Weirdly, just before I started writing this column, all about nostalgic fandom, I discovered the 90s sitcom The Nanny (now streaming on Pluto TV and the Roku app), which I knew about from scrolls through Tumblr, but which I had never actually watched before. It’s an entirely nostalgic experience, even if the show is as old as I am. It hearkens back to earlier days of the sitcom when multi-cam ruled the airwaves and single-cam was a rarity. The laugh track isn’t a laugh track — there was an actual audience, and the characters are so much more than overblown stereotypes.
All this to say, nostalgia is very compelling right now…and a more nostalgic fandom has certainly emerged within the past year and a half. You get people longing for the days of Spirk (Spock/Kirk) mailing lists, you get fan artists and writers recreating zines, and you get the sea shanty phenomenon that’s taking place right now. Sure, the sea shanty is popular everywhere, but I first saw it appearing on Tumblr, not TikTok.
There are also shows other than The Nanny which are experiencing a resurgence. The one that I’m thinking of in particular is M.A.S.H.; yes, the 70s/80s sitcom that takes place during the Korean War, but which is decidedly a statement on the Vietnam War. There was a whole to-do about it over last summer: appropriately titled “Hot M.A.S.H. Summer,” it saw people writing fanfics, writing meta, creating fan art, and just generally losing their minds. Hawkeye/BJ is the most popular ship, but there’s a lot of love for the show just in general.
People are also really into older movies, black and white films in particular. Gifs are very popular, partially for the aesthetic. But it also speaks to the popularity of cable channels like TCM, which many classic Hollywood aficionados watch on a regular basis.
Nostalgia can be a danger, but in the case of nostalgic fandom, it also allows for a renaissance of classic television and films and music. Shows that were underappreciated for years celebrate a new fandom, and older fans get to join in the fun too…that is, if the younger corners of fandom let them in, which is another column for another time.
I’ve written a lot about nostalgia in the past, longing for better times, especially in messy times. The truth is, there’s no such thing as better times or better, older media — there’s good media and bad media no matter the time they were made in. For every Nanny, there’s a Schitt’s Creek; for every M.A.S.H., there’s a Cobra Kai. For every quality classic movie, there’s a quality contemporary movie.
So, nostalgic fandom, keep a hold of your old media, whether physical or streaming, although I would recommend grabbing physical copies of anything. You never know when the nostalgia will be yanked from Netflix or Hulu and put onto…Peacock.