Have we abused 80’s Nostalgia

The 1980’s as a period is fascinating, so many things we know and, love came from this decade and, many events that would shape the course of history; especially pertaining to ‘Pop Culture’ happened herein. In the year 2019, the 80s are long over. No one seems to know this better than film and television executives, who seem all too happy to cash in on the nostalgia and fond remembrance people have for this part of the 20th century. Though a statement of fact it is not intrinsically a bad one, as due to this 80’s nostalgia we have Glow and Stranger Things, two outstanding shows in their own rights.
However, as I was sat watching the recently released third season of Stranger Things, I began to think have we seen enough from this decade? I’m starting to think we have. Somewhere around the 30th reference to some obscure 80s trend, I realised the entertainment industry needs to find a new decade to mine. The popularity of decades come and go we’ve had 60’s and 70’s phenomenons before that have for the most part come and gone, and in time the ’80s will do that as well. That said, Hollywood has used the 80’s, and more specifically, the nostalgia of this period for as long as almost 20 years. Freaks and Greeks the hit Jud Apatow series that kicked started the career of a lot of famous actors today was the first example of a show that harkened back to that period, though little over 10 years later. So this trend of glorification has been happening since the late 90s. Since then we have had 100s of projects that have been inspired by the period, with everything from Red Oaks to Wet Hot American summer. I think nostalgia can work well, in small doses, but when done to an obscene degree can become not only tacky and cheap but a hallmark of bad writing. A reference to something popular in the 80s can be easily thrown into a script to both pad a shows runtime and also force the audience to feel some emotion. To that end I think this is no longer working, the reasons for this are two-fold, one people are starting to wise up to these blatant tugs on the nostalgia cords and secondly a considerable part of the movie-going public wasn’t alive in the 80s so can’t relate and don’t understand the references. So with all that said I think we need to move a decade later and start milking 90s nostalgia instead. Now I’m not saying that shows like Stranger Things and Glow need to end, just that with new and upcoming shows maybe they should lean away from the 80s because it’s tapped out. To an extent, we can see this generational shift happening around us, mainly in comic book action films like Venom, with the titular symbiote being a mainstay of the 90s, add to this that Captain Marvel is set for a large part in the 90s and you can see the change coming. Ultimately to answer the questions I posed at the start of this post, yes I think we have overused the 80s, and we do need to move on, but at the same time the period a film is set in should help to sell the world, the time period should never be the main focus to the extent it takes away from the story. We need films about characters, not time periods.

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