The Black Death, the most infamous worldwide pandemic, took the lives of approximately 25 million people and preceded a rejuvenating era of humanity known as the Renaissance. The Renaissance was a glorious explosion of creativity, genius, and culture which propelled many of the artists, authors, and inventors we continue to venerate today. From DaVinci’s revolutionary artistic study of the human anatomy, to Shakespeare’s sonnets, to Michaelangelo’s David, the Renaissance was a collective expression of man’s instinct to survive and thrive — a victorious rebirth of the human spirit.
As we drag ourselves, battered and bruised, but not beaten, through the last vestiges of our world’s most recent plague, let us gain strength from our ancestors and hoist each other up for our own Renaissance. During a year and a half of masking, lockdowns, distancing, fear and paranoia, I found myself seeking comfort in entertainment produced nearly 40 years ago, namely “Sex and the City,” “Will & Grace,” “Seinfeld” and “Friends.” I recently realized that three of these successful series have launched reboots. “Will & Grace” made a hilarious comeback, “Friends” had a tearful reunion, and “And Just Like That” (the “Sex and the City” sequel series) has recently started production. My point being, that as much as we revere the accolades of the past, it is time for our generation to begin building the future.
But let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater. First, we should explore the essence of what attracts us to the stories portrayed in these TV series from the ‘80s and ‘90s.
As Jerry Seinfeld once said, real comedy is timeless. The show “Seinfeld,” as well as many of the other series which are now being brought back in one form or another, make fun of the human condition, stripped of technology, rendering them perpetually relatable. Nowadays, our generation alludes to vague memes and TikToks which are only borderline humorous once you’ve been exposed to a very specific online context — hardly entertainment of importance. But if we were to create entertainment truly reflective of our current daily routines, it would be a yawnfest consisting of watching people text and scroll in silence. So, if we dig deeper I think we will discover that these programs are meeting some of the needs of our generation that are currently not being satisfied in real life.
Take our innate need for affiliation. What do all of the most successful sitcoms have in common? Relationships! It’s Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte having brunch. It’s the “Friends” gang at Central Perk. It's Jerry, Elaine, Kramer and George at the diner. People together, face to face, loving, fighting and exploring the everyday. It’s reflective of our desire for real, unfiltered, unconditional friendships. Stop living vicariously.
Another need these programs satisfy is our need for individuality. Oftentimes, the most likable characters are unapologetically honest about who they are and what they think. They dress the way they want, are self-assured and aren’t afraid to speak their mind. We can’t help but marvel at the comedic bluntness of characters like Karen Walker (“Will & Grace”), Samantha Jones (“Sex and the City”) and Cosmo Kramer (“Seinfeld”), with a twinge of envy. To be happy, maybe you just need to be yourself.
So, as a new era dawns upon us, leave your vicarious life behind. Now is the peak time in your history to create, to invent, to write and most importantly, TO LIVE. Art students— let NCSU be the wind beneath your wings to support you in your quest to express your originality. Filmmakers, playwrights and actors: step into the spotlight at Frank Thompson Hall. Students at the College of Design, yours will be the aesthetic of our generation. Rise, refreshed and renewed, as Venus did, emerging from tumultuous seas on a giant clam.
In terms of looking back, don’t just look back: take the precious insight you’ve gleaned from those who came before you. Call up a friend, as Carrie would call Samantha, rather than simply shooting a text. Make the Port City Java your own Central Perk. Just as Grace would drag Will, take your own roommate out for a movie night at Witherspoon. If art imitates life, live a life worth imitating.