This Magazine

Progressive politics, ideas & culture

November-December 2017

An ode to old technology

In defence of the big-ass cellphone in our pop culture favourites

Lisa Whittington-Hill

Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 10.26.23 AMDear pop culture,

You know I love you, but you really need to stop making me nostalgic for the technology of days gone by. Please, I beg of you, stop reminding me of the good old days like I am Lindsay Lohan and you are 2004.

In Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson, Adam Driver’s character Paterson refuses to get a cellphone, comparing it “to a leash.” You, pop culture, are guilty of reminding me of a time when technology, like the iPhone Paterson rejects, wasn’t a shackle, keeping us constantly connected—and not in a good way—to others, our work, and our obligations (not to mention Donald Trump’s tweets).

I love your television marathons, despite what they do to my productivity, but they also make me miss simpler times. I wish it was 2008 and life was like that episode of The Wire where Jimmy McNulty leaves his business card on the windshield of Omar Little’s van when he needs to track him down. Fast forward to 2017, and McNulty would be sending texts, 12 emails, a Twitter DM, pleas on Facebook Messenger, and maybe an eggplant emoji if he was feeling frisky. If stealing from drug dealers wasn’t stressing Little out, McNulty’s constant attempts to reach him would.

I know you have never met a milestone you didn’t love reminding us of (you’re such a show off!). Your 20th anniversary love letters to Radiohead’s OK Computer make me long for a time when we thought of technology in terms of social alienation, not social media. You reminded me that this December, Wall Street turns 30 years old, which brought back fond memories of Michael Douglas’s big-ass cellphone in the movie—you know, the one that looks like he had a giant Chevy strapped to his ear. The reception probably sucks, but at least I would be able to find my phone in my purse without a 30-person search party and a Black & Decker flashlight.

Your love/hate relationship with Sex and the City makes me long for a Carrie Bradshaw-sized laptop, one bigger than Kim Cattrall’s ego when it comes to filming a third movie of the series. I need a computer that I can’t carry everywhere, so I don’t feel guilty for not working on the subway or while eating at Subway.

Speaking of old school technology, Vice recently informed me that flip phones are making a comeback. This announcement brought me back to 2006, which I truly consider your golden age, a time before I was required to keep up with the Kardashians and Britney Spears used umbrellas strictly for rain coverage.

I love when you remind me of movies where the internet is called “the Net,” and cellphones can kill Shia LaBeouf with a single dial. I want to stay in that place in time, when we were scared of technology, hesitant to let it into our everyday lives.

I miss how sites like Gawker (RIP) covered you in the celeb gossip glory days, before everyone with an internet connection thought they could report on you. When people disrespect you by only giving you 140 characters, I want to cry on top of my stack of old school US Weekly’s, burying myself in endless coverage of who wore it best.

I long for the innocent ways your celebrity deaths were covered. Remember when I waited for the six o’clock news and the weekly issue of People to hear the details of River Phoenix’s death? Coverage used to be respectful—it checked facts and avoided rumour. The internet has made you insensitive and impatient, posting every morbid detail whether it is true or not.

Your recent reboots have been especially hard on me. I know Will & Grace characters using Grindr or Twin Peaks characters on Skype is supposed to make you feel current. It just makes me feel sad, confused, and nostalgic. Agent Cooper and his dictaphone forever.

Illustration by Nicole Stishenko

Lisa Whittington-Hill is the publisher of This Magazine. She regularly writes about pop culture.

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