Let’s turn the clock back to the year 2009. I was fifteen years old, a sophomore in high school, and just got cast as one of the lead roles in my high school’s spring musical, Back to the 80’s. As the title of the play suggests, it was riddled with references to 1980’s pop culture, all of the songs in the musical were from the 1980’s, the dialogue was delightfully cheesy, and all of it was GLORIOUS. Having just missed this fantastic neon-splashed, synth-infused era by just a decade, I will unfortunately never know what it was like to live during the 80’s, but being in this play was one step into experiencing this era, being able to live vicariously through my character. It wasn’t until after I did the play that I realized I missed out on a totally bitchin good time.
We currently live in a day and age where technology is evolving nonstop, fashion evolving along with it, and where the entertainment industry is thriving across many platforms. Our society today is also fueled by nostalgia, as the generation that is currently dominating it is the one that remembers a time when technology wasn’t so prevalent in culture, one that has seen simpler times fade away so quickly (as a precursor to this blog post, read this one). But I believe this is just another wave of changes that our society is currently experiencing. The last time a similar significant shift in culture occurred? The 1980’s.
The dawn of the 1980’s came with the dawn of never before seen technology and new media outlets, namely MTV. The MTV that we know today is nowhere near the MTV that first came to be in the early 80’s. Reality shows weren’t taking over our television programming, social media didn’t have a presence in society, and the personal lives of celebrities wasn’t as much of a hot-button topic as it is today. Instead, MTV served as the pioneering force that would bring talents like Michael Jackson and Madonna to become pop culture icons. MTV was true Music Television – that is, it didn’t glamorize teen pregnancy – and aired the first music video, “Video Killed The Radio Star” by The Buggles (which just so happens to be the song I performed solo in Back to the 80’s). With television sets becoming more and more commonplace in people’s living rooms, this first music video was just one of the many driving forces behind revolutionizing the music industry.
On the topic of television, the emergence of Emmy-winning programming began to take place. Cable television began to become more accessible to the public, and with this new budding entertainment market, sitcoms began to make their impression in the world of television with the launch of shows like M*A*S*H, Who’s The Boss, and Married…With Children, as well as the debut of primetime soap operas like Dallas. With the birth of revolutionary programming, as well as MTV integrating the worlds of music and television, the 1980’s was an exciting time for the entertainment industry, paving the way for television programming of today.
This brings me to my next point – the rise of new technology. Along with MTV, Madonna, and Michael Jackson, home video game consoles started to take their place in society and make their permanent mark in the video game realm forever. As arcade games began to dissipate in the early 1980’s, with the uprising of home personal computers, Nintendo revived the video game industry with at-home game consoles with Mario spearheading this movement, serving as the mascot for Nintendo. Along with Mario came other popular games like Pac Man, Donkey Kong, and, The Legend of Zelda. While these pioneering video game sagas still serve as undying icons today, a new wave of video games is beginning to take their place (Fallout, anyone?).
Although I am currently living during an era of the contant emergence of new technology, television programming, and revolutionary societal advances, I would have loved to have been around during the time these things were just starting to impress in society. People of today get excited with every new iPhone that comes out (but really, is there really anything new about each incarnation?), I can’t imagine the excitement over the first IBM or Macintosh; The anticipation of rushing home from school to watch the premiere of the music video for “Video Killed The Radio Star” on MTV (instead of setting my DVR to record it, or searching for it on YouTube when I should be paying attention in class); The feeling I’d get putting on my first pair of acid washed jeans, Ray Bans, and getting a fresh mullet haircut.
Alas, I am not Marty McFly, nor do I have a scientist friend to build me a time machine out of a DeLorean to take me back to the 1980’s. Thus I am left to lust over the glorious era by way of my 1980’s Spotify playlist and a (not so) quick Google Image search. But at least 30 years from now, when the next pop culture revolution occurs, I can proudly say I lived during the era of the Kardashians, smart phone revolution, and I got to see Leonardo DiCaprio win his first Oscar.