonds, Warwick University: Reversing Expectations: The Female Director in Exploitation Film.
Growing Pains: Genres for Young Audiences
In Danse Macabre, Stephen King claimed that ‘what the good horror film (or horror sequence in what may be billed a ‘comedy’ or an ‘animated cartoon’) does above all else is to knock the adult props from out under us and tumble us back down the slide into childhood’ (2012: 123). While King made this statement with specific reference to Disney’s animated features, Disney’s relationship to the horror genre has been largely overlooked. By drawing comparisons between a small sample of Disney and horror films, I posit that the oppositional placement of Disney and horror exists more on a rhetorical, rather than filmic, level. Exploring the rhetoric employed by Walt Disney, I maintain that the Disney brand was consciously built against, and in opposition to, the “corruption” presented by the horror genre. Through placing the rhetoric of Disney in a dialogue with that surrounding the horror genre, I argue that, while both inspire invocations of childhood innocence, it is through the mobilisation (and modernisation) of the Victorian “Cult of Childhood” that Disney both markets its films as a welcome return to the “unspoiled spot down deep in every one of us,” and deflects associations with the more adult-oriented horror genre. Building on King’s assertion that “children are the perfect audience for horror,” I assert that, in analysing Disney’s employment of nostalgia – and, in particular, nostalgia for an idealised childhood – as a conscious marketing strategy, we can better perceive the relationship between Disney and horror as symbiotic, rather than mutually exclusive.
- Victoria Mullins, University of Cambridge: Title TBA: Disney animation and childhood horror
- Filipa Antunes, University of East Anglia: Remaking genre history? Contemporary horror, childhood, and 1980s nostalgia
- Ralph Overill, University of East London: Monsters and Margins: A practice-based reaction to fearsome coming-of-age films
- Frances Smith, University of Sussex: Don’t you forget about me: Generic Nostalgia in the Netflix Teen Film.
Imagined Worlds: Nostalgia in Fantasy & Science Fiction Tele
The Good Place (2016-2020), a broadcast sitcom, interrogates contemporary American political anxieties under the guise of philosophy and food puns. Rather than the space age initiatives and shifts in suburban domestic life influencing the “fantastic family sitcoms” of the 1960s, this modern day “fantastic [chosen] family sitcom,” responds to the glorification of the post-WWII decades fostered during the 2016 political campaign and subsequent presidential administration of Donald Trump (Spigel). By styling its antagonist organization, the Bad Place, with the fashion, technology, and bureaucracy of mid-century America, the show associates that era with a threat. Similarly, the adversarial organizations within the fantasy drama series The Magicians (2015-2020) and The Umbrella Academy (2019-present) invoke the American 1940s-1960s through their use of analog devices such as pneumatic tubes and card catalogs, and costuming including pocket squares, beehives, and cigarette holders. The genres of fantasy and science fiction can be understood to “defamiliarize and restructure our experience of our own present,” and provide not “an escape from reality…[but] a way of understanding it” (Jameson, Alexander). The presentation of imagined technologies and the supernatural alongside recognizable narratives creates estrangement as a lens for understanding the present. These three programs complicate that estrangement further by juxtaposing historical styling, a contemporary setting, and magic. I argue that by aligning their antagonists with post-war America as well as conservative ideologies of maintenance over innovation, these shows critique the “restorative nostalgia” embedded within ‘Trumpism’ and embodied by the political slogan, ‘Make America Great Again’ (Boym).
- Emily Saidel, University of Michigan: “Time Marches On…Or Does It?”: Nostalgia as Threat in Contemporary Fantasy Television
- Laura Gibson, American University: Noir Fantasies in 21st Century American Television
- Marie Josephine Bennett, University of Winchester: 1973 and all that; nostalgia and actuality in Life on Mars
- Louise Coopey, University of Birmingham: ‘Women can’t be knights’: Chivalric honour and navigating nostalgia in Game of Thrones’ fantasy/horror hybrid genre.
