30 Years of Nostalgia


The Eighties sucked. Mass unemployment, CFCs, and nuclear Armageddon back on the horizon. It’s a wonder we made it through the decade alive, and even more bizarre we haven’t buried all evidence of it. Fuck off Molly Ringwald; I want nothing more to do with you.

That’s harsh. But it’s no more extreme a reaction than the one that currently surrounds us – only it’s going in the opposite direction. You can’t start a YouTube clip, or turn onto E4 without somebody or other riffing on the Eighties. OMG, do you remember Five Star?! No, and neither do you; we weren’t alive then.

Most of us in our twenties and thirties don’t remember the Eighties: and for those who do, it’s a decade defined by Trap Door, Danger Mouse and Count Duckula, not whoever was in the charts or running the country. So why the obsession? Let’s do the arithmetic.

If you were a teenager in 1985, that’d put you in your forties now. You’ve got a good job, plenty of disposable income, and you’re pretty hot on both traditional and new media. Not only are you an advertiser’s walking moneybag, you’re also in a reasonable position of power – at least sociologically speaking.

For all that the hair-dye generation complain that society only cares about the young, it’s 45-year-olds who make all the real decisions. When did a 19-year-old commission a new TV series, find the money to buy every new box set and video game, or cock up the economy?

If you’re middle-aged, you’re old enough that you (or at least your peers – get over it, Mr Top Insurance Reseller 2009) can call some shots, but young enough that marketing men still care about you. Right now, that means there are a lot of powerful demographics that want to revisit their not-as-misspent-as-they-paint-it youths with the likes of Ashes to Ashes, This Is England and The Tomorrow People (yes, they’re actually bringing that back).

The fact that the younger, upwardly affluent generation – and never was there a group of twenty-somethings with quite such an overstated sense of self-awareness – can enjoy it all ironically helps as well. If you were a Nineties kid,
your childhood was full of He-Man reruns, so there’s a certain legacy effect.

Give it another decade and we’ll be watching reboots of Babylon 5, Bugs and Austin Powers. Lime green suits will be back in fashion, and students will be wearing T-shirts saying “All I Got Was 10 Seconds in the Crystal Domeâ€?.

The Nineties are coming, dudes. Let the backlash begin here.