If you are in the US, you could hardly be unaware of the prevalence of nostalgia for the 1980’s running rampant in current popular culture. Modern TV series like “Stranger Things” and “The Americans” and “The Goldbergs”and “Halt and Catch Fire” and movies like “It” are set in the 80s, and while the forthcoming movie “Ready Player One” is set some decades into the future, it is based explicitly on people pining for the glorious pop culture of the 1980s, some half-century earlier.
For two reasons this 80’s nostalgia is entirely understandable:
- Gen Xer’s like myself, the children and teenagers of the 1980s, are now at the age where they are the writers and producers of TV shows and movies. And people tend to be nostalgic about their childhood and teen years, so, there ya go.
- The 1980s was when pop culture… well, perhaps it didn’t reach it’s peak, but it certainly figured out how to *be* popular culture. Thirty and more years later, many of the shows and movies are still popular, still watched; many of the actors, actresses and musicians are still popular, and a good chunk of the musical styles that came into their own in the 80’s still exist and dominate the airwaves. Bracketing the 80’s was disco from the 70’s and grunge from the 90’s, both monsters in their time, but largely gone now.
(And there is another, less objective reason why the 80’s is popular in concept: it was a world that was built on horrors… the oil problems of the 70’s were still there, the Soviet Union was still threatening to kill or enslave us all, the auto and steel and agricultural and other industries were tanking. The 80s began with a tin pot dictatorship in Iran making a joke of the US, under the leadership of the most ineffectual President in recent American history. And there was the horror of Disco. And yet… the 80’s wound up being one of the most exuberantly optimistic times in American history, where it became ok to be proud of America again, where the future looked brighter (damn bright, typically in neon yellows and pinks and greens), it became possible to get rich and live well again, where the President was someone that you could actually be glad to have in the White House. That was, at least in my experience, a unique time, so far not recovered.)
I’ve been around long enough to have seen this before. In the 70’s into the 80’s, it was all about the ’50’s. In the 80’s and into the 90’s, the hippies tried to make the world revere the 60’s. In the 2000’s, we freakin’ ignored the 70’s, cuz the 70’s sucked donkey balls on virtually every level. And now… the 80’s and the first hints of 90’s nostalgia.
It’s the way of things. But something I see a lot of, expressed both by Gen Xer’s in positions to control pop culture, and in comments sections by regular schmoes, is the opinion that *kids* today are nostalgic for the 80’s. Millenials who were born after the 80’s ended, perhaps after the 90’s ended, supposedly think the 80’s were just totally tubular, or neato-keen, or the bees knees, or the cat’s pajamas, or whatever the hell it is kids these days say. When I was a kid and they were cramming 50’s nostalgia like “Grease” and “Happy Days” and “Laverne & Shirley” down my throat, I had no particular use for the 50’s. When 60’s nostalgia came along like a tied-died freight train hauling LSD, I avoided it like a smelly bum from Woodstock. Of course, my own experience counts for nothing, but I don’t recall a whole lot of my contemporaries having much more use for the 50’s and 60’s, with the exception of the causeheads who glommed onto 60’s nonsense. Hell, the pop culture of the 80’s and into the 90’swas generally a direct rejection of the 60’s.
So, my question, especially to any millenial types who might be reading this: *is* there really 80’s nostalgia among current younguns? Or is this just wishful thinking – or intentional propaganda – on the part of people pushing 8’s nostalgia for business purposes?