I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately, both critiquing up and coming authors and putting my Paperwhite to good use. Some things age better than others and the term is often applied to media. The reason is simple; it is a matter of critique.
I tend to be forgiving about specific pieces of work, as they aren’t about to improve or worsen with time. It isn’t the piece of work that changes after all. It is how we perceive them. We all do it. Be it The Lord of the Rings, the Matrix or Sonic the Hedgehog. No, I’m not comparing the three directly. I don’t want to give you nightmares of Keanu reeves in a furry blue costume carrying a ring to Mount Doom.
Enter the Retro Goggles. For whatever reason, when we see something (we like) for the first time. We are typically star struck. Something about it impresses us and it finds a place in our hearts and memories. We inevitably move on from it and it sits on a pedestal.
When we come back to it some years later the thought often comes out. “Wow, I remember this. I loved this back in the day.” Your mind goes right back to the moment when you were first impressed. Here’s the tricky part, reaching up to your face—and pulling the glasses off.
You end up with mixed results. Sometimes you find the thing you loved with a new sense of appreciation. This happened to me when I flipped through the Fellowship of the Ring again, twenty years older. Tolkien has a staggering amount of depth in his work that I simply couldn’t appreciate when I was a teen. I just got so immersed I might as well have been in Middle Earth. I liken the book to quizzing an old man who spent his life cataloging the events of the world, trying and failing to stump him.
On the flip side, I also found that the Lord of the Rings is not my kind of book now. The focus doesn’t stay on the characters, something I value now as a writer. Is it a bad book? No. But once the Retro Goggles came off, I had a new appreciation for it.
In a similar vein, I find removing the goggles can ruin things for me too. I recently began reading a book by an author I’ve invested in eleven of his books. This one, I struggled to get going on. He hadn’t gotten worse, but my perspective changed. In that light putting the Retro Glasses back on helped me enjoy it more.
I mentioned the Matrix because when it came out it blew people’s minds. It invented bullet time for cripes sake. But it is very hard to watch the Matrix now, especially if you peel off those Retro Goggles.
I argue endlessly with my lady friend about Sonic the Hedgehog. I never really liked him in the first place, a volatile combination of being a Nintendo fan boy and my distaste for ‘memorization game-play’. When it came down to it, Sonic was hold right and hit a jump button occasionally in my eye, until Sonic Adventure came along anyway.
I actually defend that game on being good, but there’s no defending its horrific camera controls. It made up for it with delightfully cheesy 80’s rock tracks. No Retro Goggles can save the fate of Shadow the Hedgehog (the game not the character), where Sega officially ran out of f***s to give.
That said, it is important to know when to put that asterisk next to lofty claims of praise. Most of my applications of Retro Goggles place a stamp: For it’s time, _____ was amazing. And every so often when I pull off those goggles, I find something even better.