National Genre Modes, Transnational Appropriations
This video essay will deconstruct John Turturro’s The Jesus Rolls (2019) along the dual axes of genre and nostalgia. This highly personal films draws on a curious mixture of nostalgia for a specific character, bowler Jesus Quintana in the Coen brothers’ The Big Lebowski (1997), and nostalgia for a very particular genre: the French sex comedy. While pitched as a spinoff of the Coens’ cult classic – which is defined as much by its film noir pastiche as it is by its offbeat characters – generically speaking, The Jesus Rolls is far more indebted to Les Valseuses / Going Places (1974), a scandalous self-adaptation from novelist-screenwriter- director Bertrand Blier. Lifting from Blier’s film, sometimes shot for shot, Turturro’s remake uses its bifurcated nostalgia to redirect its focus from an enduring cult character to a similarly cultish genre.
Yet the waning familiarity with French sex comedies among contemporary US audiences imposes severe limitations on Turturro’s framing. This relative obscurity has shaped critical responses, which tend to acknowledge Blier as a key source without fully recognizing the extent of his influence on The Jesus Rolls. The intertextual foregrounding of Jesus Quintana must therefore grapple with the near-illegibility of Les Valseuses, both in itself and as a representative example of a bygone moment in genre history. The result is a film whose generic whiplash raises provocative questions about the limits of nostalgia in cinematic multiplicities.
- Colleen Kennedy-Karpat & Wickham Flannagan, Bilkent University: Genre/Nostalgia/Quintana. Watch the video essay on vimeo
- Nicolás Medina Marañón, University of Groningen: Nostalgic Evocations: The Cinematic Experience of Costumbrist Films. Watch the video essay on vimeo
- Max Bledstein, University of New South Wales: From Elm Street to Valiasr Street: The Slasher Revival of Mohammad Hossein Latifi’s Girls’ Dormitory.
Negotiating Politics in Nostalgic Genres and Codes
Man-child might be the most prominent image in the history of comedy cinema, then what is the cultural specificity of this character type in Chinese comedy? Two man-child images have gained great popularity on the comedic screen in the 21st century China: the bumpkin and the smart-ass loser. I will examine the films of two comedians with national fame, Wang Baoqiang and Shen Teng, whose man-child personae epitomize the bumpkin and smart-ass loser respectively. I argue that both cases employ nostalgia as a comedic device and register the neoliberal subjectivities in China. How do they amuse the audience nostalgically? What do they tell us about the desires and anxiety of the Chinese neoliberal subjects? Referring to Svetlana Boym’s distinction between restorative and reflective nostalgia, and the notion that nostalgia is both retrospective and prospective, I argue that these man-child comedies can be viewed as social commentaries on the neoliberal “winner versus loser” culture. While Wang’s bumpkin man-child invokes the past virtues to criticize the neoliberal entrepreneurial subject, Shen’s smartass character in Goodbye Mr. Loser makes a thought experiment: if one has a second chance to pursue success, what is the possible result? Nonetheless, the conclusion of the film is to comment on the result of this experiment, showing a reflexive distance from the nostalgic experience.
- Bruce Lai, Kings College London: Nostalgic Man-child in Comedy Films in 21st Century China
- Cody Parish & Autumn Fredline, Midwestern State University: Championing America’s Losers: Resolving the Culture Wars in the It Adaptations
- Matthew Leggatt, University of Winchester: A Stranger Sort of Nostalgia: Texture, Prosthesis, and Politics
- Craig Ian Mann, Sheffield Hallam University: Second Contact: Nostalgia and Alien Invasion Cinema in the 1980s.
New Frontiers: Rethinking the Western and Nostalgia
Much has been written on the relationship between Pixar and nostalgia: as Josh Spiegel writes, Pixar is successful precisely because it offers ‘a nostalgia delivery system while concurrently making legitimately brilliant pieces of art’. However, despite the studio’s postmodern play with genres and generic tropes in their films, there has been little discussion of how audience familiarity with genre is used as a tool to evoke nostalgia. This seems particularly pertinent as Toy Story (John Lasseter, 1995), Pixar’s first feature-length film, opens with a reconstruction of a Western scene and their first hero, Sheriff Woody, originates from a genre rooted in the past.
