The Golden Age Fallacy

Updated: May 1, 2020

All living beings are confined between past and present. We may desire a return to our younger selves, or long for the days of a more peaceful future. However, fixating on our former or future lives has never and will never alter the present.

Therein lies The Golden Age Fallacy: A belief that one would be more content in a different time.

A Different Era

For some, they may believe they would have thrived in the 1960’s during the time of Woodstock. An era of self expression, love, and the height of community. Others may romanticize the 1920’s. Picturing oneself with the likes of characters from Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald novels, living an extraordinary life abroad filled with intimate social gatherings and intellectual stimulation. A time of minimal technology, maximum creativity, and palpable joie de vivre.

Life Is Not A Highlight Reel

No matter what age one wishes she was a part of, we must come to the realization that it is, in fact, a romanticization. We have not experienced the day to day life of someone in the golden age we so adore. A comparison within the realm of modernity entails viewing a

highlight reel of LeBron James and deciding to devote one’s life to basketball as a result. This evaluation weighs all the positives of being one of the best basketball players of all time, without taking into consideration the negative experiences and struggles he dealt with on the journey to stardom.

One simply cannot know the full story of their admired past or present by looking at the greatest hits. It might be better than she could ever imagine, but chances are it wouldn’t even sniff expectations. Living vicariously through a work of art, novel, film, or person temporarily is noble, as long as it doesn’t take away from one’s experience of the present age. The best time to be alive is now. With the people you love. Doing things that excite you.

Main Takeaway

Be a proponent of the moment. The Golden Age Fallacy opened my eyes to the tragedy of doing otherwise. This is especially prevalent during quarantine. We wish we were somewhere else in a time where we can do what we please. However, just because times are tough right now does not make the present any less valuable. Making the most of each moment is all we can do as humans.


This idea was sparked by the movie Midnight in Paris. Owen Wilson time travels from the 2000’s to 1920’s Paris and finds out it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. The crux of this realization occurs when the girl he falls in love with in the 1920’s decides she would rather be a part of the Belle Époque — an era between 1871–1914. We all want what we can’t have.

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