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Revenge of the False Nostalgia

Why do children of the 90s love the 80s so much?

by
Hannah Sternberg

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April 2, 2014 - 4:00 pm
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I was born in 1988. I do not remember the 80s. I was alive for two years of them, and the only (VERY faint, possibly imagined) recollection I can dredge up from that period is when my family moved to Vermont in 1990, and I sat on my parents’ bed watching the movers place our furniture. But that might also have been a dream.

In fact, I only have fuzzy memories of elementary school as well. I’m no Jean Shepherd. I spent most of my youngest years so firmly ensconced inside my own imagination that I remember the stories I read more vividly than many things that happened in reality. By middle and high school, I was finally participating in the world around me, forming a wide circle of friends in drama club, going to the (small, ratty) mall, driving around at night with the windows down singing along to the radio with my pals. That was in the late 90s and early aughts.

Today, most people who remember being a middle- or high-schooler in the 80s are now in, or nearing, their 40s. Even someone who is 30 this year was only in elementary school by the time the 90s dawned; they weren’t having¬†Breakfast Club¬†coming-of-age experiences in the 80s. So why is it that the people who seem to feel the fiercest, loudest nostalgia for the 80s — college kids who throw 80s-themed parties, twenty-somethings who voraciously consume Buzzfeed listicles on 80s nostalgia — either didn’t live through the 80s, or were too young to remember or care about pop culture at the time?

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I was born in 1979, so I was a kid during the 80s.

The music was a lot better than the garbage that was popular when I was in high school during the 90s. We went from Iron Maiden songs about vikings and Dune, and quirky-yet-cool bands like The Talking Heads, to suicidal heroin addicts whining about how much life sucks and gangsta rappers grunting about "bitches and hos."

The cartoons were a lot better too. Parents weren't overprotective like they started to become in the 90s, and everything wasn't so PC.

Basically, what we see nowadays is the worst of the 90s made worse by a magnitude of 1000000000. No wonder people would rather imitate the 80s than embrace 2014.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Maybe it's a 20 year rule regarding mainstream media:

In the 1960s, the 1940s were the subject. Don't believe it? Check out all the TV shows & movies about WWII.

In the 1970s, it was the 1950s. American Graffiti, Happy Days, M*A*SH etc.

In the 1980s, well the kind of breaks the rule albeit there was a lot of Vietnam War stuff. The hippies were generally considered to be a-holes.

In the 1990s, as you point out, it was the 70s, and in the oughts it was the '80s.

I suspect it has to do with the people who grew up in those eras taking charge of entertainment.

47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think it's because today's music mostly sucks. The 90's music sucked. The 70's music, until the Ramones & Punk came along sucked too. Punk and New Wave was exciting. Heck, the frontman actually knew how to "sing" and actually played a musical instrument. You knew the names of the musicians and they even had a real drummer.

Young people had at lest some prospects back in the eighties. The nation regained its pride and prosperity. We won the Cold War.

Feminism had achieved reasonable goals, and had not yet led to entitled, bitchy, fat, promiscuous princesses. You could actually date back then. No social media, so you actually had to relate to real, live girls. ..and girls did not spend most of their time with their head on their cell phones, texting and sending selfies.

You could get a used 70's muscle car for under a thousand bucks ...and put leaded gas in it. You could own a motorcycle without insurance driving you broke.

Society was less lawyered and people did not drag each other in court for stupid things as much as they do today.

We all knew Greenpeace was taking $ from the Soviets to oppose NATO nukes.

...and finally, punk jackets & motorcycle boots were cool.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (41)
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I was born on February 14, 1990, so I can't say I have anything to be nostalgic for regarding the 1980s. Probably the closest thing to nostalgia was the knowledge that America ended up defeating Communism in the East, and even then, the victory seems hollow right now considering how many people are preaching for Communism or similar things in our universities and schools, our media, not to mention our having communists inside the government. Also Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, maybe Disney's The Little Mermaid. And besides, at school they rarely ever talk about the 1980s anyways, either they deliberately skip it or otherwise by the time we get to it, the semester is over. Most times, we just stop at the 1970s shortly after Vietnam. Probably the only exception right now is this semester and possibly the Education course I took, and even those will either be rushed or in the case of the Education course have some negative commentary about the tests. Most of our teachers and fellow students, if they focus on any particular generation regarding nostalgia, even nostalgia they shouldn't have since they are born AFTER that era, was the 1960s or even the 1970s.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
I was born in '92. I am a 90's kid but I feel like I should be an 80's kid. Maybe that transitional period between late 80s and early 90s culture has something to do with it. Then again one of my distinct childhood memories was playing GTA Vice City which was set in 1986 Miami. I still listen to all the music from the radio stations in that game. Talk Talk, A Flock of Seagulls, etc.

