toxic nostalgia edition

Welcome, world, to this, the day before my period. My anxiety, like a furious elemental protogod, has broken through its feeble medication-forged chains on a violent surge of hormone disruption, I’m on the verge of vomit after spending the last hour reading climate change news while eating half a jar of Nutella with a spoon, and the heat index is currently 110 degrees, so strap in, friends, we’re going for a ride.

Let’s talk some more about this goddamn roller coaster. Months ago, after they’d announced the ride’s closure, I posted a little eulogy here for Fire in the Hole at Silver Dollar City. I rode it one last time this summer, with my daughter, in the front row. Afterward, we bought her a tiny shirt that reads “Fire in the Hole: the Last Ride,” and were more disappointed than we cared to admit that they were out of the adult sizes.

I said goodbye, is what I mean, to an odd little piece of my childhood, and doing so felt nice and made me smile a lot (even if we learned the hard way that my kiddo is not a roller coaster person – sorry kiddo).

But now I know that whole “last ride” thing was a total manipulation. Turns out, they’re closing it because they’re rebuilding it. Bigger! Better! Everything you loved about the first one, but MORE! With an attached souvenir shop and food court! A whole new district – the Fire District – for the park!

And I hate this so much. I hate how they pretended to tear down something a lot of people have fond memories of just so they could over-capitalize on all the nostalgia they deliberately stoked.

And it’s not just the ride that’s making me grouchy, although I recognize that this is the third time I’ve brought Fire in the Hole up on my Substack and it’s probably starting to seem a little obsessive. It’s also the remakes, the reboots, the reunion tours, Halloween advent calendars, the upsetting CGI version of Flounder the fucking fish, et al. The metaphor I think I want involves the zombie fungus Ophiocordyceps unilateralis (capitalism is the fungus, our ability to feel joy is the ant).

Or is it an empire collapse thing? Was some middle-aged Roman lady out there scrawling on a wax tablet and bemoaning the fact that all the latest mosaics were just stale repackagings of the designs everybody liked back when they were kids during Marcus Aurelius’s reign?

[I have done zero research or investigation regarding that claim, so please treat me like someone who’s cornered you at a party and you’re not sure why I’m yelling quite so loudly.]

And in some ways (buckle up, this is going to be more tortured than the ant metaphor), corporate reliance on decades-old IP for easy remixes feels like it’s of a piece with just inviting generative AI right on in to our cultural output. Because where a shortcut can be taken, an entity that solely exists for profit is going to take it. There’s no shortage of artists out there producing excellent ideas, it’s just getting a lot harder for them to get paid for doing so and for them to get access to major platforms with said ideas.

On the other hand though, I know a lot of things are really hard right now and some of them are probably not getting better any time soon, if they get better at all. I like notalgic stuff too (see also: Yellowjackets’ impeccable soundtrack), and there’s nothing wrong with enjoying something from the past that makes you feel cozy and settles your brain for a minute.

Just, you know, we’ve got to work toward a future too, I guess is what I’m saying.

Anyway, I’m sorry for yelling at you.

Before I get started on the second half of this jar of Nutella, though, here are some things I’ve liked recently:

I love you all and take care of yourselves out there.

Keep up with me.

No promises.


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