The ’80s will never leave (and that makes me happy)

If there’s one thing that I got from a cursory inspection of the news and trailers from Comic Con this past weekend, it’s that the spirit of the ’80s is alive and kicking. Stranger Things, Thor Ragnarok, and Ready Player One are all channeling the Decade of Me in their own way. Then there’s last year’s resurrection of the NES (and this year’s SNES), the popularity of which left no doubt that people are pretty fond of the games from those times.

I don’t mind; in fact, I am all about hanging on to the ’80s as much as possible as years continue to distance ourselves from that era. There was just something gloriously unique about this period, from the style to the music to the colors to the pop culture. My office has Back to the Future, Indiana Jones, and Ghostbusters memorabilia decorated throughout, and I’m looking forward to when my kids are a little older and I can share Ferris Beuller and The Breakfast Club with them.

All of the reboots and period homages to the ’80s in pop culture lately has made me think about why the spirit of this decade is so strong right now. Practically, a lot of people who grew up or lived through the ’80s are in positions right now to create these TV shows, movies, and books. I think each generation holds tighter to their past when they feel it slipping away, and as we’re almost three full decades away from feathered hair and the height of MTV, it might have prompted some of these moves.

But that doesn’t account for the fondness that younger people seem to have with the ’80s, not as an era to look back and reflect on one’s childhood, but as an aesthetic that’s fun, different, and to be embraced. The cartoons and movies of the ’80s seemed a little crazier and more fun than a lot of what’s come since. There’s no “ownership” of an entire decade, after all, or any requirement that you actually had to live through it to adopt it today.

For me, I love these little bursts of nostalgia and representation. Since I was four through 14 during the ’80s, I can say that I grew up then but I wasn’t always in the river of pop culture. But when I see stuff like this, it takes me back for a moment to the things I do remember — the Atari 2600, seeing E.T. in the movie theater, garish Trapper Keepers, the sheer love we had of cartoons and their toys — and it warms my heart that it’s being remembered and honored and, yes, enjoyed today.

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4 thoughts on “The ’80s will never leave (and that makes me happy)

  1. bhagpuss July 24, 2017 / 10:27 am

    There’s a very predictable pattern to this. When I was a teenager in the 1970s there was a huge ’50s influence on popular culture and I’ve watched that repeat itself with the 60s, 70s and 80s so far. It’s not a simple, linear progression though; each decade has a revival that comes about a decade, decade-and-a-half later and that revival fizzles out. The full, overwhelming revival comes about 20-30 years after the peak of the original era.

    What’s more, each original decade and each minor and major revival also leave artifacts and influences on each following era, the whole thing becoming increasingly self-referential and inbred. In fact, if you look back to the 1950s and 1960s you can see they were mining the 1920s,30s and 40s…and some of that is still around now.

    If you read the comments on YouTube (I know but you’d be surprised what gold is there) it’s clear that the 90s are already some people’s Golden Age. Expect that to return soonish.

    The 90s is the last decade whose popular culture in which I have both a personal stake and a clear understanding. With luck it should see me out. I’ll enjoy the New 80s while we have them, though.

  2. Rowan July 24, 2017 / 11:25 am

    Being about five years older than you, I came of age in the 80s, with a clear memory of certainly the second half and most of the first half. Like you, a lot of cultural touchstones of that era were personal touchstones for me. I had a mix of pastels and neons in my closet. I can still remember what it felt like when I saw Elliott and E.T. fly over the treetops, and when Anakin Skywalker finally and fully rejected the Emperor’s hold over him and saw his son with his own eyes. Even now, I enjoy a BttF trilogy marathon at least once a year.

    At the same time, I am realizing more and more that—even though it seems like yesterday—the Reagan Era is fading further into the past, and the world we’re in today has about as much in common with the 80s as that decade did with the 50s and early 60s. Historical events have shaped not only our daily lives, but the entertainment we choose to make and watch, and therefore the culture we are immersed in. Which makes us nostalgic for “simpler” times.

  3. Redbeard July 24, 2017 / 2:26 pm

    I’m just waiting for a reboot of Misfits of Science.

  4. baldwinp July 24, 2017 / 2:43 pm

    Syp and a previous comment mentioned E.T., so I just wanted to add that I must be in the minority in that I could not stand the movie as a child. I think one or more of the characters annoyed me and I just felt like it was trying too hard. I did not see it in the theater (we went to maybe one movie a year) so this may have been my first experience of over-hype backlash.

    At least the movie led to the widespread availability of Reese’s Pieces, my favorite candy. Also, we went to Universal Studios during a trip to Florida one year. Our first stop was the E.T. ride, but after a 45-60 minute wait, they told us that the ride was broken and that we would all have to leave. On the way out, a man asked my mother what she thought of the park. Exasperated, she told him the ordeal with the ride. It turns out he was VP of something or other and hooked us up with VIP passes for the rest of the day, allowing us to cut to the front of every line. I felt a bit guilty as we got to bypass the 2-hour wait for King Kong. So, I suppose I should give the film a second chance some day.

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