Maybe why so many people envy the 80s is because that was when Reagan was in office and the country actually felt like it was on the rise. There was optimism. A feeling that the future would be brighter. Today we don't have that. My generation feels like the future is going to suck. That America is in decline and that we have been sold out by previous generations with mountains of debt.

Idk if every millennial feels that way (about the debt and politics). But I know that there is a general feeling of malaise. We don't see that bright future you guys had a chance to see. Hopefully the next president and congress can change that by getting out of our way and fixing the debt problem and our standing in the world (ie. Strengthen our military and our resolve)
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm almost the exact same age as Ms. Sternberg, so I suppose I have to stand up for the pop culture of our youth. Our peak pop years were between about 1998 and 2005, which I've recently realized was a lucky period to grow up in.

We got alt-rock after it had thrown off the worst excesses of grunge, and reinvented itself as groove-oriented fun music (think Goo Goo Dolls, Sugar Ray, Spin Doctors, and No Doubt), but before it was subsumed completely into electronic pop. We got rap when it still had to have an element of R&B in it, and when it was still allowed to be funny. Even the doom and gloom of the early 90s Goth scene got rehabilitated by anthemic and upbeat "Nu Metal" outfits like Godsmack, Soil, and (ironically, given their name) Disturbed, but Emo hadn't yet come along and ruined everything.

Most importantly, we were the last generation to have pop culture before Sensitivity politburo finally consolidated control of it, and mandated that all music be vapid, emasculated, and frivolous.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
The most glaring greatness about the 1980s is that our President didn't immediately hop on Air Force One after "winning" the election, fly to Egypt (or any other country) and declare that Americans have been acting in an arrogant manner. Another glaring greatness about the 1980s is that the NSA wasn't recording every phone call of every person on the planet.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Why do children of the 90s love the 80s so much?

Because the 80's had a better President than the 90's?
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
I was born in 1979, so I was a kid during the 80s.

The music was a lot better than the garbage that was popular when I was in high school during the 90s. We went from Iron Maiden songs about vikings and Dune, and quirky-yet-cool bands like The Talking Heads, to suicidal heroin addicts whining about how much life sucks and gangsta rappers grunting about "bitches and hos."

The cartoons were a lot better too. Parents weren't overprotective like they started to become in the 90s, and everything wasn't so PC.

Basically, what we see nowadays is the worst of the 90s made worse by a magnitude of 1000000000. No wonder people would rather imitate the 80s than embrace 2014.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm a child of the 80's and I'd give my right arm to return our culture to that time. We had a president who truly loved this country, and fought tooth and nail to defend her from enemies without AND within. Everyone still fixed their own cars, and cut their own grass. Yes Reagan made the mistake of signing amnesty, but the Mexican kids in my school didn't demand classes in Spanish and their parents didn't suck up a welfare check. Everyone was proud to be an American. And, best of all the A-Team was on TV!!!
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, I was a child in the 1980s, and I can testify that they were pretty good. My family lived in a rough neighborhood and at one point was so poor that we kids could actually have qualified for a reduced-price school lunch. I never thought of us as being poor, though, just "lower-middle-class" in the parlance of the times.

Do I get a bit nostalgic for my childhood? Sure. Was it all that ideal a time? No, not really. The neighborhood had a lot of bullies in it, the kids at school were cruel to me, and our trashy neighbors had a junkyard dog (usually) chained up in their driveway that terrified me with his barking every time I passed by on my way home from school.

The 1990s? Forget it; they were awful. To be sure, my family got richer, we moved to a nicer neighborhood, and we no longer had to put up with such trashy neighbors. However, this was around the time I was introduced to racial busing, meaning I had to get up at an unholy hour in the morning to go to school in one of the worst inner-city hellholes I'd ever known just because the place wouldn't have enough white people in it to meet racial quotas otherwise. (Really!) The bullies there were brutal, and there were fist-fights in the halls on an almost daily basis.

About the only good thing I can say about the 1990s is that the entertainment was good; but part of the reason it was good is that it was an escape from the misery of the times, and I could only get such an escape on rare occasions. Now that I can get (on the internet) pretty much all of the video games, cartoons, and movies from that era that I've ever wanted to see, the fun stuff from back then loses some of its glamor.

