Nostalgia is not what it used to be: Serial Nostalgia and Nostalgic Series

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In the last episode of Season One of the television series Mad Men (AMC, 2007-), Donald Draper, creative director of Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency, pitches an advertising campaign for Kodak’s new slide projector. Instead of concentrating on its technological newness, as the client wishes, Don emphasises the possibility of a ‘sentimental bond with the product’ and suggests that nostalgia is a powerful way to create this bond. He presents a slide show with photographs from his own family life and names the projector ‘the carousel’, a carousel that ‘lets us travel the way a child travels, round and round, and back home again’. The scene condenses a lot of what the series is all about: reconstructing and reimagining the past visually, discursively and historically by portraying and referring to the key political, social, economic and aesthetic elements of former times. But, while Mad Men seems to be the paradigmatic example when it comes to the relationship between television series and nostalgia, it is by no means alone in dealing so overtly with the subject. In fact, there seems to be a trend towards the nostalgic in modern television: The Hour (BBC, 2011-), Boardwalk Empire (HBO, 2010-) and Downton Abbey (ITV, 2010-), for instance, are all evidently vintage in atmosphere. Svetlana Boym would call this pre-existent nostalgia ‘prefabricated’ she would say that they obviate creativity for the future (2001, p. 351).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMedia and Nostalgia : Yearning for the Past, the Present and the Future
EditorsKatharina Niemeyer
Number of pages10
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan USA
Publication date2014
ISBN (Print)978-1-137-37587-2
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-349-47750-0, 978-1-137-37588-9
Publication statusPublished - 2014