Wet Hot American Summer and Nostalgia: A Perfect Storm

Wet Hot American Summer is indicative of a new societal trend: nostalgia for television shows and movies that are themselves nostalgic. When the film was released in 2000, it became an instant cult classic, fueled by Generation X’s nostalgia for their summer camp days, as well as beautifully constructed scenes such as the camp cook’s dramatic monologue in which he announces that he will hump the refrigerator. Now, the Netflix reboot of the seminal film that features a talking can of vegetables is generating considerable buzz.

The mind-blowing phenomenon, in which a cultural artifact that is nostalgic in its own right creates another stream of nostalgia, is known as metanostalgiafication. Debbie Van der Sleek, chair of the University of Santa Fe’s online Sociology degree program, says that “there is nothing that today’s milennials want more than cultural content that is nostalgic on multiple levels. Their appetite for nostalgia is irrepressible, from a remake of a 1980s classic to a sequel to one of their favorite 90s films. Content that layers its nostalgia, such as a remake of a reboot about living in the California suburbs in 1987, is even more likely to catch fire.”

Other reboots of nostalgic films are currently in the works, including Forrest Grump, which revisits a Gump who has become cynical and angry in his old age after Lieutenant Dan swindles him out of the entire Bubba Gump Shrimp fortune, only to rediscover the true meaning of love and friendship when he befriends the boy next door who finds joy in life despite being confined to a wheelchair; Horse Runnings, in which the Jamaican bobsled team from Cool Runnings become Olympic hopefuls in equestrian jumping (the film will feature the original song “Ride Dem Horse Man,” sung by Wyclef Jean); and The Supper Club, in which the hodgepodge group of misfits from The Breakfast Club, now in their late 40s, meet every week for dinner and discuss the challenges of marriage, children, and trying to find meaning in a world they no longer fully comprehend.

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