Yep, it's another car culture blog. I'm just bringing up Goldeneye because I couldn't think of a better jumping off point to talk about my thesis that didn't involve the phrase "rose-tinted glasses" and I hate that phrase. I'm just going to hit you with the main idea:
It is fine to judge old cars by modern standards.
A simple enough statement, but one that super-triggers people with fan allegiances or nostalgia issues. These same issues exist anywhere self-made loyalties lie: movies, music, food, and of course video games and cars. The reason I picked seminal Nintendo 64 title Goldeneye to clickbait this blog is because its saying Goldeneye sucks is one of my very hottest takes, and also because the reaction I get to that take almost exactly mirrors Tristan's reaction to my statement from a few episodes ago that old land yachts suck. There's anger. There's strident protest. And of course, the endless tide of "Yeah but".
Some more background for you non-gamers, feel free to skip ahead if you know this stuff: Goldeneye 64 was a first-person shooter released in 1997 for the Nintendo 64. It was absolutely groundbreaking. Goldeneye proved not only that first-person shooters could work on home consoles, but also that shooters could be open-world adventures. The game's story mode mirrored the events of the hit 1995 Bond film, and the game's multiplayer mode reached such legendary status that not only has it spawned a hundred direct-line imitators, mods, remakes, and re-imaginings, but it also poisoned the mind of an entire generation. I'll bet at least a third of gamers my age would say Goldeneye is the best shooter they've ever played, and every single one of them would be complete idiots to do so. Because Goldeneye is trash. The controls were created by a meth-addled tarantula-ape-squid. The multiplayer is farcically unbalanced. Every aspect of the single-player has aged exactly as well as summer roadkill deer. All of these problems were screamingly evident with the advent of the very next console generation - just four years after the game's release. Goldeneye 64 is fetid. And it's also extremely important.
It's possible to like things that are of poor quality. It happens all the time. Look at McDonald's. Look at Twitter. Look at Dodge. Look at The Bachelor/ette. There's no accounting for personal taste. For example: I love chocolate cake. But only if it is not in any way homemade. I like the homemade stuff, sure, but I love the commercial-grade stuff. Would they serve it in a dorm cafeteria and/or a hospital? I already have my tray. With the chocolate sprinkles? Even better. Two pieces. And the big ones. But commercial-grade chocolate cake is objectively shit compared to "real" cake. It tastes worse. It looks worse. The texture is worse. It contains no love or care. Commercial-grade chocolate cake is worse than homemade chocolate cake by every meaningful standard of the food world, but I like it more. I freely understand that it is worse, and I can even tell you why it is worse, but I like it more. I'm fine with that. And by the way, we aren't going to talk about irony here in this blog. There is no irony any more, irony is dead. Stop bringing it up.
It's also possible for things that are of poor quality to be important, or even vital, in their own context. Those ideas are not remotely incomparable. Context is extremely important whenever you're judging an object of any kind, and it can't be elided or forgotten. The thing is that when context is properly considered, even if you judge the past by using the lens of the present the best will always shake out on top. For example, if we judge Goldeneye by modern video game standards, it's going to get utterly destroyed - but it will still come out as critically important because it was the first game to establish...well...almost every single tenet of the first-person shooter genre we know today. If you judge the 1974 BMW 2002 by modern standards, it looks pretty good! Decent power, decent-looking, good features, sure 9 seconds to 60, and it nearly created the sports saloon. That's pretty good! Ditto the original Ford Mustang. And the Firebird Trans Am. And the Model T. And the Honda Accord. And the Beetle. And a dozen-dozen other cars. And if you do the same thing with a Cadillac Brougham, you end up cry-laughing. Because that's how bad that car truly was. It reads exactly like a joke. So why can't it just be that? Even a joke has an audience.
Of course, car culture is absolutely infested with this nostalgia obsession where everything you like has to also be validated as good by some outside source. Car fans have always chosen to die on the hoods of the cars they like the most. Every few years some Detroit publication prints some soft-focusass piece on the newest Ford exec who was raised in fucking House Karstark or whatever and how that exec was promised to GM as an infant and then after the exec got the Ford job their father or uncle wouldn't talk to them for three months or whatever. Obviously these stories are complete fabrications, but the element of truth in the lie is the still-aggressive undercurrent of diehards in car culture. And to those people I would ask these questions: Why can't you like what you like and still recognize it for what it is objectively? Why is it total devotion or accusations of not being a "real fan"? Why is it zealotry or being a filthy casual? Why do the new Star Wars movies have to ruin the old ones for those too weak-willed to accept that they grew out of it a little bit in the interim of forty fucking years?
Maybe that last one is less connected, but I think my point is clear. It's perfectly fine to like things that are factually bad. It will always be okay to like what you like, but I honestly think we'd all be better off if we all could also understand what we like in it's own context, no matter what that context illustrates. And you know what? If facing the reality of what you like changes your like for it, then you didn't actually like it all that much. Move on. Find something else that's more your taste. It's fine to do that. It's fine to change your own opinion. But that's a blog for another day.