Nostalgia Rules: Everything Old is Good Again

Six actors and characters we've seen on our screens recently as we anticipate a wave of nostalgia in the winter of 2021. From left, a bearded Paul Rudd in Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Mckenna Grace is the obvious grandchild of Harold Ramis' Egon Spengler in Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Steve Burns delivered a long-awaited personal message to the now-grown-up Blues Clues audience; Keanu Reeves definitely has a John Wick vibe in the new trailer for The Matrix: Resurrections, Carrie Ann Moss returns as Trinity (or does she?) and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is Morpheus now?

Winter 2021 is coming and it’s time to take a ride on the Nostalgia train.

By James Woods, Senior Content Manager, Innovate By Day

Winter is coming. Specifically, the winter of 2021. The winter of nostalgia. 80s Franchise Ghostbusters is about to drop its second attempt to rekindle the original fire; Neo and Trinity look like they’re about to fight it out with evil agents of the Matrix in a version of the world where they don’t remember each other (but we do!); and our best childhood friend Steve (from Blues Clues), Mr. Rogers for Millennials, has returned after his abrupt disappearance nearly 20 years ago to offer a non-apology apology for leaving a generation of bewildered kidlets in the care of his “brother” Joe.

Surely the global pandemic has something to do with our collective reaction to these nostalgia items. As we deal with the second year of living through the unknown, dealing with an invisible enemy, we long for the comfort of the safe, the familiar.

When there’s something strange / in your neighborhood / Who you gonna call?

The stories that made us laugh, that made us cry, that made us feel warm, that made us feel powerful … these are the stories we all need right now.

So the kid from Stranger Things is our link to Egon (“I collect spores, moulds, and fungus”) Spengler, we get some glimpses of Annie Potts and Danny Ackroyd’s forearm in the Ghostbusters: Afterlife trailer, and the ever-youthful Paul Rudd bridges the generational gap with the adorable persona that is both Mike from Friends and Scott Lang from Ant-Man, doing battle with what appears to be the direct descendants of Mister Stay-Puft and the Minions™ from Despicable Me. All generations will be happy, right?

Keanu Reeves comes back to the big screen as a new version of Neo, a John-Wick lookalike that should appeal to both the Millennial and Gen-Z audience, and meets Carrie Anne Moss’ Trinity for what to them is the first time, and we GenXers all collectively heave a sigh of longing because we’ve been shipping those two since the first time(s) they met, both in the Matrix and on the Nebuchadnezzar. Just don’t question the absence of Laurence Fishburne and you’ll be fine.

And when Steve Burns pops up on our Twitter and Instagram feeds and offers to set the record straight on the whole leaving-for-college thing, we welcome him back with open arms and all is forgiven. Because it’s more important to get a virtual hug from the guy in the green striped polo shirt than to get a straight-up apology for just ditching us like that in the first place.

The thing is, this isn’t the first time that creators and studios and networks have tried to tap into nostalgia to get us right in the feels and take us to our happy place. It’s just that this time, the audience, three generations of it, needs the nostalgia trip more than ever. And the creatives, studios, and marketers seem to be getting it right.


James Woods is Innovate By Day’s oldest living social media specialist. He saw the original Ghostbusters more than seven times in the movie theatre in 1984, was transformed by The Matrix in 1999, and was devastated on behalf of children everywhere when Steve got on the bus to college in 2002.

At Innovate By Day, we ‘get’ fans because we ARE fans. Not sure what’s going to tap into your customers’ sense of nostalgia, of home, of wonder? Talk to the experts at

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