Jason X, Snapchat, and the Double-Edged Machete of Nostalgia

Uber Jason: Generation X stranger in strange land

Through the 1980s, Jason Voorhees, the unstoppable killing machine of the Friday the 13th franchise, reigned supreme. The scourge of campgrounds everywhere returned again and again (and again, quite a few more times), inspiring urban legends, copycats, and a hard-rock tribute by Alice Cooper. Like Trans-Ams, MTV, and the disaffected cool of Generation X, Jason was vital. He endured. He mattered.

Until he didn’t.

The world moved on, and somewhere between his visits to Hell and Manhattan, the murderous, hockey-masked behemoth was cast aside.

Jason X, the tenth film in the series, was to be his rebound.

Retrieved from an abandoned Earth by a crew of spacefaring archaeology students from the future, a cryogenically preserved Jason is brought aboard the spaceship Apache in the year 2455. Thawed out and no longer on familiar territory, this Jason is comically inept as he struggles to keep up with the technologically advanced world that surrounds him. Throughout the film his would-be victims, including a quippy, similarly-indestructible android, subvert the zombie goalie’s rampage and literally inflict technology on him, dismembering him and replacing his tissue with a swarm of nanobots.

As it turns out, a nanobotically-infused, chrome-plated Jason (the Uber Jason) is pretty similar to his lo-fi predecessor. He’s a little more empowered with his new look and cyborg strength, but he remains the testy, unlikable monster he always was. Sort of like your racist uncle on social media.

In a last-ditch effort to complete their mission and go back to living their 25th-century lives, the young, attractive students of the Apache distract the monster by reprogramming the ship’s holodeck to display a virtual reality version of Camp Crystal Lake — Jason’s classic 1980s hunting ground. While the crew prepares to evacuate, Jason thrives in the simulacrum. He attacks his digital prey with gusto, and in this throwback machine, the once lost and confused icon of decades past finally discovers his place in a world that wasn’t made for him.

This is going to be hard to hear for anyone over 32 years old — but we’re no better than Uber Jason.

Last month, Snapchat all but cemented its status in the mainstream by introducing Memories — a tool for archiving and sharing photos through the app. Where Snapchat’s earliest adopters — a younger, technologically adept demographic — valued the platform’s promise of impermanence, Snapchat Memories is a new development to appeal to a growing user base that is trending older and wants to find new ways to reminisce.

Like Uber Jason, Generation X is a demographic stuck between two worlds. We’re more experimental with digital technology than our forebears, but unlike the Millennials that follow, this mediated existence doesn’t define us. The result is a weird liminal space in social media where living (and broadcasting) in the moment is taking a backseat to repackaging bygone times via apps like Timehop and Facebook Memories. Likewise, with this latest update, Snapchat is balancing its much-ballyhooed ephemeral nature with nostalgia. Older users who couldn’t quite make sense of the interface are now adding pig noses and bumblebee eyes to archived pictures from their camera rolls with reckless abandon. Meanwhile, it’s only a matter of time before, like the crew of the Apache, Snapchat’s earliest adopters will look for the first opportunity to abandon their compromised ship. Nostalgia is comfortable; it doesn’t challenge us and it makes us feel better about ourselves. But how can we expect to move forward when our media encourages us to constantly look back?

Exciting times are ahead as technology improves and developers create new tools for mediated identity performance, particularly in the field of virtual reality. But how long will concessions to nostalgia be a factor for growth? Groundbreaking social technologies need to be untethered from the past. It’s one thing to use new platforms to tell old stories, and yeah, rehashing your greatest hits can be fun, but as Jason X shows, after the 10th iteration it’s just silly.

This piece is part of Science Fiction Frames: a series of incisive analyses, thoughtful meditations, wild theories, close readings, and speculative leaps jumping off from a single frame of a science fiction film or television show. If you would like to contribute to the series or learn more, email us at imagination@asu.edu.