Here at The Fandomentals, we love stories. With no shortage of awesome media being produced every day, our list of new stories to consume only gets bigger. However, sometimes we don’t want any of those. We want the familiarity of stories we already know and love, like a movie whose lines we know by heart or a book we reread every year.
We may even want to look further in the past and revisit one of our old favorites. Those are the fandoms and stories that used to mean a lot for us when we were younger, but if we’re honest it’s been quite a while since we last checked them.
Are they’re still as amazing as we remember them? Would they still be meaningful to us? And do we really want to find out?
A trip down memory lane
Old favorites can be childhood classics, but they don’t have to be. As we grow old, even fandoms from our late teens or early adult years start fading from our memory. Would we still love our favorite stories from ten years ago?
There are many reasons why we could revisit our old favorites. Sometimes it’s a matter of opportunity; last year Pokémon Silver became available for 3DS, so I replayed it. Old fandoms waking up also works, and when CLAMP created a sequel for Cardcaptor Sakura I thought it would be good to reread the original manga. Maybe you want to introduce that fandom to a new audience, or simply refresh your memory, or you just miss that story so much. Katie’s and Clara’s projects always make me want to reread The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter respectively, because I wonder how I would feel about both series today.
In the end, there’s no wrong reason to revisit media that you love. Some people prefer to leave the past in the past and keep those classics in their memory alone, and ultimately that’s a personal choice. As for me, I think rewatching, rereading, or replaying our old favorites can be an exciting experience.
Fiction changes our perception of ourselves and the world around us, sometimes in ways we don’t realize at the time. When we revisit our old favorites, we can see how they influenced us, for good and for bad. They may have affected our tastes in storytelling, so we can recognize in them some of our oldest ships or earliest examples of favorite tropes. And if we’re involved in the creation of stories ourselves, we may recognize the foundation of our work in the stories we consumed a long time ago.
Our old favorites may have also influenced the stories that came after. This is particularly noticeable when we consume a lot of media from the same genre or the same authors. By revisiting older narratives, we see the dialogue created between them and newer pieces.
Everytime we revisit a story, we can uncover new layers, symbolism, themes, and references. Maybe we were too young or lacked the necessary knowledge to perceive those at the time, so a revisit makes the story deeper than we thought at first. I find this especially true when it comes to children’s media, that is often a lot less childish than people give it credit for.
In other words, we may find entirely new reasons to fall in love with our old favorites. Or maybe not, maybe they’re exactly as wonderful as we expected, and a revisit just reminds us why we fell in love with those narratives in first place.
Even so, revisiting old favorites is always a risk, as it can lead to a lot of disappointment.
It’s not you, it’s me
So the story turned out to be not as good as we remembered. It can be that the plot has more holes than Swiss cheese, the worldbuilding falls apart under minimal scrutiny, or the characters feel flat. Perhaps there’s nothing wrong with the story itself, but damn if it isn’t far more problematic than we thought at first. Even aspects like gameplay, animation, or art style can affect our enjoyment if they didn’t age well.
Sometimes all of that is fine, but the story simply doesn’t touch us the same way it once did. What happened? What to do now?
The stories we used to love didn’t change, but we did. We discovered new identities, new ways to be ourselves. We lived, we learned, we met, we experienced a thousand things. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that we wouldn’t look at old favorites with the same old eyes.
Not only we never stop changing, we never stop consuming stories. Even if you’re not into analysing media, simply being exposed to a wide range of narratives refines your perception of storytelling devices. This may cause your old favorites to feel boring or uninspiring, lesser versions of something that you’ve seen a thousand times by now. The competition got tougher and they no longer feel that special.
Our cultural conversation changes as much as we do. Ideally, we’ll be constantly educating ourselves, becoming more aware of social issues, and generally trying to be better people. In turn, certain practices, jokes, tropes, or messages will feel offensive to our modern sensibilities. Or maybe in the meantime we learned unpleasant things about the people behind a story and it soured that story for us.
Whatever the reason why one of your old favorites no longer works that well for you, that’s a valid reason. What should we do when we realize that? When we start seeing flaws that weren’t there before? What happens when revisiting an old favorite has a negative effect in our love for it?
Should we simply move on from that fandom? If that’s what you feel like doing, sure, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Stories don’t have to be perfect to be worthy of our love. In fact, I don’t think perfection is even a thing, when we consider that art can be so subjective. Enjoying our problematic faves or our flawed faves doesn’t mean that we’re not aware of their issues. It only means that being aware of their issues doesn’t make us stop loving them.
Adjusting our expectations is key when revisiting old fandoms. We can’t expect to find the same story we left behind years ago. Not because that story has changed, but because everything else did. Can those stories still be meaningful for us now, for what we perceive them to be today?
It’s okay if we find out that the answer is “no”. We can simply accept that those old favorites were important for us once and we had our reasons to love them back in the day. They’re belong in our fandom history, even the ones we find embarrassing now. Part of those stories will stay forever with us, in the shape of our influences, the important things we discovered about ourselves, the friends we met because of those fandoms, the interests we started pursuing, the good moments and experiences we had. And that matters.
Revisiting old favorites and childhood classics may make us fall out of love for them, yes. But it can also mean a different or even more mature love. After all, we don’t love things because they’re perfect, we love them because they matter.
If they matter to you or to your 13-year-old self, well, that’s a detail.