5 Modern Events That Actually Already Happened In The '80s
Do you ever feel like we're moving backwards as a society? I argued in a recent column that you could make the case that we've somewhat reverted to the Dark Ages. I understand that's a tough sell. At the very least, though, you have to admit it does seem like we've regressed a couple of decades. Specifically, we've returned to the 1980s. We talk about it on this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...
... where I'm joined by comics Jeff May and Danny Jolles. It's also what I'm talking about right damn here today. Go figure! Up first, we'll start in the most obvious place possible.
Movie And TV Franchises From The '80s Are Hollywood's Favorite Thing To Remake
You don't need me to tell you that the '80s are one of the biggest influences on movies and television right now. You could just watch movies and/or television to find all the proof you need. The most recent Reagan-era franchise to make a triumphant return to the modern world is Ghostbusters. If you never saw the original ...
... you probably still recognize the name from the insane amount of controversy that surrounded the trailer for the upcoming reboot.
That controversy, whether anyone wants to admit it or not, mostly just boils down to the fact that there's an all-female cast this time around. Like I said, we're moving backwards.
Anyway, that's certainly not the only '80s franchise that's suddenly sprung back to life. Netflix has been especially active in the nostalgia department recently. They finally blessed the world with the Full House reunion we all hoped we'd see someday.
"We" meaning people who haven't worked since Full House got cancelled.
They also brought the Pee-Wee Herman comeback full circle with the surprisingly excellent Pee-Wee's Big Holiday.
You know what's wrong with that? Not a goddamn thing. Pee-Wee Herman is great, and I don't want to live in an America where a career can be derailed by getting caught masturbating in a porn theater. Side note -- if that Netflix movie served as your introduction to the Pee-Wee Herman universe, ignore everything I just said and go watch Pee-Wee's Big Adventure instead. I know that setup makes it seem like that movie is about him jerking off in an adult theater, but it's not. It's an adorable movie classic everyone should see.
Anyway, this is a trend we've known was coming for a while now, as evidenced by this 2014 list of upcoming (at the time) movie reboots. Of the 20 movies on that list, 12 are '80s remakes. Another four are remakes of movies that came out in 1990 or 1991, which is pretty damn close. That list is now a few years old, and the reboots included are in various states of development ...
Rest easy knowing this pile of garbage got made, at least.
... but that doesn't mean the list was any less of a forecast of what was to come in movies over the next few years.
Movies and television aren't the only areas of entertainment that have been impacted by our newfound fascination with the '80s, though.
Popular Music Has Been An '80s Pop Revival For Years Now
Movies may just now be catching up to the "Let's recycle everything from the '80s" aesthetic, but the music industry has had it down for years now. Around the turn of the millennium, acts like Daft Punk made the kind of music you'd hear in the background of '80s movies set in dystopian futures palatable for the mainstream. They're so good at it, in fact, that the entire soundtrack to the remake of the Disney sci-fi classic Tron is just a Daft Punk album.
It's also worth noting that Lady Gaga, one of the biggest pop stars of today, just up and released a Madonna song back in 2011 as if no one would even notice.
Given how much Madonna has stolen in her career, this is the definition of a victimless crime.
It seemed like a trend at first, but by the time 2010 rolled around, The Guardian was writing about how the '80s revival dominated the decade. The inspiration for the article came to the writer after seeing a band called Tigercity as the opening act at a show they attended.
Horses are awesome in any decade.
Indeed, that song is '80s as fuck. However, the article ends by questioning if the fascination with '80s music would be coming to an end soon, theorizing that every decade has its own inspiration twin, like how music from the '50s all of the sudden became popular again in the '70s.
Well, it's now 2016, and if you pay even a moderate amount of attention to modern music, you know that the '80s are still in full swing. Pop music has been leaning on sounds of that decade for a while now, but it's also completely inundated what would technically be referred to as the "indie rock" world as well. Case in point: Remember Sub Pop Records? That's the label that launched the careers of Nirvana, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, and countless other "grunge" acts of the '90s. One of their most successful acts in recent years has been a rock band called Dum Dum Girls ...
... whom you may note from the above video already sound quite a lot like beloved '80s girl group The Go-Gos's.
That said, it's a new project from Dum Dum Girls leader Kristin Welchez that really drives home just how much '80s dance music has taken over the indie rock scene. She's recording under the name Kristin Kontrol, and if the first single is any indication ...
... we should expect the final product to sound a lot like an early Madonna album.
That's not a bad thing, and I certainly don't mean to single this one band out. I'd count myself as a fan of all of the songs I've mentioned above; they just all happen to make for good examples of what I'm getting at. I'm not saying any of this is bad at all. I'm just saying that I grew up in the '80s, so it sometimes feels like I've heard it all before.
A Terrifying New Drug Epidemic Is Threatening To Sweep The Nation
Much like Chicken McNuggets, which were introduced in 1983, several of my friends and co-workers have absolutely no idea what it's like to live in a world without crack cocaine. I do. I still have vivid memories of seeing news reports, much like those seen at the beginning of this documentary ...
... about the devastation crack was causing in cities like Los Angeles and New York in the mid-'80s, well before it ever reached the piece of shit town in Illinois where I grew up. The one that stands out most to me was about how it had reached the campus of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Not long after that, college basketball star Len Bias died of a suspected crack overdose just hours after being selected as the number-one pick in the NBA draft by the Boston Celtics.