The reason times like the 1980s look so much better in retrospect is because we get to keep all the stuff we liked from them and chuck all the rest in the trash. Then we pass on all of the stuff we liked to our kids, and neglect to tell them about all the stuff we threw away. So kids of our time, take it from somebody who actually lived through the 1980s: they were good, and you might even enjoy visiting them in Marty McFly's time-traveling DeLorean from Back To The Future. (Ooh! Another nostalgia piece!) You wouldn't want to live there, though; you'd have no internet connection, your cell phones wouldn't work, and you'd find the technology of the times endlessly frustrating and user-unfriendly. Also, being called a "geek" used to be a terrible insult back then, and a "geek" is what you'd almost constantly be called for being so tech-savvy as you are now; just sayin'.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
I was born in the early 60s, hit adolescents in the 1970s, and became an adult in the early 1980s. I never had much nostalgia for the 70s. I still like much of the music; however, you can keep the bell bottoms, orange counter tops, large collars, green shag carpeting, Stagflation, the 1970s vintage Corvettes, Mustangs, T-Birds, etc... The 1970s, over-all, really sucked. Nothing memorable ever came from the 1970s. Even much of the music I used to listen to had its roots in the 1960s (Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Frampton). I can not think of any literature written in the 1970s that was memorable. Ditto for movies.

The 1980s was an improvement of sorts. However, the coke epidemic and introduction in AIDS into the world only indicated that the cultural radicalism of the 1970s went underground.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
"hit adolescents in the 1970s"

Did any of them hit back?
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Maybe it's a 20 year rule regarding mainstream media:

In the 1960s, the 1940s were the subject. Don't believe it? Check out all the TV shows & movies about WWII.

In the 1970s, it was the 1950s. American Graffiti, Happy Days, M*A*SH etc.

In the 1980s, well the kind of breaks the rule albeit there was a lot of Vietnam War stuff. The hippies were generally considered to be a-holes.

In the 1990s, as you point out, it was the 70s, and in the oughts it was the '80s.

I suspect it has to do with the people who grew up in those eras taking charge of entertainment.

47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
"In the 1980s, well the kind of breaks the rule albeit there was a lot of Vietnam War stuff"

The Wonder Years, China Beach, Tour of Duty

"I suspect it has to do with the people who grew up in those eras taking charge of entertainment."

I always figured it was because the people growing up then start having more disposable income and becoming attractive to advertisers.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Good analagy Bill, I've noticed that too growing up watching TX...And I've always wondered what they would call the Early 2000's, .this is the first time I've seen someone use the phrase "the oughts"

Lots of time frames are referred to in the teens like "the eighteen hundreds, the nineteen hundreds" and in our century the decades like "the twenties" or "the sixties", and I never knew what the early 2000's would become "linguistically"

Until today, the only time I'd hear the word "ought" was some grizzled ol-timer talking about his '03 Springfield rifle, in "thirty-ought-six"

Holy crap, maybe I"M THAT GUY now!? ;)
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Thanks Root. I've seen it used before. I had the same reaction. 30-06. I'm old.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
You ought to get that fixed.


;-)

47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, that's certainly true, it's a movable feast.

That being said though, there was a "Sea Change" that began during the 90s - music is basically no longer "fun" for the sake of being fun. That is, sure, there is still some "fun" music today, but the bulk of it seems to have become "Rage Against Everything," or "Let's spew filth and call it music."
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Part of the "sea change" was "Seinfeld," which celebrated meanness and being a total jerk.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Funny show to me. If anything it was lesson on how not to live life.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Seriously, the 90's music was the worst. Poor me. Growing up middle-class and doing heroine is so hard.

Was I the only person who couldn't care less when Curt Cobaine committed suicide? Sound Garden, Alice in Chains, and Nirvana sounded identical to me. All the music was angry for the sake of being angry at something.

The 80s had the metal bands. Metallica, Megadeth, Ozzy Osbourne - these guys actually sang about problems and the anger was directed at elements of the culture. Metallica's Master of Puppets is one of the best anti-drug songs of all time. Ozzy Osbourne's Crazy Train literally was him complaining about the Progressive Conservatives trying to ban his music for being "satanic" when his music was never satanic. Alice Cooper's music, for all his dark theatrics, was primarily about the angst of growing up and transitioning from teenager into adulthood.

Alice in Chains tells us "I'm in a box. I feel like someone's covering me in poop. Someone come do something for me."

80's children wanted to change things themselves. The 90's rockers were sitting on their roofs with signs waiting to be rescued. I guess Reagan was right about it only taking a generation.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Couldn't disagree more. Metal is arguably the only genre to go into boom times in the early to mid 90s. Iron Maiden went through kind of a dark period (though Fear of the Dark came out in 92), but the big thrash bands that started in the late 80s had some of their peak years, not to mention new groups like Pantera and Fear Factory.

