5 Extinct Pieces Of Pop Culture That Are Making A Comeback
Who doesn't love a good comeback story? Well, sometimes there are failures that deserve to remain moldering in history's crapper. But despite there being no good or rational reason for their return, they charge right back into the limelight years later. We're talking things like ...
There are few folks who grew up in the '90s who didn't badger their parents to distraction trying to acquire a virtual pet called a Tamagotchi. When they were released in 1997, these Pokemon without the cockfighting took the world by storm, like Beanie Babies stuffed with Pogs with fidget spinners for legs. But like with every fad, they died off quickly, to only be glimpsed again in "These modern teens don't know anything from your childhood because you are now an old" YouTube reaction videos.
But Tamagotchi are back with a vengeance. (Which here means they now cost twice as much.)
Of course, there are some new bells and whistles on this version, called the Tamagotchi On. Like a color screen, for starters, along with additional activities and a mobile app to assist you in your adoption of an annoying, excessively demanding pixel beast (while also reminding you that you could play Pokemon instead). The overarching goal is to nurture your Tamagotchi until you can breed it with others like livestock, wave a hanky in farewell as it returns to its home planet, or simply watch it perish from the unchecked accumulation of feces in its filthy habitat.
The core elements of the original Tamagotchi remain unchanged, however. There are still just the three buttons, the classic egg shape, and a requirement to spend an inordinate amount of time fiddling with a sniveling, soothingly colored whatsit from birth til death. And that last part can happen within the space of only a few hours, should an owner, say, do literally anything more interesting with their time.
Though there actually is a new feature that aims to curb a Tamagotchi holocaust brought about by simple neglect. As Bandai America director of marketing Tara Badie explains, "You can send them to the Tama hotel for 10 Gotchi points an hour. I had to do that the other day when I was taking care of mine at a conference. I couldn't have it beeping all day."
Thankfully, these Gotchi points are not acquired via microtransactions, but rather by performing menial tasks on the device. Which we can only assume is a decision that's open to future reinterpretation once people are hooked and chasing the Tamagotchi dragon.
For a brief period in the early '90s, Americans were enchanted by a bold new alcoholic beverage called Zima. Even now, we challenge you to watch this ad and not immediately fall under the spell of its super-cool fedora-and-baggy-suit-wearing spokesman:
My zpecialist zez I have zirrhosis.
At the time, the public was simultaneously amused and repulsed by the concoction, which some have described as "lemonade filtered through aluminum foil" or "citrus flavored horse piss." And the fact that the word "Zima" means "winter" in Slavic languages was oddly prescient, as sales would eventually plummet like Bran Stark out a window.
Zima was able to barely cling to life thanks to an inexplicable fanbase in Japan, but was mercifully discontinued stateside 2008. But perhaps the fact that a different marketing strategy met with success in the Land of the Rising Sun (more bikinis, fewer grating comedians) led to the momentous decision to return Zima to American shelves in 2017.
This time they would avoid the disasters of yesteryear, such as the introduction of "Zima Gold" ("Now it tastes and looks like pee!") and the use of regular, less distinctive beer bottles, which Coors admitted "killed the brand." The makers wisely hedged their bets with a "limited release," but were pleasantly surprised when the first line quickly sold out. But after the giggling, ironic purchases of those first couple weeks, did the pioneer of "malternative" beverages have any staying power amidst all the hard lemonades and Four Lokos out there?
If one types "Zima 2019" into a search engine, the first results are a MillerCoors.com directory which ominously doesn't mention Zima at all, then a press release from 2018 about how "The end of Zima is near ... again," which includes a dead link to a nonexistent Zima.com. And if that's not passive-aggressive enough, to even access the story, one must first enter a date of birth and be presented with a (working) link to available job opportunities. Probably to take the place of the person who suggested bringing Zima back in the first place.
And speaking of beverage debacles from times of yore ...
The main appeal of the Coca-Cola brand of soft drinks, apart from it not being Pepsi, is that it hearkens back to a simpler time. A time when polar bears and Santa Claus assured us that we should regularly consume a product that research says requires phosphoric acid to keep one from vomiting as a result of wildly excessive sugar intake. So it was certainly a risky move in 1985 to introduce a marketing concept that ran entirely counter to what everyone loved about their product in the first place: the legendary failure known as New Coke.
It doesn't seem too outrageous to look at it -- just a slighter different can design with the same red and white motif. But the fact that Coca-Cola tampered with the beloved formula proved to be pure blasphemy to consumers. The level of unbridled fury was almost as if they were still bottling the stuff with cocaine and cut off the supply. The negative reaction was so immediate and profound that Coca-Cola apologetically brought back the classic formula (while denying that it was a cynical ploy to boost sales all along) and rebranded New Coke as Coke II.