This paper will discuss how imagery of the Western is used throughout the Toy Story series, particularly as a tool to support the underlying theme of nostalgia. We will consider how Woody’s characterisation and narrative arcs echo those of the Western hero, playing with and subverting familiar generic codes. Finally, through a close analysis of Toy Story 4 (Josh Cooley, 2019), we will examine how the franchise considers questions of the past and its relationship to the present, pointing to the very limits of nostalgia as Woody reacts to a changing world. As a cowboy, a toy and extra-textually, an emblem of the Toy Story series, Woody is a figure laden with nostalgia – this paper will explain how genre codes him as such.
- Reece Goodall, Warwick University: ‘I was a lonesome cowboy': The Western and nostalgia in the Toy Story series
- Paweł Pyrka, SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities & Stefan Rabitsch, University of Graz/University of Klagenfurt: “Because it’s one hell of a life”: Old/New West Nostalgia, the Romance of Ranching, and Elegiac Cowboys in Yellowstone
- Isabella Macleod, King’s College London: ‘What chance has this country got?': using the generic conventions of the Western to expose the oxymoron of Australia as a settler-colonial power.
Nostalgia for pre-digital scares: childhood memories, horror
In his landmark book, Media Generations, Goran Bolin notes that a common component in ‘generational media experience’ is the development of ‘specific, sometimes passionate, relationships with reproduction technologies such as the vinyl record, music cassette tape, comics, and other now dead or near-dead media forms’ (2017:10). This paper will attempt to consider how concepts from Bolin’s work and other key scholarly work on both cultural memory and nostalgia (Kuhn, 2002, Boym, 2002, van Dijck, 2004) can help to shed light on the generational experiences of horror fans who grew up during the home video era, and, in many cases, first encountered horror in this context within the family home and/or with other family members.
In order to map possible connection points and applications, the paper will focus, as a case study, on interviews with audience members conducted as part of a practice-based research project (by Jamie Terrill and myself) on Dirt in the Gate – an ongoing series of 35mm and 16mm screenings of classic horror films held at The Mary Shelley Theatre, Bournemouth, UK. While these screenings attract a wide range of age groups, there is a particular concentration of regular attendees who grew up during the video age and who, based on the interviews we have conducted with them, find the events appealing because they are analogue (rather than digital) screenings and enable them to see films they first experienced on video as children, on the big screen, with the clicks of the projector, ‘big and loud’ (as one interviewee put it). Through close analysis of the complicated ways in which nostalgia is drawn upon and explored in these interviews, the paper will consider how treasured memories of formative experiences of encountering horror at home informs the appreciation of screenings which, despite the different technologies involved, are special because, through the 35mm projector and the big screen, they serve as important endorsements of the horror films of these audience members’ youth while also, through the bringing together of like-minded people, working to situate individual Dirt in the Gate attendees ‘as members’ – through their shared media experiences – ‘of wider communities’ (van Dijck, 2004: 262).
- Kate Egan, Northumbria University.
Objects of Nostalgia: Materiality in Genre Film and Televisi
Although a PhD candidate at the Centre for Research in Children’s Literature, my current project analyses the functions of the children’s book as sign, symbol and index in the adult imagination. I’ve generated a corpus of over 100 texts which treat the children’s book as intratextual object, and have split my analysis by genre: comedy, horror, sci fi, realism, fantasy and thriller. In this presentation, I would like to present findings as to my analysis of films and television in comedy and horror; perhaps, on the surface, two genres furthest from points of intersection, but brought together in similarities through the focalising object of the children’s book.
Recent scholarship by Margaret Mackey (2016) and Allison Waller (2017) has brought the concept of nostalgia to the forefront of the field in children’s literature research, and has provided me with a framework for interrogating tensions between adult memory and experience of childhood reading, and its relation to the production and reception of texts generated for children by these now grown-up readers in response to their own experiences.
The children’s book, one of the key artefacts of childhood, is capable of ‘bleeding’ in to (adult) genres in which it is recontextualised, and illuminates intergenerational and psychological tensions resonant in texts as diverse as the Netflix sitcom Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and (2015-2020) and Jennifer Kent’s 2014 psychological horror The Babadook. Using Jung’s theory of ‘visionary’ literature, I hope to show how the children’s book can act as a illuminative symbol of this concept, which can speak to and across the genres and readerships in which it is recontextualised, as a multivalent index to an essentially unified understanding of its significance to literature.