And that's just in the mainstream. Outside of the big American media, power metal and death metal, both of which were invented in the 80s, really got developed into distinctive sub-genres in the 90s. Industrial was pretty much invented in the 90s, and so were a ton of other subgenres.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
My skew on all of this is, those of us who came of age (turned 18) during the early-mid-late 70s still had WWII/Korea era parents (I turned 18 in '76). For all that it was a topical Sitcom, "That 70's Show" got the character of "Red" precisely right. My Dad and him would've gotten along famously. Anyways, we got bred into us a certain way of viewing things, a way of having fun, etc.

By the early/mid 90s, who are the kids coming of age? Why in increasing numbers, the children of the 60s generation. I think that played a great deal into the music becoming cynical and egotistic, they "got" a certain thing from their parents as well. I hear a lot of the 60s protest/the "Man"/pity me crap in the 90s stuff.

I'd say my parents were superior to theirs, no insult to them intended.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'd buy that. I turned 18 in '91.

I definitely thought that bands like Rage Against the Machine had simply set '60s lyrics and attitudes to more aggressive music and perhaps ratcheted up the envy.

Yes, your parents were far superior to Baby Boomer parents, who consistently fail to be responsible adults, sadly, even as many begin to enter retirement age.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Everything turned crass, yeah. I suppose it's the next generation's version of music turning formulaic and "Mega-Bands" during the late 70s.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
I recall back when MTV was actually Music Television an interview with Lars Ulrich of Metallica where MTV asked him why they didn't release a music video. He replied, "Because it'd only be played on one channel, on one day, late at night. Metallica will NEVER release a music video."

Then One debuted while they were doing the Monsters of Rock tour. My favorite band were officially sell-outs. Shameful.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
I knew it was all lame when I came home from Paris Island in '82, and discovered these skinny faggots at the mall wearing studded spikes around their wrists as if they were some kind of Gladiator....

Oh, and a piece of JEWELRY in the SHAPE of an old-fashioned razor blade,...neither useful as a shiv or coke-cutter, but isnt it CUTE?...Sidewalk Commandos full of death and anarchy, all safe in the lilly-white suburbs...SO edgy and dark...

And Ozzy may not have actually "been Satanic", but he sure milked the imagery...of you acknowledge a "sabath", what ELSE would people think you mean by a "black" one ?

"I'm too fat for that Naked Torso KISS outfit anymore....I'll just be a f*cking worlock or a vampire or something...SHARON! I need a CAPE!"

As for Kurt, I have a little sympathy for him because if I woke up sober one day and realized I was married to that disgusting cow, I'd have shot myself in the face with a 12 gauge too...

That is, if I didnt love my KID enough to care about what that would do to her..selfish punk that he was.

The "angst" of growing up and transitioning from teenager into adulthood is just a marketing ploy for the weak minded....all MY childhood, I wanted to BE a man, like John Wayne, or Steve McQueen, or my dad....

I feel bad for all the boys who grew up after me, who never saw Real American Men in their formative years...
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Luckily, even though my dad was a boomer, I grew up on Wayne, McQueen, and Norris.

My friends and I actually did the drugs when we were 12 - 17. By the time I was 18+, I'd already left that phase behind me for the most part, and it was really surreal (having moved from where I grew up to a different city on the other side of the state) to see 18+ people just beginning to do the dumb crap I'd done 6 years prior.

We fought a lot, too. We carried knives and clubs every day, because if you didn't you'd get from another guy who did. So while I can identify with your disdain for the posers, I was one of the guys with ripped jeans and dangling bits here and there.

I guess when Ozzy says "You've got to listen to my words!" some people simply won't do it out of bitter, stubborn spite. And I thought it was only toolbags who were incapable of hearing anything but "tone" who were the problem. Go figure.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Young, handsome, fit and trim Elvis...verses...Michael Stype?

Yeah, that was the end of the nation right there
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
---hat began during the 90s - music is basically no longer "fun" for the sake of being fun. --

That's what Blondie and the Ramones were saying in 1978

Actually, some of the newer stuff out there seems to me kind of thoughtful. I'll grant it can't be called fun but it's not raging.

And really, is the Obama years a time for fun music?
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
My college-aged daughter listens to "Indie" music, which doesn't seem too harmful. I can't say I've listened to a lot, but it sounds okay. It reminds me of the unplugged hippie stuff from bands like Cream or America.

I can't say I've listened to enough to catch the message, though.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
And really, is the Obama years a time for fun music?

Point. You got me there. Possibly mournful dirges would be more appropriate.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
OK, some fun music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fccqaKTz3Ko

I remember when Christian music was uber-lame. It's gotten good.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
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