Corporations Are Exploiting Students’ Nostalgia

Chikanma Pondexter/PantherNOW

Gabriella Pinos/Opinion Director

I have a love-hate relationship with a past I’ve never lived through.

Nostalgia — a longing or affection for the past — is basically that feeling you get whenever you blast “Bohemian Rhapsody” in the car or rewatch an episode of “Full House.” From newer shows like “Stranger Things” to remakes of classic titles like “Aladdin,” it’s become a staple in Generation Z culture.

FIU is no exception to the trend. Clubs and organizations on campus such as the Student Programming Council also adopted the throwback aesthetic, with shirts and merchandise referencing back to shows like “Friends” and “Saved by the Bell.” Last year, the FIU Bookstore started selling retro Sunblazer merchandise, harkening back to FIU’s first sports mascot from the mid-1960s. And, on Monday, Oct. 7, there was an ‘80s themed kickoff party for Homecoming 2019 at the Biscayne Bay Campus.

All the pastel scrunchies and acid wash jeans I see around campus makes me smile — and gag.

Don’t get me wrong, our inclination to feel nostalgia is great, helpful even. Psychological studies have proven that nostalgia is a positive emotion that can help with social coping. I revel in it too; my love for band tees, mom jeans and low Doc Martens is enough to make a hipster hurl.

But to say that the throwback aesthetic is overblown is an understatement.

There isn’t a moment in my day when I’m not exposed to something college kids would wear in the ‘90s. That’s not counting the thousands of retro rock band tees the student body collectively owns; even though I’ve only listened to three songs from George Michael, I’ve worn a tee of his face since 2017.

It’s this excessive love we have for the past that allows older generations – the “boomers” – to profit off our reminiscence.

Since the trend has exploded onto the walls of FIU and the metaphorical walls of the Internet, corporations have made products that pick at our nostalgic heartstrings. Sequels and reboots of old movies and shows like “Baywatch” and “Jumanji” have taken over the box office, raking in millions of dollars.

Advertisers nowadays also love to use “nostalgia marketing,” which triggers positive cultural memories from previous decades to drive their campaigns, according to Forbes. Millennials and Gen Zers have proven to be the most vulnerable to these tactics.

Even institutions like FIU have encouraged students to put on their rose-tinted glasses with themed events and merchandise, although not as selfishly as the “fat cats” in Hollywood.

It’s that corporate, greedy mentality that has soured the once innocent, light-hearted feel nostalgia is supposed to give you. It’s made me second doubt the times I’ve wanted to purchase retro FIU sweatshirts and question whether I should even take part in this trend. Unless I purge my body of nostalgia altogether — an impossibility in America nowadays — then I can’t stop corporations from exploiting my emotions to make an easy buck.

What we can do is at least be aware of tactics businesses use to take advantage of our nostalgic high. Take note of when you see nostalgia marketing in action, whether it’s in the trailer for the latest “Star Wars” installment or the upcoming “Dolittle” remake, or in ads for services like Spotify.

It’s fine to indulge in a “Friends” Funko POP! now and again, but not to let companies profit off your love for them.



The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

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