- Andy McCormack, University of Cambridge: Bleeding Edges: The Children's Book in Comedy and Horror
- Jiří Anger, Charles University: The Milestone That Never Happened: Digital Kříženecký, False Archive Effect, and the Failed Beginning of Czech Cinema
- Caroline N Bayne, University of Minnesota: Domestic un-specificity: The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell and the mid-century kitchen
- Christa val Raalte & Thomas Hassall, Bournemouth University: Playing with the past: structures of nostalgia in Ready Player One.
Queer Nostalgias in Film and Television
Season 1 of HBO’s The Deuce (2017-2019) takes place in Times Square, tracing links between organised crime, prostitution, law enforcement and the adult entertainment industry in New York City between 1971 and 1972. Set in a location and era described by David Church as subject to genrification via “a nostalgia for celluloid decay…indexing perceived sources of social decay that have become classed and gendered markers of authenticity among contemporary fans”, this mediation of genre and nostalgia is sustained by framing New York’s theatre district as equal parts erotic and edgy “in a post-theatrical era in which the grind house as historical referent has vanished from the physical landscape” (2015: 73-74; 107).
This paper will examine two representations of cinemagoing during the first season of The Deuce, focusing on the arrest of Paul outside of the Park Miller Theater on a soliciting charge, and a screening of Boys in the Sand (Wakefield Poole, 1971) at the 55th Street Playhouse. Whereas the former situates pornography and the proliferation of adult theatres within cycles of decline and deviance, the latter foregrounds a mixed audience of homosexual (Paul and Todd) and heterosexual (Ashley and Frankie) spectators in a venue aligned with art cinema to demonstrate how the phenomenon of porno chic complicated distinctions of genre, space and taste as hardcore films entered into wider theatrical exhibition. Furthermore, gay pornography in The Deuce addresses contradictions between nostalgic images of Times Square as an unruly site of heterosexual excess and its historical legacy as queer space.
- Adam Herron, Northumbria University: Saving Michael's Thing: Gay Porn and the Grind House in HBO's The Deuce. Watch the video essay on vimeo
- Ellie Turner-Kilburn, University of Sussex: Creating nostalgia in in Carol: fandom and the creation of queer tradition
- Gilad Padva, Tel Aviv University: Staged Effeminacies, Theatricalized Sissies and Fake Sexualities: A Critical Nostalgic Reading of the Film The Gay Deceivers (1969)
- Vinícius Ferreira, Salgado de Oliveira University & Ana Paula Goulart Ribeiro, University of Grenoble: Cinema and queer nostalgia in the Brazilian documentary Divine Divas (2017).
Reimagining Heritage: Adapting Classic Literature and Beyond
In this paper I will consider the influence of the British heritage film (Higson 1993) on Australian renaissance or New Wave cinema (Dermody & Jacka 1988). Historically, Australian cinema has been considered as primarily influenced by Hollywood (Danks, Gaunson & Kunze 2018). However, I will argue that the AFC genre includes many films which adhere to the British heritage film. The AFC genre includes titles such as Picnic at Hanging Rock (Peter Weir 1975), My Brilliant Career (Gillian Armstrong 1979) and Breaker Morant (Bruce Beresford 1980). These films have been associated with the emergence of a distinctly Australian national cinema (Dermody & Jacka 1988). On the contrary, I will argue that this kind of canonisation of the AFC genre ignores a distinct influence of British screen practices. I will suggest that this period of Australian filmmaking represents an attempt to articulate Australian quality cinema and a subsequent notion of Australian identity as being expressed via a longing or wistful gaze at its British heritage. This will be explored via a comparative analysis of the aesthetics and narrative concerns of this body of films with British heritage cinema. I will also consider how “Australian heritage films” could be distinguished from their British counterparts through the tendency to feature more progressive female protagonists. Overall, this paper wishes to interrogate the ability of the AFC genre to assert an identifiable Australian cinema that is not steeped in either its colonial past or a dominant Hollywood paradigm.
- Patricia Di Risio, Monash University: The Spectre of British Heritage Cinema on Australian National Cinema
- Amy Harris, De Montfort University: The problem with Wuthering Heights (2011, Andrea Arnold)
- Ana Daniela Coelho, University of Lisbon: Evoking Austen: Autumn de Wilde's Emma (2020)
- Will Stanford Abbiss, Victoria University of Wellington: “Duty and Service to Above and Below”: Parade’s End, Nostalgic Lamenting and the Resurgence of Comedy.
