The Sickness of Home
It's everywhere and it's killing the culture
By Gaëtan L. Charlebois
Forgive me if I go Québécois on you for a moment (and Gay into the bargain).
My significant other and I watch a lot of French-language television (read: Radio-Canada). What this means is that we began the television season with an orgy of televisual self-congratulation on the network's 75th anniversary and endless hours of "The Way We Were." Okay, I get it - we were all there with the live plays, the badly-produced soaps, the awful wigs and costumes and weird film colouration and I don't mind a dip into the waters of the past from time to time. (I explained to the SO that my past was Chez Hélène, Friendly Giant, Mr. Dressup and Ed Sullivan.)
Just those shows take up two hours which might be showing actors, in a screenplay, directed by someone - I don't know...drama? comedy?
However, Rad-Can also has nostalgia in their regular programming. One of the hottest shows on the network is Les enfants de la télé (TV's Children) where stars are brought on to watch clips of their back-when on TV. It's gorgeously done and sometimes hilarious but it takes an hour of primetime. Rad-Can also shows En direct de l'univers (Live from the universe) where one guest-star each week is served up the music of their past. Another hour of primetime - poof - gone! Just those shows take up two hours which might be showing actors, in a screenplay, directed by someone - I don't know...drama? comedy?
This is not to mention all the "history" shows which are just personal memories which connect with the viewer without teaching - remember-whens, I call them.
We can celebrate the art of the past, but we absolutely (and firstly!) must nurture the new.
Nostalgia - the love of the past - is actually a disorder (nost/home/returning home, algia/sickness). And it is everywhere. From endless revivals of Oliver! to Mamma Mia, the ABBA musical to the Cirque's Love/MJ Immortal Tour/Viva Elvis to remakes of Footloose to revivals of plays which bring nothing new to the table...the remember-whens which, indeed, connect but teach us nothing.
My question: in art, is this enough? I think not. But more pernicious is that fact that - like those two shows on Rad-Can - they take up space (read: $$$). We can celebrate the art of the past, but we absolutely (and firstly!) must nurture the new. I don't mean the young (though that too) - I mean new.
We must embrace innovation. At the very least we should demand renovation. But we have to start rejecting nostalgia - which is nothing but ovation for stagnation.
(Whoa! I'm channeling Jesse Jackson!)