It’s the end of the day, you are tired, overwhelmed, and all you want to do is sit down and escape reality through the TV. What better way to flee the demoralizing headlines of today’s world than to leave this time period all together? Period dramas are on the rise, and it is unlikely that you won’t find one you enjoy. Whether it’s Stranger Things, Downton Abbey, Call Me By Your Name, The Queen’s Gambit, or Little Women, there seems to be entertainment from almost any era of interest. The ever increasing popularity of period dramas also indicates a relative decrease in the popularity of entertainment taking place in current times. So, what is it that makes the modern age so unromantic?
This drive to escape the present in cinema hasn’t always been popular. In the ’80s, many popular movies, such as Heathers, The Karate Kid, and The Breakfast Club, all took place in their birthed era. In the ’90s, the most popular TV shows such as Friends, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and ER were also based in the ’90s. So again, we ask, what specifically is so undesirable about the times we live in now that has popularized period dramas so drastically?
The obvious answer is that many viewers want an escape from the intensity of the current age. With the media rapidly reporting new headlines about the ongoing pandemic, white supremacy, and other terrible issues each minute, most of us feel bombarded with information. These tragic events unfolding in front of us make us desperate for a safe zone. We find that place in period dramas, which let us experience emotions that we don’t feel when looking at the news.
Another factor is that we are living in an era full of technology, which, to many, is not aesthetically pleasing. At first, the newly developing technology seemed innovative and exciting, but now, it lives up to the widely shared fear of machinery taking over human society. The streaming platforms themselves, such as Netflix and Amazon, make us susceptible to being antisocial, and thus we become a less attractive society for movies and TV to take place in. As technology pulls us apart from one another, our societal dynamics become a less compelling setting for entertainment, in comparison to other historical time periods.
However, as modern society has progressed, this technology has created an era of “wokeness” around injustice and social issues, and it is absolutely crucial that it is portrayed in entertainment. When we go backwards in time, these periods often have much less equality, racially or in other contexts as well. Thus, we find ourselves watching casts composed of a certain demographic and lacking representation. Take the completely white cast of Downton Abbey, for example. Instead, as an audience we must push ourselves to interact with media that engages us with today’s battles.
As rational as it is to find period dramas much more enticing than our current times, it is essential that the world of cinema put equal emphasis on entertainment set in the modern age. Backtracking in time neglects current struggles, and producers should make use of their positions to show modern progress. No, I’m not saying I want to give up watching the cinematic masterpiece that is Bridgerton, but that in order to grow as a society, cinema will play a large role by giving modern topics equal representation.