The offending sugar water was eventually discontinued with extreme prejudice and destined to never be spoken of again, except as a business school cautionary tale about how not to screw with a good thing ... until a show on Netflix got super popular and brought the whole painful episode back into the public consciousness.
Unfortunate hair choices and Matthew Modine weren't the only relics of the '80s that Stranger Things has unceremoniously thrust back into the zeitgeist. In a promotion for the show's third season, Coca-Cola will be reintroducing New Coke to stores. This wasn't the brainchild of some corporate executive looking to commit a spectacular career suicide after being offered a better job with Dr. Pepper, but an idea concocted by Stranger Things creators the Duffer brothers.
When the news was announced, people got excited enough to overload Coca-Cola's website, leading to such ridiculous circumstances as people spending ten bucks per can on the fizzy drink black market. But we guess it's like that old saying goes: "Somewhat more peculiar and unusual things have happened!"
We all know about the insufferable music aficionados who lovingly care for their collection of "vinyl." They'll swear up and down that the tones produced via their favorite outdated format sounds "warmer" or some such, all the while ignoring that absolutely no one cares, Todd. One would think that would be the end of nostalgic ways to listen to music, since 8-tracks are such a pain in the butt.
But it appears the amazing advances in digital audio technology mean little to a growing segment of the music-listening public. While fans of LPs get all the press, sales of cassette tapes have increased more than 400% over the past decade. That isn't just great news for open-air flea markets and Goodwill stores, but also indicates that there must be something powerful behind this anomaly. Artists like Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, and Jay Z are even releasing their songs on tapes now, and retailers like Urban Outfitters are aiding and abetting by selling cassette players with USB ports, presumably so you can make mixtapes for all the people who, once again, definitely don't care, Todd.
So what's the attraction, apart from it being a celebrity-driven fad? Well, Guardians Of The Galaxy did its part in making cassettes seem cool for a little while. But it's not only the novelty for some folks. They basically like tapes because they ... um ... suck. As a techno musician called DJ Phin put it in an interview with The Guardian, "I find them much more attractive than CDs. Tapes have a lifespan, and unlike digital music, there is decay and death. It's like a living thing and that appeals to me. It's a nostalgia thing -- I like the hiss." That's neat, but we kind of doubt she also carries around a 25-pound Zack Morris phone as her cell.
When the gray rose of Soviet communism was still in bloom across Europe, some countries locked behind the Iron Curtain tried to show the world that they could produce automobiles that were just as serviceable as any off the Detroit assembly lines. It didn't work out.
The East Germans had the Trabant ("fellow traveler") which was so laughably flimsy and unreliable that it inspired a popular joke: "Why does the Trabi have a heated rear window? It keeps your hands warm while you push."
But the Trabant had at least one thing going for it if eco-friendly transportation was your goal. No, not the incalculable carbon units saved by a complete lack of tachometers, fuel gauges, or turn signal indicators, but the fact that the bodies were manufactured out of a resin plastic called Duroplast (along with cotton unfit for textiles), which inadvertently made the it the world's first automobile made out of recyclable materials. Building on those proud green credentials, in 2009, a couple of German companies tried to resurrect the Trabant like a shoddy, flammable phoenix by proposing that it be not only unsafe and unsightly, but also electric. Not shockingly, hopes to have it enter production by 2012 were dashed by a lack of funding.
And if that wasn't enough retro excitement to titillate Marxist motorists everywhere, a few years later, Poland brought back the Syrena, which was a rival of the Trabant and the "must-have vehicle" to arrive in style at a 1960s bread line in Krakow.
The Syrena was created in response to a Cold War directive from the Central Committee of the Polish Communist Party: "A popular means of transport has to be created which will save time during business and leisure and will be meant for rationalizers, shock workers, activists, scientists and leading representatives of the intelligentsia."
While no "rationalizing" person would testify to it being a dependable mode of transport (unless they were questioned by the Central Committee of the Polish Communist Party), the Syrena was undeniably cute, and perhaps pity played a part in it staying in production until 1983. But instead of remaining a bygone relic of Khrushchev-era whimsy, modern car makers again decided to go electric with the brand, banking on nostalgia to pique the public's interest.
Unlike with the Trabant, this scheme appears to be coming to fruition. The company behind the resurrection, AK Motors, plans to first conquer Poland again and then expand to foreign markets like Canada. The founder of the company, Arkadiusz Kaminski (who has a background in both engineering and toy design) has gone on record stating "Why should cars be so serious?" Which is a lovely attitude to have, but probably would have really pissed off the Central Committee of the Polish Communist Party.
E. Reid Ross has a book called BIZARRE WORLD that's due to be released in September. He's practically on his knees begging that you preorder it now from Amazon or Barnes &Noble and leave a scathing/glowing review.
For more, check out Why Nostalgia Is Total Bull - People Watching No. 10:
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