While the secrets of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story are more closely guarded than the Death Star plans, you can already get a copy of Rogue One on VHS. Well, sort of.
An artist named “Steelberg” released some fantastic new faux-vintage VHS covers of your favorite TV shows and movies including The Shallows, The Edge of Tomorrow, Stranger Things and Rogue One. He’s also made spot-on VHS box art for The Revenant, Her, Mad Max: Fury Road and countless others, all to convincing perfection.
His latest covers — for Rogue One, Stranger Things, and Ready Player One —highlight exactly why we love these simulacrum ‘80s-esque VHS boxes: their anachronisms allow us to live in two eras at once. James Murphy once complained of “borrowed nostalgia for the un-remembered” ‘80s — Ernest Cline’s novel Ready Player One depicts an entire future social media society built upon that exact borrowed nostalgia.
Both of these notions gesture at a search for vintage authenticity by actually creating new art out of that search. Contemporarily, the apotheosis of this phenomenon is Stranger Things. But wait? Is the venn diagram of the nostalgia craze intersecting on Stranger Things itself ? Or the popularity of Stranger Things? If you’ve played with the Stranger Things font generator, you might be participating in a fandom for the show, but you also might just be really into old Stephen King novels.
Steelberg’s Rogue One box art is a nice product of our modern-conception of nostalgia blurriness. The design of the box is interestingly taken from the old Star Trek VHS boxes, not ones for Star Wars. The “collector’s edition” detail takes us even deeper down the rabbit hole, since this box art in particular is from a reissue of the unaired Trek-TV pilot “The Cage.” Since Rogue One is an untold story of Star Wars this connection makes sense, but it’s imbedded in the art (perhaps unintentionally), subliminally. Plus, this VHS box design is decidedly from the ‘90s, not the 80s. But, as in the future VR world of Ready Player One, the boundaries of what is and is not nostalgic are constantly moving. Our version of the past, as seen through artistic expression, is at an all-time, hyperbolic high.
In the original Ghostbusters, Peter Venkman says “I guess they don’t make them like they used to,” to which Ray replies by slapping him and saying “NO! Nobody EVER made them like this!” And as our shared obsession with “retro” ephemera continues to evolve, it seems we’ll continue to make new objects of things that were never quite made the way we remember them in the first place.