Streaming the Past: Contemporary Television, Genre and Nosta
As Amy Holdsworth (2011) has argued, despite television’s associations with ephemerality, it is deeply tied to nostalgia, both as a domestic medium and as a marker of personal and collective memory. Yet, digitisation in the 21st century has ushered in a new multi-platform age which has notably reshaped television production and distribution. Streaming services have adapted existing formats and even inspired new ones, while also shifting viewing practices toward ‘binge-watching’. Digitisation has also facilitated the transnational travel of national programmes and encouraged transnational production. While these shifts have to some extent altered traditional routine patterns of national viewing, new media platforms have also facilitated nostalgic practices by enabling access to old media as well as the ability to recycle and manipulate them, leading nostalgia to be increasingly prevalent in television. Bringing together key researchers in contemporary television, this panel will explore the implications of these shifts and the place of nostalgia in contemporary multi-platform television genres.
- Kim Akass, Rowan University
- Amy Holdsworth, University of Glasgow
- Mareike Jenner, Anglia Ruskin University
- Elke Weissmann, Edge Hill University.
Teen Dreams and Beauty Queens: Music and Musicals
Lana Del Rey’s music video National Anthem, released in 2012, a creative imagining of the life of John F. and Jackie Kennedy, played by rapper A$AP Rocky and Del Rey. Steeped in 1960s aesthetics, the video was based on a concept by Lana del Rey, who was interested in exploring American culture after the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1961. But the music video, as much as it is an exploration of the past, also signifies an exploration of contemporary femininity and feminism. Del Rey’s performance of femininity in National Anthem sits alongside a range of other mediations of 1960s America, most notably the ABC drama Mad Men (2007 – 2015). While the low-fi YouTube aesthetics of the video offer a stark contrast to Mad Men’s high production value, the two media texts connect in their representation of postfeminist nostalgia, which captures a “vision of nascent feminist consciousness” (Spigel, 2013: 271) and at the same time “appeals to many contemporary women because it validates the present by giving postfeminism a heritage” (Spigel, 2013: 273). In National Anthem, Del Rey’s performance of glamorous upper-class domesticity stands in contrast to the emerging feminist politics of the 1960s and contemporary 21st century (post)feminist femininity. In this paper, I argue that Del Rey’s adoption of Mad Men aesthetics as postfeminist nostalgia signifies a performance of femininity that can potentially be understood as a grappling with a contemporary shift in sensibilities from postfeminism towards more explicit articulations of popular feminism.
- Nathalie Weidhase, University of Surrey: Popular Music, Music Video and Postfeminist Nostalgia: Lana del Rey’s ‘National Anthem’ (2012)
- Toby Huelin, University of Leeds: Stick to the Status Quo? Music and Nostalgia on Disney+
- Eleonora Sammartino, University of Greenwich: “Let’s Hear It for the Boy”: Masculinity and Nostalgia in the Remake of 1980s Teen Musicals.
The Nostalgic Imaginary in Space, Place and Time
There is a strong current of nostalgia for the 80s and 90s that mostly tends to appeal to an uncritical, comfortable, innocuous sentimentalism, which basically appeals to the innocence of childhood. This sentimentality is found in pastiche products such as Stranger Things (Netflix, 2016- ) or Fuller House (Netflix, 2016-2020), both looking for a soothing and reassuring nostalgia, a happy place. Filmmakers like Danny Boyle represent some opposition to this nostalgia. In T2 Trainspotting (2017), we go back to the polydrug abusing characters from their generational film, Trainspotting (1996), to wonder and think if it is possible to represent a tragic nostalgia.
Mark Renton, a man in his middle life crisis, suffers a collapse that makes him return to Edinburgh, the place of his childhood, and reconnect with his fellow social dropouts from the 90s whom he betrayed 20 years ago. In this situation, Boyle questions the classic representation of nostalgia and homecoming as the characters have a marginal adolescence marked by drugs, violence, death and betrayal. Renton has a nostalgic urge to return home, to the place of a youth that has been tragic and does not evoke a happy past. It has to do with homesickness, with roots, with friendship and childhood.
