U.S. Dept. Of Retro Warns: 'We May Be Running Out Of Past'
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Mon, 24 Nov 97 12:12:24 -0800
Subject: U.S. Dept. Of Retro Warns: 'We May Be Running Out Of Past'
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U.S. Dept. Of Retro Warns: We May Be Running Out Of Past
WASHINGTON, DC--At a press conference Monday, U.S. Retro Secretary Anson
Williams issued a strongly worded warning of an imminent national retro
crisis, cautioning that if current levels of U.S. retro consumption are
allowed to continue unchecked, we may run entirely out of past by as soon
According to Williams--best known to most Americans as Potsie on the
popular, 50s-nostalgia-themed 1970s sitcom Happy Days before being named
head of the embattled Department of Retro by President Clinton in 1992--the
U.S. exponentially decreasing retro gap is in danger of achieving parity
with real-time historical events early in the next century, creating what
leading retro experts call a futurified recursion loop, or retro-present
warp, in the world of American pop-cultural kitsch appreciation.
"Such a warp," Williams said, "was never a danger in the past due to the
longtime, standard two-decade-minimum retro waiting period. However, the
mid-80s deregulation of retro under the Reagan Administration eliminated
that safeguard," he explained, "leaving us to face the threat of retro-
ironic appreciation being applied to present or even future events."
"We are talking about a potentially devastating crisis situation in which
our society will express nostalgia for events which have yet to occur,"
Williams told reporters.
"The National Retro Clock currently stands at 1990, an alarming 74 percent
closer to the present than 10 years ago, when it stood at 1969."
"Nowhere is the impending retro crisis more apparent," Williams said, "than
in the area of popular music. To the true retrophile, disco parties and the
like were common 10 years ago. Similarly, retro-intelligentsia have long
viewed New Wave and even late-80s hair-metal retro as passe and no longer
amusing as kitsch," Williams said. "We now face the unique situation of 90s
retro, as evidenced by the current Jane's Addiction reunion tour: nostalgia
for the decade in which we live."
"Before long," Williams warned, "the National Retro Clock will hit 1992,
and we will witness a massive grunge-retro explosion, which will overlap
with the late-period, mainstream-pop remnants of the original grunge
movement itself. For the first time in history, a phenomenon and nostalgia
for that particular phenomenon will actually meet."
In other words, to quote 90s-retro kitsch figure David Lynch, Williams said,
"One of these days that gum you like is going to come back in style."
Anthropologists hold that retro began some 40,000 years ago with the early
hominid's mental projection of trace infantile-dependency memories into a
mythical golden age. Continuing with the Renaissance's rediscovery of
Greco-Roman homoeroticism and the mass Egyptology fashions of the Victorian
Age, retro had, prior to this century, always been separated from the
present age by a large buffer of intermediate history.
Since 1900, however, the retro parabolic curve has soared exponentially,
with some generations experiencing several different forms of retro within
a single lifetime.
"This rapidly shrinking gap between retro and the present day is like a
noose closing ever tighter around the neck of American kitsch," said Harvard
University professor of American culture Louis I. Szilard, "or, if you will,
a warning light, similar to the electric buzzer-nose of the naked fat man
in the Milton Bradley fun and skill game 'Operation.'"
The Department of Retro warning comes on the heels of its 750-page Report
On Nostalgia Viability And Past-Depletion Reduction Strategies, which
examined the effects of the ever-increasing co-option of retro trends by
According to the report, retro-kitsch aesthetics--previously the domain of
a tiny group of forward-thinking, backward-looking alterna-hipsters, or
retro-cognoscenti--have become so prevalent in the national pop-culture
psyche over the last decade that they have been absorbed into the marketing
strategies of major retail chains and mass-media promotional campaigns.
Cited as an example is Entertainment Weekly Dance Hits Of The 70s
free-with-subscription CD giveaway, which boldly includes the slogan "Retros
Such mainstreaming of retro, the report warned, has forced the hipster-elite
element that formerly dominated the retro world to seek increasingly current
forms of retro, a trend which threatens to consume the nation's past
reserves faster than new past can be created.
"The severity of the coming retro crisis," Williams said, "is compounded by
the increasing complexity of modern retro, evidenced in current youth's
skewed perceptions of older generations who themselves were born and raised
in a retro-aware environment."
"In the 70s, baby boomers enjoyed an escape from turbulence and social
upheaval through a 50s-retro romanticization of the sock-hops and drive-ins
of their teenage years," Williams said. "Yet today, 70s-retro-conscious Gen
Xers now look upon pop-cultural figures of that 50s retro trend, such as
myself and my close advisor, actor Donny Most, as 70s retro figures in our
own right, viewing us not as idealized youth archetypes but rather as
irony-tinged whimsical representations of cheesy, square adulthood--a form
of self-referential meta-retro that science still does not fully
"It is hoped," Williams said, "that such meta-retro recycling of older forms
of retro may function as a safety valve to widen the retro gap."
"Department of Retro officials are closely studying new developments in
meta-retro," Williams said, "including a dance sequence in the new film
Boogie Nights, which is simultaneously a 70s retro allusion to Saturday
Night Fever and a late-80s retro allusion to the Beastie Boys seminal 70s
retro video Hey Ladies--an homage to an homage, if you will. While all the
facts are still not in, this much is clear: Now, more than ever, we must
conserve our precious pop-cultural past, for it is our future."
© 1997 Peter Langston