I was dressed in pleated acid-washed jeans and my sister had a hairspray-shellacked mullet. I loved to mix and match my scrunchy socks so the colors played off my puff-painted Keds, and my mom rocked giant angular shoulder pads. I’ll admit: The fashion wasn’t always on-point in the ’80s. But so much else about that era was.
Where to begin? Like a Virgin. Alf. Side poneys. My Little Poneys. Peewee’s Playhouse and the time-traveling DeLorean. Tiger Beat magazine. The Mannequin and anything by MJ. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Spandex and Conan the Barbarian. ET and Mr. T. Molly Ringwald. Care Bear stares. Swatch watches. That amazing music video for “Take On Me” where they go into the comic. As much MTV as I could stuff into my little developing brain.
I’m a child of the ’80s, so memories of the decade are imbued with carefree innocence and Punky Brewster aspirations. I sang Whitney Houston in the shower, made up dances to Tiffany songs and dreamed of getting a lift from Patrick Swayze a la Baby in “Dirty Dancing.” I thought Winnie Cooper was cruel and devoured books like The Outsiders and Sweet Valley High – and anything by Judy Blume.
The ’80s taught me that brains are better than brawns (“Teen Witch”), that money isn’t enough (“Can’t Buy Me Love”) and that even teenagers banned from dancing can bust some Flashdance-worthy moves (“Footloose”).
When skinny jeans and neon and synth-pop came back into style, I sighed a breath of relief. It’s like being home.
Sure the ’80s popularized such amazingness as the mullet, jams, pastel sweaters draped over shoulders with sleeves tied in dainty knots, the rise of the monster truck (the only credible Bigfoot sightings of the decade, though “Harry and the Hendersons” changed my life), when divisive walls were coming down instead exclusionary xenophobic promises of walls going up.
But let me rain on your glitzy pop-culture obsessed Snowdown parade for a minute and be a real bummer. Here are a few reasons the ’80s were terrible:
Wal-Mart went from a sleepy regional chain to the most profitable retailer in the country, spelling the end of thousands of unique Mom and Pops.
The ’80s were the birth of such toxic entities like Focus on the Family, with the huckster-hypocrite Jerry Falwell, the so-called silent majority and the birth of the divisive and totally anti-Biblical political hoodwinking of the “religious” right that would poison the nation’s political system right up to, well, right now. to Ted Cruz.
Coke and Pepsi switched to high fructose corn syrup in 1984, the epitome of a chemical-obsessed, corn-based, processed-obsessed factory food system, where greed-is-good corporate profits superseded healthiness.
The decade started with the assassination of John Lennon, the eruption of Mount St. Helens and frightening beginnings of the AIDS epidemic, which the president, for one, actively ignored for eight crucial years, willing to let people die because of ignorance surrounding a “gay disease.”
Sorry ’80s, but you pretty much sucked.