Don Draper had it wrong.
I don’t say that flippantly, it took me hours of contemplation to make that decision. Don Draper is in the top 3 on the list of my favorite “Double D’s” in the world and I usually take his words as the gospel truth, but in the season 1 finale of Mad Men, Draper gives an awesome speech about nostalgia that I’m starting to interpret in a new way.
He’s pitching an ad campaign for Kodak’s new slide projector. Being that it’s the middle of the 60’s during the U.S./Soviet space race, the muckety mucks at Kodak want to market the sleek curves of their new “wheel projector” as a spaceship. They’re trying to cash in on the NASA zeitgeist. Don Draper puts together an alternative campaign that causes one of the stuffedshirts in the boardroom to burst into tears and run out of the room crying.
He decides they shouldn’t look towards the future to market this product, but rather the past. To use the slide projector as a time machine. To let us catch a glimpse of days gone by.
Up until recently I would’ve agreed. If you asked me I’d have said that looking back into the past is painful and as Draper says, “takes us to a place where we ache to go again… a place where we know we are loved.”
But over the last few days I’ve been swimming in nostalgia and it’s making me happier than I’ve felt in the longest time. And not just happy about old memories but rather happy with myself as I am today.
Netflix has added to their Library, the first two seasons of Digimon: Digital Monsters.
Now for anyone who doesn’t know me very well, I consider myself to be musically inclined. I sing in the shower a lot and I’m a 10 speed dynamo when it comes to karaoke but I also play a handful of instruments with varying levels of competence.
Here’s me shredding on guitar.
I play a little bit of accordion, drums and piano as well but the first instrument I ever learned, the one that started me on this musical journey nearly 15 years ago was the harmonica.
There is exactly one reason why I, as a child, decided to learn to play the harmonica.
It’s because of Matt, a character from Digimon. More specifically, Matt, my favorite character on the first two seasons of Digimon.
Now he wasn’t the star of the show, he wasn’t the hero. He was always sort of the “second banana”. He had a cool exterior that belied a tumult of emotion contained just under the surface. His mom and dad were divorced and he and his little brother had been split apart as each of them went to live with one of their parents. During their adventures with the Digimon he always worried about his brother’s safety, attempting to be a responsible caretaker, but often having to face the sad reality that he wasn’t well suited for the task. When his younger brother starts to develop a strong bond with the show’s goggle-headed protagonist he gets jealous and further questions his self worth.
He was far too complex a character for what was meant to be a kid’s show but he played the hell outta the harmonica and I always thought he was super cool.
People have told me that it says a great deal about my personality that I don’t ever identify with the main protagonist of any story. If there’s any leading man in any movie, book, TV show, video game or comic, I always see more of myself reflected in the main character’s best friend or sidekick.
It turns out there’s even a name for that ultra important character in literature. It’s the Deuteragonist. He’s the secondary character who shoulders a lot of the burden when it comes to the plot, but he’s not always a hero in the traditional sense. Sometimes he’s a rouge or scoundrel, sometimes he’s just a weaker character who needs the support of the hero to fully develop. Whatever the case I’ve always thought I shared a similar temperament to the Dueteragonists of my favorite stories.
Let’s go through the list shall we:
- Han Solo
- Ron Weasley
- Seth Cohen (especially similar)
- Pacey Witter (disturbingly similar)
- Commander Riker
- George Costanza
- Niles Crane
- Inigo Montoya
- Kaidan Alenko
- Cameron Frye
and of course the guy this whole thing has been about,
Now while these characters, for the most part, may not share many personality traits with each other I always identified with them more than I would with the heroes of their respective stories.
I guess I just lack the confidence to consider myself the leading man in the story of my life.
I’m definitely sidekick material though.
Watching Digimon for the first time in almost 15 years has transported me back into the past in a way that has let me see all the ways that I’ve changed in the intervening years.
And all the ways in which I haven’t.
But it’s been nothing but a joy.
I’m not a fan of anime. People are shocked to hear that just like they’re shocked when I say I don’t really like Sci-Fi. They think that just ’cause I’m a geek I like Doctor Who and Star Gate. It’s the closest to racial pigeonholing I’ve ever experienced.
People just expect me to have an interest in things that are considered “geek”. The truth is I couldn’t give a single fuck about Dragon Ball, or Bleach or Gundam and Evangelion. I think Akira sucked balls and Miyazaki is boring. No I don’t loooooove Full Metal Alchemist and I think people who read comic books backwards are a bunch of pretentious jackasses.
I am a self proclaimed geekI I love Star Wars and DC Comics. My thumbprints are concave from decades of videogames. I have toys in my house. But when it comes to anime I just never delved into that word. Ironically it always seemed “too nerdy” for me to get into.
I was an Inbetweener in the schoolboy ecosystem. I occasionally got picked on by some of the more popular kids, but I still would make fun of the guys playing with their Yu-Gi-Oh! cards at lunch.
So as a total anime neophyte, and with nothing to compare it to, I just randomly got sucked into the world of Digimon in 1999 and it was my favourite show for 2 years. Then by that time I mysteriously became more interested in boobs and rock music than cartoons and I stopped watching.
Now that I’m revisiting the series after so long it’s made me feel totally nostalgic but more than anything it has, surprisingly, helped me with my goal of moving forward with my life.
I’ve never been able to think about the future. When I was young I didn’t think I would live a very long life because I couldn’t fathom what I would be like as an old guy. I’ve never really made any plans for the future and have always been sort of ambitionless. My mind functions only in the immediate present and so it’s especially difficult for me to ever hope for the best. If I’m going through a painful emotional experience I literally can’t imagine a time when I’ll no longer feel that way.
But by watching this show that makes me feel the way I did as a child, and then thinking about how different I am today, it makes me wonder for the first time ever what I might be like 15 years from now.
And aside from all the philosophical revelations it’s still just such a damn good show. It holds up so well even after all these years.
At least to me.
So, Don Draper talks about nostalgia as being painful, of making you want to go back and relive better times.
As stupid as it may sound Digimon and the nostalgia I feel for it has made me excited about the future for the first time in recent memory.
For those of you who remember the show fondly, or for those who may have never seen it, here’s a clip from season 1 of Matt playing the blues.
There are 104 episodes in the first 2 seasons of Digimon.
I’m going to watch them all!