If someone asked you to describe the eighties, chances are you would mention neon colours, teased hair, shoulder pads, and a lot of other visual shorthand for the “me” decade. These images have become so ingrained in our psyche because the eighties is a well that pop culture keeps revisiting, though often a shiny, superficial almost parodied version of it. An escape if you will, where nobody puts Baby in a corner, Molly Ringwald always gets the cute guy, and E.T goes home.

The eighties have made yet another comeback in entertainment, but this time it’s the gritty, darker decade that we chose to forget in lieu of the fantasy, frivolity and excess. Shows like The Americans, Halt and Catch Fire and even last year’s breakout hit, Stranger Things, tap into the suspense, feelings of impending dread, and uncertainty that the decade brought with it.

Characters from these shows face a darkness, whether as cold war era Russian spies, tech geniuses gasping for the elusive next big thing, or a frantic mother searching for her missing child. Even a show like GLOW, that flirts with the fun side of the eighties and takes place in the wrestling world, delves into deeper issues like women finding a place for themselves amongst the patriarchy. So what if they are wearing spandex while they do it?

This is the same decade where a celebrity turned politician was in the White House, threat of nuclear doom lingered, and dystopian themed entertainment was all the rage. Wait a minute…are we sure we aren’t in the Upside Down world? Much like trends, history has a way of repeating itself. Often we like to look at the past with a nostalgic sheen, the good ‘ole days we often hear about. Perhaps with the current political climate we are looking past the neon tinted filter to find the unease and unrest that came with the big hair and bright lipstick.

No wonder the one happy note in the eighties extravaganza, Black Mirror’s (now Emmy winning) episode, ‘San Junipero’ struck a chord for having a happy ending. These days, who wouldn’t entertain the thought of being eternally young, in love, and having a drink at Tucker’s while ‘Heaven is a Place on Earth’ plays on a loop?

We are currently at peak eighties nostalgia. However if it’s too much for you, don’t worry – the nineties are right around the corner.


Author: Francesca Solano-Sylman