Boyle's revisionist stance towards his characters is uncomfortable, ambiguous, and the key to the discourse is emotional attachment Diptych Trainspotting and T2 Trainspotting show a productive, disturbing nostalgia that contrasts with these reassuring products that are a trend of the moment.
- Daniel Nicolau Vidal, Independent Scholar & Jorge Pérez Iglesias, Pompeu Fabra University: Exploring the unidealistic past: the tragic nostalgia in T2 Trainspotting. Watch the video essay on vimeo
- Alex Hastie, Coventry University: “I’m old East End. Real East End. Proper. You don’t mess with me”: Nostalgia, family, and imagined geographies of east London in BBC TV soap EastEnders
- Derek Johnston, Queen's University Belfast: Reading Folk Horror Through Nostalgia
- Steven Adams, University of Hertfordshire: An American in Paris: art, film and the preservation of the modern imaginary.
Video Nostalgia and Analogue Aesthetics
Since 2013, Puppet Combo (originally Pig Farmer Productions) has been independently creating video games which pay homage to well-known slasher and Giallo horror films while replicating the visual style of 2000s era Playstation games. These releases also draw heavily on the aesthetic sensibilities of VHS tape releases, packaged and marketed in a way which alludes to the iconic 1980s video emporium. While it can be correctly assumed that these releases simply draw upon the current appetite for nostalgic entertainment, I contend that Puppet Combo games exist collectively in a universe where nostophobia and hauntology are key to generating effect.
Puppet Combo games feature a diverse selection of environments, including suburban homes, run-down cityscapes, and a convent/religious school. While seemingly disparate, these environments all share a commonality: associations with formative life experiences. The relative safety of home and school are replaced with constant threat and dread. The co-existence of VHS, 21st century technology, and 'retrogaming', create a ‘digital uncanny’ which disrupts the player’s personal historicity via a hauntological effect. This layering of temporalities problematises the appeal of nostalgia, suggesting that audiences may crave uncertainty as much as the comfort of repetition.
- Martin Jones, Liverpool John Moores University: Nostalgia and Nostophobia in Puppet Combo Games. Watch the video essay on vimeo
- Jamie Terrill, Lancaster University: Caught on Tape? Skateboard Visual Culture and Nostalgia
- Shellie McMurdo & Laura Mee,University of Hertfordshire: Dead Media: VHS nostalgia in the contemporary horror genre.
Yearning for Television Past: TV Revivals and their Audience
Since they first aired in the 1990s, Twin Peaks and The X-Files have been enduring hallmarks of cult television. This reputation only increased with the news that the shows were to be revived and, perhaps unsurprisingly, media discourse surrounding the revivals harkened back to the shows’ peaks. Yet this discourse also drew heavily on concepts of nostalgia and generational or hereditary fandom. Havlena and Holak (1991) note, the word means a longing for home – both in the sense of one’s domicile and one’s culture. This paper is interested in how and why fans of The X-Files and Twin Peaks discuss nostalgia in relation to the shows and their fandoms.
I draw on qualitative research conducted with fans to examine both the role that each TV programme has played in the construction of the fan’s sense of self, and how fans understand nostalgia with reference to these shows specifically. I also undertake a textual analysis of media articles about each show to examine how nostalgia is framed in media discourse and how this converges – or diverges – with fan accounts of nostalgia and life course fandom (Harrington and Bielby, 2010). I suggest that social media networks and new media platforms offer the industry an opportunity to manufacture nostalgia amongst fans, but fans in turn refashion that manufactured nostalgia into expressions of fannish self-identity which can be seen across the life course.
- Siobhan Scarlett O'Reilly, University of Hertfordshire: ‘Come along with me to my little corner of the world, you'll soon forget that there's any other place’: The Utopia and Nostalgia of Gilmore Girls (VIDEO ESSAY)
- Bethan Jones, Cardiff University: 'I'll see you in twenty-five years': Manufactured nostalgia and life course fandom
- Ivan Phillips, University of Hertfordshire: ‘It’s a work in progress, but so is life’: Doctor Who and the Haunted Fandom
- Mareike Jenner, Anglia Ruskin University: Looking at Men: On Action TV, Nostalgia, and the Televisual Gaze.