The 1980s were defined by teen angst, generational rifts, big hair and neon fashion. Although many thought it was a time that would fade into obscurity, "The Me" decade has roared back to influence music, film, television, and style. Yes...Seriously.
Throughout pop culture we see the influence. Comedian Russell Brand wears a persona embodying that of a 1980's rocker and Lady Gaga's incendiary style pays a not so subtle homage to Madonna and Warhol. With the recent passing of icons like John Hughes and Corey Haim and the upcoming release of Wallstreet 2, the 1980s are squarely back in the spotlight.
It may have seemed trite at the time but Sixteen Candles,The Breakfast Club, Top Gun and the Karate Kid meant something to us. It was a decade that those who lived through couldn't wait to forget. A decade that many thought we SHOULD forget. But despite these misgivings the 80's have hung around and engendered affection from many people that weren't even alive to experience it. Maybe the 80s has stuck in our minds because it was the last time the world made sense. There were Russians! The Berlin Wall made a great backdrop for movies and espionage as opposed to being a photo-op for the busloads of tourists who flock to it today. And of course, let's not forget that whole Iron Curtain thing, I mean it really let you know where you stood in the World. Today we have TARP, Tiger Woods and Terrorism.
We had our scandals, but they involved transshipment's of weapons to Iran and Nicaragua, not inquisitions into sexual behavior. Travel was cool. You could board a plane without taking your shoes off, carrying a bottle of water in your hand, and enough cologne to douse a high school prom. We dressed for the occasion and if you wore your pajamas to the airport people looked at you like you were crazy. Other than Panama and Grenada, it was pretty peaceful, and it sure was nice to take a break from large-scale foreign wars. I guess the threat of war is way more pleasant then actually being in one. You could smoke in bars and we were pretty clueless about how dangerous it was. Sushi became popular and we were utterly oblivious about how much mercury we were consuming. The stock market crashed, but our banks and car companies didn't. Eddie Murphy was funny. Miley Cyrus wasn't even born. Pirates were something you read about in books or saw on the side of a Raiders helmet as opposed to nowadays tuning into CNN and having mixed feelings that the French Navy is trying to bring Somali teenagers to justice. The Lire, Drachma and the Franc were still in circulation. As for sports, no one even thought about testing baseball players for steroids. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson made the NBA more interesting to watch than College basketball. Jimmy Super Fly Snuka, Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan convincingly sold their act. The Red Sox were still cursed and The "Miracle on Ice" made us believe.
Dating took a bit of a hit, as there was some debate if you could catch AIDS from a toilet seat or kissing. And as most guys will attest -- the turtlenecks, thick tights and leg warmers you ladies sported were not easily removed. It was sort of quaint how people used the media to date on Love Connection as opposed to today where you type in your height, "Hollywood age" and preferred income requirements and a website emails back a list of suitable matches.
As for pop culture, the music was pretty damn good. Yeah come on, admit it. You crank the volume way up and rock out to your 80's when no one is looking. Michael Jackson Moonwalked, LL Cool J rapped "I'll take a muscle-bound man and put his face in the sand", Duran Duran was Hungry Like The Wolf, U2 took us to a place Where The Streets Have No Name, and Cyndi Lauper showed us our True Colors. The DeLorean may or may not have been a time machine, but it sure looked awesome. We learned that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker's father (some of us didn't see that one coming).
People ACTUALLY watched live television, including the commercials. While there were only about 20 channels, it was the golden age of network sitcoms: we couldn't get enough of the of the comedic family life of The Cosby Show and Family Ties, and Miami Vice and Magnum PI were totally awesome. Now we have American Idol, The Jersey Shore, and The Real Housewives -- Good thing my Grandmother isn't alive to see that one.
But you know what? When I think about it, I believe the allure of the 1980's is the appeal of a simpler time and more easily relatable way of life. While we were relatively tech-ed out (yes I know, the cell phones the size of field radios were not sexy), we were not ALWAYS connected. Sending a Fax was a special event that seemed futuristic and we weren't tethered to email. A first class postage stamp was in the range of 15 cents and people actually used them. Cabbage patch dolls ... well ok, those were pretty dumb. But how about the fact that record stores still existed? We still used pay phones. You could still hop a Concorde to London. We found the Titanic. The World Trade Center hadn't even been attacked "the first time". We weren't entirely sure about that whole global warming thing. China was just an exotic place to visit and not a place that produced 90 percent of the goods we consume. Magazines and newspapers made money and people really read them. Today my brain hurts from Twitter, TiVo and text messages.
Maybe it was because we seemed like we were moving forward. We followed through on things. We built upon the advances in space exploration from the 70's and the space shuttle, while not the most reliable vehicle, sure was a nice looking ride. The mere name alone made it seem as if space travel was just as easy as catching the cross-town bus. We faced down consequence and weren't afraid to take on the evil empire. We proposed space based weapons platforms. Of course, they may not have worked, but they sure as hell bankrupted our enemies.
Not doing it for you? Did I mention it was the decade that gave us Indiana Jones, The A-Team and Mr. T, The Terminator and E.T.?
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