Can We Please Stop Idolizing the Past (Example 587)

So Buzzfeed has taken it upon themselves to educate youth about the past phenomenon of video stores and, in the process, to confirm that nostalgic Millennials may be the most insufferable thing ever.

Yes, it’s cute, but it’s also saturated in sanctimony and grumpiness about kids these days and how their gadgets are making them spoiled and lazy.  Given how our parents fed us the same lines about our N64s and portable CD players, we ought to know better.  We are the digital generation; if we want to complain to someone about easy, instantaneous access to media, we ought to look at ourselves.

Indeed, the video has a distinct undertone of guilt, of regretting that we ourselves were so plugged in and consequently clinging to the one area where we still had to do things the old-fashioned way.

But, really, it’s past time we stopped looking at the idiosyncratic ways we did things in the past and going “Maybe things were better back then.”  Yes, you miss your corner video store, but you miss it for the same reason you miss your Trapper Keeper: Because you were a kid and it’s associated in your mind with all your warmest, fuzziest childhood memories.

The video manages to leave out the uglier sides of the video-rental industry.  There was the relentless–and successful–war that Blockbuster waged against the once-common small neighborhood video stores and the decade of virtual monopoly it enjoyed afterwards as one of the most ubiquitous soulless chain stores in America.  With no competition, it cranked up prices and late fees.

And then there was the economics problem.  Every movie in a video store took up physical space and consequently cost money; movies that rarely get rented were uneconomical and so stores dumped them.  This had two interconnected negative results for the consumer: First, stores stocked almost entirely hit new releases–new releases commonly took up half to three-quarters of the store, with dozens of copies of each new film but only a single copy of the most high-demand older films–and second, video stores actually had a vested interest in pushing everyone towards those new releases and discouraging them from renting older films to make for easier inventory management.  So, if you were a classic film fan, you could rent Gone with the Wind and Bridge over the River Kwai and then you were out of luck.

And God help you if you liked foreign films.

Let’s face it: Anyone from any era could make an argument about how things were better back then.  Once upon a time, you couldn’t just go down to the video store and pick out any movie you wanted (as long as it was a new release): You had to wait until it was rereleased in theaters!  And then everyone would go down to the movie theater, which didn’t cost $10 a person, and watch the same movie together and it would be a community experience because every kid in the theater was seeing Song of the South for the first time.  (This was back when you could still see Song of the South.)  Doesn’t that sound nice?

Also, stop acting like 10 years was a lifetime ago and nobody remembers it.


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