18th Sep2019

Opinionated: Why Do We Love Seeing 80s Nostalgia in TV and Movies?

by Chris Cummings


Stranger Things is a good example of the use of that feeling of nostalgia selling a show or film. I mean, the Netflix Original program is a huge hit, and a good part of that is because of the nostalgic brilliance of it. Whether it’s New Coke, Back to the Future, 80s Horror, fashion, music or slang words, the show nails that aspect and people have been eating it up since it debuted.

It’s not on its own either. There’s been a lot of movies and shows that have thrown us back to the 1980s in various ways, bringing memories from that decade with them. We’ve seen television shows like the aforementioned Stranger Things, and The Goldbergs, take pop-culture and lifestyle in the 80s and bring it back to modern day. We’ve seen movies, like It and Summer of ’84, do the same thing inside the horror universe. Using horror tropes made popular in that decade, we’ve seen a return of imagery, music and concepts that we love from the past. Hell, even Bumblebee was set in the 80s. It’s big money now, people love seeing the 80s represented in films and on television shows. Why? Well, there’s loads of reasons.

I was born all the way back in the Summer of 1983. Fraggle Rock debuted on HBO in the USA. Belt dresses, opal jewellery, leg warmers, thermal boots and rugby pullovers were all the fashion in the UK, kids were pounding the joysticks of the Atari 2600, playing with Glo-worms and Cabbage Patch Kids and the cinema was filled with the scenes of Return of the Jedi, WarGames, National Lampoons Vacation, Trading Places and Flashdance. It was a good year. Since then, I’ve been through the 80s, the 90s, the 00s and into the 2010’s where we currently exist in a universe that revolves around social-media and the internet, where toys are often based on the toys we loved as kids and where, in some cases like the ones we’re talking about here, the films and TV of that beautiful decade are reinvented, re-introduced and remade for a new generation to discover and the generation who grew up with that stuff to get that “oh I remember that” excitement in their stomachs.

When it comes to those of us that went through the 80s, we have so much we love and remember fondly from then. I mean, look at the movies that came out in the decade? I don’t wanna simply list things here, but we had absolute timeless classics like Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, Gremlins, The Goonies, The Terminator, Die Hard, The Empire Strikes Back, The Shining, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Poltergeist, The Evil Dead… I could go on and on (and on and on). It was an immense, insane, incredible, brilliant decade for film and television. Shows such as The Wonder Years, Cheers, Miami Vice, Full House, Happy Days and countless others became pop-culture staples that shone in the living rooms of hundreds of thousands of people. The 80s was, and is, big business. I still have the hots for the decade and so many of the things it had to offer, from the pro-wrestling programming of that era, to the horror flicks adorned with cover-art that was as gory and gruesome as it was beautiful, to Disney titles like Oliver & Company and The Little Mermaid to toys like WWF Hasbro, Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Thundercats, Boglins and more. I get that lovely butterfly feeling in my guts just writing about those things, those bright, colourful and wonderful things that we loved so much.

It’s obvious that this was a simpler time too, for many of us. There wasn’t the internet full of every single shot of intense information at our fingertips, we didn’t walk the streets with mobile phones in our pockets. Life was different, and while there are certainly things that are better now, and much easier (such as accessing information, watching media and buying stuff) there was a real down-to-basic beauty of the 80s, and I think the appeal is still strong in those of us who experienced it all. Those who never experienced it must feel very different, and I feel like, to them, the 80s is this mythological and peculiar place, full of whimsy and weirdness, packed with super-cool movies and shows, with music that remains iconic, with toys that look way cooler than most of the stuff that kids nowadays play with. I mean… there’s a lasting appeal to the 1980s, and whether you were born early enough to be part of it or not, there is something about it that sells, something about it that soaks into our pores and rushes through out blood. It’s exciting.

Stranger Things is one of the front-runners of this new sub-genre of film and TV, it stands at the centre of the pack, leading a charge of nostalgia that has a huge appeal. Around it are shows like GLOW, set in the weird and glitzy world of 1980s women’s wrestling, and more and more films, from horror to comedy, are doing the same thing. It isn’t going to end anytime soon, and while some may sneer at the gimmick of this whole influx of 80s-dom, I won’t be one of them. I love it. It’s rad.


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