Thoughts with Richard Bleil
Tonight, as I write this blog, I’m drinking a grape soda. I’ve always enjoyed grape sodas. I don’t have them often, but when I do it always brings me back to my childhood. I can’t even tell you why, there’s just something nostalgic about them.
Nostalgia is important to us as humans, although I cannot explain the reason. Maybe it’s a yearning for a simpler time, with fewer obligations, and fewer serious consequences. I’ve written of my past several times before, and it was not, comparatively speaking, a great childhood, although I admit there are those who have had worse. But at the time, I never knew that I was emotionally abuse. It was just the way it was. Decisions were made for me, and I kept out of trouble. I was largely ornamental, and as long as I did my chores and kept quiet there wasn’t much expected of me.
But it’s not just me. I work at a drive-in theater, and I know that many of our clients enjoy attending for the nostalgia. We only went to a drive-in theater a couple of times when I was growing up, but when we did, dad would take the glass cleaner (a large brand name) and clean all of the windows of the car inside and out. To this day, that smell reminds me of the drive-in.
We have some grumpy people drive past the ticket booth. I don’t understand how anybody can be grumpy going to the drive-in. Some are upset that they miss the beginning of the movie, but I have no ability to change the time that they leave the house. Last week, we showed Rocky Horror Picture Show, and the crowd was enormous. This movie is a cult classic, and my bosses sold bags with all of the items needed to throw at the screen. It had bird seed replacing the rice, environmentally friendly confetti, biodegradable newspaper, toast and so on. The crowds were, no doubt, because of the enormous cult following of the movie, but I’ve noticed that there are two other types of movies that have huge draws.
The first is obvious. First-run release movies are always busy, no doubt as people want to see them on the big screen, and probably hoping to avoid the crowds at the indoor theaters. We had a couple of huge blockbuster movies this season and they were insanely busy. The other huge draws are drive-in classics. Movies like Grease, for example, are at least as busy as the huge first run blockbuster movies, if not bigger.
Nostalgia can be used to manipulate people as well. For example, McDonalds has just announced the release of a “Happy Meal for Adults.” I’m not sure what the burger inside is, but the “toy” is just a little figurine. It looks very cheap and, in my personal opinion, kind of ugly. There are a few of them, and a common theme seems to be that they have four eyes instead of two. I guess it’s some kind of art, but I don’t get it. The reality is that these will be huge sellers, not because they’re inexpensive (they’re really not), or the high-quality food (it’s not). Instead, its appeal will be nostalgia. People will love these meals not for the toy, and not for the food, but because many of us grew up with Happy Meals as children, and these will take us back to our childhood. The first Happy Meal was introduced in 1979, when I was sixteen years old, so I guess I missed out on the craze. Maybe that’s why I’m not so enthusiastic about this adult version.
I swim in nostalgia. It’s why I enjoy classic rock, and recently, I’ve started purchasing old classic movies as well. In the background, I have Phantasm playing. I’ve also recently purchased My Stepmother is an Alien, Spies Like Us, and if you promise not to laugh (because it was a mistake to get this one), Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter Is Dead. That last one, sadly, is not a zombie movie.
It seems to me that comedies of the past were somehow funnier than current, and horror flicks of the past were more terrifying than new ones. Maybe it’s because in comedy, they couldn’t rely on swearing and screaming at each other, so they actually had to work on the jokes. Horror movies actually had to develop characters that the audience would care about rather than just throwing gore around, so it was scarier. Or, maybe I’m just being nostalgic, and the older movies are funnier and scarier because I remember them being so.