Netflix and Nostalgia: Time-Proven Tales Prove Cross Generational

Amy Chase/Staff Illustrator

Spencer Wu
Staff Writer

There has been an uptick of original shows on Netflix that base the plot in the past. Their cross-generational storylines serve to provide younger viewers with a sense of what the world was like before they were born, and the older audience a sense of nostalgia for their childhood.

This formula is a win-win in regards to expanding viewership and increasing their target audience. People have since been accustomed to shows set in the future, because this setting is played out in television and film. The portrayals are unrealistic and provide an inaccurate portrayal of what may come. Shows like the Jetsons promised flying cars by now. However, going back in time allows the producers to utilize a template to base their creative musings off of.

Netflix using the past as a marketing strategy is relatively new, as many major television shows or web series are primarily set in the present day. This contrast gives viewers a new angle to approach the media, and is an overall unique spin on the traditional show setting.

Probably the most famous Netflix original series is Narcos, which first aired August 28, 2015. The show is an account of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar and his many escapades while fleeing from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. His criminal activity plagued Colombia around the mid-to-late-1900s, where he was responsible for nearly all the drug smuggling into the United States. One interesting thing about this series is that it is shot through the perspective of the present, even though the story takes place in the past, drawing out the sense of time throughout the show.

Already equipped with an interesting storyline and a real-life mob boss narrative, retelling his story on the screen should be relatively simple. However, getting the idea and storyline down is just half the battle. Recreating a sense of the past is crucial to the vitality of this series, for an older setting will make the experience more believable and gripping. The show’s reenactment of actual U.S. history, riddled with crime and drugs, is a documentary film gone Hollywood.

The most recent show on Netflix to make broad cultural waves is Stranger Things, a show about mysterious and supernatural encounters while searching for a missing boy. Set in Indiana in the ‘80s, the scenery and props used in the show provide a nostalgic experience that is difficult to replicate.

Most shows move laterally in terms of setting, meaning they switch from location to location, giving the viewer a picture of different locales across the world. But very few of them move throughout time, much less to the past. This perspective will inform a new generation of kids about a simpler life in the past, and allow older viewers to reminisce on what they have experienced and how the world has evolved in their own lifetimes.