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Gene Wilder Was An Everlasting Showstopper

It sucks that he is no longer with us.

01/09/2016 10:26 AM AEST | Updated September 1, 2016 10:27
Paramount Pictures

Gene Wilder gave us the golden ticket to childhood. In his role as Willy Wonka he created a sense of nostalgia and a magic for a time gone by, a sense of longing for childhood that went with him and cannot be replaced.

Nostalgia is a cruel emotion, a double-edged sword created by the powerful muscle of memory. An overwhelming feeling of pleasure that comes with remembering the past and the inevitable sadness that follows when we realise that past is no longer attainable.

The word 'nostalgia' comes from the Greek "nostos" or homecoming and the accompanying pain, "algos". Do we even need nostalgia today if it makes us hurt so much, longing for a past we can no longer attain?

The idea that we have to remember anything at all could soon be a thing of the past. Facebook notifications ensure we never have to remember family and friend's birthdays. Smart phones act as an extended digital memory, telling us where we have to be, how to get there and what we have to do.

If futurists are correct the memory muscle will slip further into decay as Artificial Intelligence will not only remember everything for us it will also make decisions tailored to our every need.

The muscle of memory is getting weaker. If we don't use it we'll loose it.

The Swiss doctor Johannes Hoffer, who coined the term in 1688, originally described nostalgia as a "neurological disease". It was seen as a negative mental state when soldiers displayed symptoms of being homesick. This is where we give thanks to our digitally obsessed world, as nostalgia has shifted from "disease" to necessity to survive our always-on lives.

When Facebook launched in 2007 the nostalgia trend became as popular as leg warmers in the '80s. The lure of nostalgia in a society increasingly obsessed with the new and the next continues to rise today. Nostalgia is the antidote to relieve the stresses today by channeling the comfort of the past.

Far from a disease of the mind, nostalgia is a gift to be treasured. A gift to be used. Nostalgia is triggered by all the senses; the first few notes of Willy Wonka's Pure Imagination and we are transported back many decades to a time of movie night and family love.

Taste and smell also trigger nostalgia. The sense of smell is the first sense newborns develop. The nose's ability to awaken emotional memories reassures us of home and safety.

Nostalgia is also a powerful resource that we can tap into that provides strength for our future, it bolsters and reassures us. We can tap into these imprints, the joy of an idealised past life, using these positive memories to inform us of who we are and where we are going.

As Don Draper on Mad Men says in The Wheel -- the famous episode in which he pitches the Kodak carousel in the first season of Mad Men -- "Nostalgia is delicate but potent. It's a twinge in your heart more powerful than memory alone. It's not a spaceship, it's a time machine. It goes backwards, and forwards... it takes us to a place where we ache to go again."

Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka worked his way into the time machine of our collective memory. He contributed greatly to the childhood memories of many that are today's nostalgic treasure.

Nostalgia makes us better human beings. Celebrate it when it comes to you.

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