Tuesday, September 06, 2016

What Is It About The 80's?

If you pay attention to pop culture at all and don't live under a rock you couldn't miss the buzz around the new original Netflix series Stranger Things. Everyone seems to have watched it and just about everyone loves it. We sure did. It was fun and a little scary as it always is (or should be) when kids are in peril. It was also super nostalgic for my wife and I. Matthew Modine who I always associate with Vision Quest from my high school wrestling days (it was required watching for wrestlers, my friend Ted and I could and did recite the entire movie from memory) and Winona Ryder (who is actually about two months older than me) who was in Beetlejuice back in 1988, are the adult stars who hearken back to the 1980's, stars kids of the 80's know but probably not so much for kids who grew up later.

So what is it about the 80's? Is it just that people my age who grew up in the 80's are in our 40's and starting to shape pop culture more? Maybe but I think there is more to it. The 80's were sort of a transitional time in America from the old America of post-World War II affluence and innocence to the hectic, information overloaded, cynical days we live in now.

The 80's were the last days before the tawdry administration of Bill Clinton, and were an era of redemption for the American brand and the American dream. After Vietnam, the assassinations of the Kennedy's and Martin Luther King, the economic train-wreck that was the Carter administration and the impotent shame of the Iran hostage crisis America needed a pick-me-up and we found it. President Reagan for all of his faults was an incredible upgrade and contrast to the Carter, Ford and Nixon administrations. I just remember feeling good about America back then, optimistic for our future unlike today where I am pretty much pessimistic on every level.

Kids in those days were like the kids in Stranger Things (minus the monster and super powered girl). We rode bikes, we only had one phone so it was easier to hang out in person than try to connect on the phone. Our parents didn't hover over us and we actually had free time where we could play outside or be with friends as we got older instead of having lives crammed full of activities, homework and the ever-present need to constantly check for texts, tweets, updates to Facebook, etc. We could joke around in ways that are unimaginable today and while some of it was mean and some downright awful I would trade the false sanitary political correctness of today for the 80's any day of the week. I was an early player of Dungeons & Dragons and still have all of my old stuff, from my first edition Dungeon Master's Guide all the way down to old character sheets written out in my childish handwriting (my handwriting now is still childish but also incredibly masculine) and that game plays a central role in Stranger Things.

People are usually nostalgic for days gone by but that is typically tempered with a hopeful view to the future. For my generation the feeling seems to be that we have gone too far and now we can't get back. We woke up one day and our country was gone. Just try to imagine this generation of America coming together for something like World War II. It is laughable. Little wonder that the 80's are seen with such sad fondness. That country is gone and is never coming back. All we have left now are 80's stations playing Duran Duran and shows playing to our nostalgia like Stranger Things. I for one can't wait for season 2 because the real world around us is pretty depressing.

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