Monday 19 August 2019

Trying to endlessly recreate the magic of the moment leaves stars stuck in a groove

Comebacks and reunions are popular commercial ventures, but they often prove to be embarrassing, writes Sophie Donaldson

Hit and miss: Spice Girls fans the world over were excited about talk of an apparent third reunion — but, thankfully, band member Victoria Beckham scotched rumours of a comeback
Hit and miss: Spice Girls fans the world over were excited about talk of an apparent third reunion — but, thankfully, band member Victoria Beckham scotched rumours of a comeback
Sophie Donaldson

Sophie Donaldson

Two weeks ago, breathless rumours were swirling that a long-awaited Spice Girls reunion was finally happening. It was widely reported that the five-piece pop unit would be reforming in 2018 for a special televised performance and compilation album.

Spice Girls fans the world over were giddy at the prospect of seeing them perform again until last week when Victoria Beckham addressed the rumours with chat show host Alison Hammond on This Morning. She categorically stated: "It is not happening," adding that she wouldn't be slipping into a PVC catsuit anytime soon.

The Spice Girls reformed back in 2007 for a sell-out tour across the United Kingdom, United States and Canada. Had they reformed again next year, it would have marked 20 years since the group originally split.

The Spice Girls got lucky with their 2007 reunion. It was a runaway success, with Forbes reporting that the 17 London shows alone earned $33m. The Spice Girls came away a lot richer, fans were satisfied and everyone still looked good in lurex. To try to recreate the magic the third time round a decade later would have been a risky move.

Thankfully, Victoria Beckham seems to be on the same page as Kim Cattrall. While the Spice Girls had a near escape from one too many reunions, the Sex and the City cast didn't seem to know when enough was enough.

After a robust six seasons and a successful follow-up movie, most people would know when to call time. Unfortunately, they didn't, and the heinously tone deaf, mildly racist calamity that was Sex and the City 2 was released upon the world.

Undeterred, Sarah Jessica Parker lamented she was "disappointed" a third film wasn't going ahead, but it was Kim Cattrall's much-publicised interview with Piers Morgan last month that was the final nail in SATC's rhinestone-studded coffin.

In the interview, Cattrall asserted she and her three co-stars "were never friends", while Sarah Jessica Parker "could have been nicer". She also separately insisted that she never agreed to do a third film.

The past year has seen us swept up in pop culture nostalgia. We are using songs, characters and settings we once loved as some sort of security blanket. Of course, entertainment will always offer escapism but this persistent shoehorning of storylines from the past into the present doesn't really do us any favours. Nor does it help the creatives who work in the industry that brings us so much joy.

By insisting that the same characters, settings and melodies are used over and over again, we are denying them, and ourselves, the chance to create something new, something relevant and something that addresses the state we are in, rather than trying to ignore it.

Last year's release of four feature-length episodes of Gilmore Girls was a cause for celebration for fans of the show that ended in 2007.

A reviewer from The Guardian described the show as a "beautifully wrapped gift" and suggested it was some sort of tonic for us poor souls living in a world that "has gone to pot". Others were less effusive, with Time magazine describing plotlines as "disappointingly recursive".

Likewise, the return of sitcom Will & Grace, 11 years after its final episode, was met with mixed reaction. Vanity Fair called it a "disarmingly welcome throwback" although Variety magazine described it as "smug and more than a little dated".

Comebacks are popular commercial ventures because they come with built-in fanbases. Their die-hard fans eliminate the need for studios and record companies to navigate the overcrowded entertainment industry in a hope to drum up some interest in their offering. And the reason these songs, shows and series garnered such legions of fans in the first place is because they were damn good.

Often their material was pioneering, such as the Spice Girls' girl power battle cry, the sexually liberated women of Sex and the City and the gay characters given a mainstream platform on Will & Grace. They managed to capture the zeitgeist, encapsulating the mood, aesthetic and language of the moment.

It's why shows like Girls, with its honest revelations of millennial womanhood, and Orange is the New Black's racially and sexually diverse cast, really captured the popular imagination.

We saw something of ourselves in those characters we hadn't seen on screen before. They were captivating because they were current.

Decades later, the messages these much-loved entertainers sent still resonate. Girl power is as potent as ever, diversity is the word of the day and the celebration of sisterhood in Sex And The City and the Gilmore Girls has never been more prominent.

For fans, it's time to face facts; these messages are enduring enough to not warrant another embarrassing comeback.

Sunday Independent

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