Trump, Superheroes, and Nostalgia-Joe

Trump, Superheroes, and Nostalgia.

When I was a kid I would go to Kentucky to visit my uncle’s lake house.  Every summer my siblings and I would race down the hill, jump off the rope swing and swim for hours in that lake.  I have many fond memories of that time.  There was no school, no responsibilities, and nothing to take me out of the moment.  As a kid, I never saw this uncle very much, usually only during the summer.  However, I still remember how he loved music.  While my siblings and I would play, laugh and eat, my uncle would always play his favorite music loudly for everyone to hear.  He would bring his guitar out to the dock to play and to sing, and to enjoy spending time with his nieces and nephews.  His favorite song was “American Pie” by Don McLean and to this day whenever I hear that song I always get nostalgic for those summer days in Kentucky.


The experience of pleasant memories of the past, when things were simpler and better is known as nostalgia.  Whether it’s thinking about summer days on a lake, thinking about your mom’s cooking, or even reminiscing about a simpler world without cellphones and computers can all elicit a sense of nostalgia.  This sense, while generally positive, is a powerful emotion because memories of the past influence how people want to live in the present and change the future, and one can see how nostalgia clearly has an influence in American popular culture and politics.


In 2016, only 2 of the top 10 highest grossing films were original franchises.  The rest were movies about superheroes like Batman and Superman, a film in the Harry Potter universe, a prequel for Star Wars and even remakes of old Disney movies. Some people like to go to the movies to escape from the real world of work and responsibility into a world of fantasy where the good guy always wins and the stories are simple and positive.  I think this sense is very much related to the sense of simplicity and positivity people feel when they think about the good parts of their childhood and it’s powerful enough for people to spend billions of dollars to see movies every year.  However, more so than just people’s movie preferences, nostalgia also influences their political beliefs and I think one can see this influence in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.


In politics, it’s no mystery that politicians use emotional rhetoric to gain support and Donald Trump is no different.  His slogan, his key message to the American people was, “Make America Great Again.”  The slogan suggests that America isn’t great now, but it asks people to think about how great America was when they were younger, and that is the America that Donald Trump will give to the American people.  Let’s compare this to Barack Obama’s campaign slogan in 2008— “Yes, we can.”  Obama looked to the future, to the things that we can change, to the things that we can do.  Trump, on the other hand, looked to the past, and to the things that have gone wrong.  For many people the future can be unknown and scary, while the past is idyllic and safe, and it is a very appealing message to people who are unhappy with the current state of affairs.


While there’s nothing wrong with nostalgia, businesses and politicians know it’s a powerful emotion that can be used to influence what people buy and even who they vote for.  So just remember that, the next time a song makes you nostalgic for your childhood summers


Key Terms:

Nostalgia- a sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past.

Reminisce- indulge in enjoyable recollection of past events.

Elicit- evoke or draw out (a reaction, answer, or fact) from someone.

Gross- (of income, profit, or interest) without deduction of tax or other contributions; total.

Slogan- a short and striking or memorable phrase used in advertising.

Rhetoric- the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, especially the exploitation of figures of speech and other compositional techniques

Idyllic- extremely happy, peaceful, or picturesque.


Comprehension Test:

Where did I go during the summer as a kid?

Of the highest grossing films in 2016, were there more original franchises or old ones?

How would you describe the difference between Obama and Trump’s political slogans?


Discussion questions:

Are there any songs that remind you of people or places?

Do you prefer original movie ideas or movies from franchises you already know?

Do you think politicians use nostalgia to gain support?


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