Behind the recent wave of 80s revivals are real questions about the types of stories we enjoy—and how they teach us to approach the worldby Darran Anderson / January 29, 2018 / Leave a comment
The allure of nostalgia is powerful, especially in an uncertain, unstable age. Nostalgia is a soothing form of selective amnesia of how things actually were. However forward-thinking and ostensibly unsentimental we might be, there are very few of us who are not moved in some way by these jolts of recognition and the comforting, if illusory, thought that a golden age existed in the past when life was more certain and more stable.
With Generation X beginning to reach middle age in slow horrified disbelief, it’s little surprise that 1980s revivalisms are big business, from Stranger Things and Ready Player One to the recent Star Wars resurrection. A joyless cynic might see this trend as an example of a culture paralysed by conservatism, cowardice and infantilism.
Yet it’s hard to deny the involuntary memories evoked upon seeing pixelated graphics or hearing the shriek of a TIE fighter. The best of these revivals (Twin Peaks: The Return, Blade Runner 2049) offer startling new directions amidst the familiar ones, which recontextualize that which came before. These stories are reimagined, rather than repeated to diminishing effect. Others are shallower.
In the actual Eighties, rather than the hypnotic vaporwave replica that has existed in corners of the internet for some time, the aim was continually to escape. Growing up in the grim netherworld of Thatcher’s Britain, you might, for moments of levity, disappear into the pages of 2000AD or mimic the fashions of Post-punk or New Romantic music videos on TV, engaged in their own rose-tinted nostalgias for Weimar Cabaret, Ancien Régime decadence and dandy highwaymen.
One activity which seemed enjoyably throw-away but became unexpectedly enlightening was Edward Packard and R.A. Montgomery’s Choose Your Own Adventure series of books. Now largely-forgotten, the premise was simple but ingenious. The books centre around unusual settings—a Cave of Time, a Forbidden Castle, the Third Planet from Altair, the Underground Kingdom. The adventures would then unfold according to a series of decisions by the reader,
“If you decide to fight the squid with your spear gun, hoping to scare it off, turn to page 17,” one book says. “If you decide to signal Maray to pull you up at top speed, knowing you will get the bends, turn to…