These take us back to what hopefully weren’t our glory days.
RELEVANT Roundtable is when we ask our slate of culture writers a question and compile their responses. This week’s question: Which cultural item makes you nostalgic for your school days?
Tyler Daswick: I was in school way after the ’80s, but still, nothing evokes my college experience better than Everybody Wants Some!! The movie’s central band of jocks are my frat brothers in caricature, and their innovative ways of screwing around evoke all the times we opted for the good time instead of the library. This movie’s about three things: doing nothing with your friends, acting on bad ideas and tracking down that girl you saw on the quad. For four years, that was all that mattered, and thanks to Everybody Wants Some!! I’ll always remember what it was like to care about nothing and everything at the same time.
Seth Tower Hurd: The click wheel iPod. I’d spent my high school (and freshman year of college) basketball career flipping discs in and out of a portable CD player to achieve the perfect pre-game mix. Then, all of a sudden, a lifetime of collecting music fit into my pocket. The earbuds were tinny sounding and poorly constructed. The shiny metallic back was scratched beyond recognition within 24 hours. But I can still smell the leaves turning in the fall, feel the soft cotton of my favorite hoodie as I walked to class and the heft of the brick like music player shoved into the back pocket of my Levi’s. Music may be a pathway to memories, but sometimes a music player can do the same thing as well. RIP, proto-iPhone. Maybe you’ll be reborn some day a la the NES Classic.
Jon Negroni: For me, it’s a simple, sweet tune by the name of “We’re Going to Be Friends” by The White Stripes. I had heard the song—which itself is a send up to school days nostalgia—throughout middle school, but it reached peak top-of-mind status when played during the opening credits of Napoleon Dynamite, the quintessential high school comedy of the mid-2000s. To this day, those smoothly sung quirky lyrics dance in my head whenever Fall is here, and even though I’m long removed from that “back to school” mentality, Jack White’s melody brings me right back anyway.
Joy Netanya Thompson: Bring It On (2000) came out near the end of my first and only year as a cheerleader. I went to see it after school on a Friday with girls from my squad, still high from the annual “boys vs. girls” rally that morning, where we performed a dance to an “Oops I Did It Again”/”Bye Bye Bye” medley with the football players. The movie brings me back to a year that was almost a caricature of high school life, where I was at football games every fall Friday and knew every word of our fight song. Bring It On validated my hard work that year as a cheerleader—my first ever “athletic” endeavor—and vibrated with the manic and self-centered energy that is both unique and essential to 16-year-old girls. To this day, when I hear “Mickey,” that same energy and inexplicable confidence that spurred me to dance in front of my entire school wells up within me and I can’t help but bounce and clap along. (Edited to add: Apparently Bring It On didn’t come out till August, and the movie we went to was Center Stage—another classic. Let this be a lesson about memory.)
Tyler Huckabee: Absolutely, positively, 100 percent and without question Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I was homeschooled, so the ongoing adventures of the Scooby Gang were my only real window into what life was like in a public highschool, and it seemed a lot more interesting than my own life. But also I had never loved a television show, or even really known someone could love a television show, before Buffy. The theme song, Twitter gifs or even just pictures of Sarah Michelle Gellar hurtle me back to parent’s basement in Lincoln, Nebraska, counting down the minutes to the next episode. It also was an early lesson in courage, in facing your demons (literal and metaphorical), and in the sorts of emotional and even spiritual intelligence that could be gleaned from something as potentially trivial as a show about vampire hunting teens. I’d heard from a few well-meaning friends and mentors that Buffy was a show “obsessed with darkness and satan.” What I found when I actually started watching it for myself was quite different. It sounds dramatic but it’s true: Buffy taught me a different way of looking at the world outside my front door, and I’m grateful for it.