Back then, the news was constantly relaying tales of the intense effects of crack and the crazy things it was inspiring people to do. They also made a huge deal out of how cheap and addictive it was. To this day, thanks in large part to that initial bad press, smoking crack is the kind of thing that people only do in the punchline of jokes or in the utmost of seclusion. Hearing a friend was doing that would be right up there with hearing a friend was shooting meth or snorting bath salts.
Methamphetamine has been around for a long damn time, even if it just started making for good television within the last ten years. Bath salts, on the other hand, are a more recent phenomenon. What they are exactly is hard to describe, aside from that they're a synthetic version of anything from meth to cocaine to ecstasy. They've been the driving force behind a whole slew of well-known "Florida man" stories in recent years, but one drug that's commonly included in the "bath salts" category is taking an especially huge toll on that tragically newsworthy state. It's called flakka, and if government officials and news outlets are to be believed, it represents the bigger threat to public safety than any drug since crack. In fact, at least some people familiar with the situation unfolding right now in Florida swear that flakka is far worse than crack in every way.
It's cheap, going for as little as $5 a hit. It's also addictive to the point where some rehab facilities in the state report that they routinely turn flakka users away on account of the high rate of relapse the drug inspires. On some nights, police say that half of their calls consist of responding to flakka-related emergencies.
So what is it? Well, if you want the science answer, I sincerely hope the chemistry nerds reading this will say it with me ... Alpha-Pyrrolidinopentiophenone! Beyond that, it's a chemical compound that comes from China in crystal form. It's a stimulant that causes hallucinations, but when taken at the wrong dose, they're less "Holy shit this movie looks amazing" hallucinations and more "I need to jump off this bridge to escape the people I'm imagining are chasing me."
On account of all this, Homeland Security has put extra focus on containing the problem to Florida, where it can thrive in its natural habitat of insanity. So far, it seems like they're doing an alright job, but who knows how long that will last. If flakka does manage to become a nationwide problem, it could be the crack epidemic all over again. Radical!
Some People Think They're Voting For The New Ronald Reagan
Don't be alarmed by seeing Donald Trump up there in the header image of this entry. Far be it from me to use this opportunity to regurgitate my same old (so far entirely correct) opinions about his chances of becoming president and what it would mean for this country. There's not much left to do in that regard except wait for me to be wrong. Fingers crossed, America!
Still, he deserves a mention in this column because of his perceived similarities to the man who ran the country for almost the entirety of the '80s. That, of course, is Ronald Reagan.
I suppose kids these days just know him as "the guy from the Genesis video."
On the surface, it seems like an absurd comparison, seeing as how Reagan actually managed to win an election and garner some degree of reverence among those on his side of the aisle. I think it's safe to say that most of us are still firmly entrenched in our belief that Trump will never achieve either of those things.
Nevertheless, the comparisons make perfect sense. No less of a political scholar than Ann Coulter even wrote an extensive opinion piece on the matter. I know hearing Ol' Wacky Hands was the author doesn't exactly inspire trust in the fair and balanced-ness of the argument, but she does rightly point out that the peaks and valleys of the Trump campaign, and the way the media has responded to them, pretty much align perfectly with how the first Reagan campaign unfolded.
Those hands are still out of fucking control, though.
An equally Conservative-leaning website, Newsmax, came up with a list of 15 different ways Trump is exactly like their cowboy hero. It includes everything from their shared view on tax reduction to the fact that, if elected, the Donald would be our nation's second-ever president with a divorce under his belt.
Trump married and then quickly divorced his daughter in 2003, if I recall correctly.
I'm not here to comment on whether Newsmax or Coulter are right or wrong, honestly. I'm just pointing out that, in terms of our current political climate, at least a few among us are very much in a 1980s state of mind when it comes to who's getting their vote. Beyond that, here's hoping their line of thinking and the events of the next few months start to diverge at some point soon, you know? Reagan won 49 states in the general election of 1984. We certainly don't want Trump doing that shit, do we?
Coincidentally, something else happened recently that we haven't seen since that very same year ...
The Doomsday Clock Is The Closest It's Been To Midnight Since 1984
The awesomely-named Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is a publication that keeps track of all the things that might destroy the world someday and how close they are to getting the job done. It was founded by scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project after they witnessed the carnage their creation caused when it was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and has been published continuously since 1945. The cover of every issue features a Doomsday Clock that's meant to represent how close the various scientists and scholars who contribute to the publication believe the world is to global disaster. The closer it is to midnight, the closer we are to destroying ourselves.
Just put Oprah on the cover like a normal magazine, weirdos.
For years, it only represented threats posed by nuclear disasters, but it was updated in 2007 to also include climate change and biological threats. It's also just a website now, but the clock still remains as a hopefully completely unreliable indicator of our inevitable doom.
I say that because over the years, we've been damn close to midnight on several occasions. The closest we've ever come was in 1953. That year, the United States and Russia tested nuclear devices within nine months of each other, prompting science to move the clock to 23:58.
It thankfully rolled back a few minutes over the years as our relations with Russia became less contentious, but that all changed in 1984, when the clock was set to 23:57. Those were the days when Time was putting terrifying images of mushroom clouds on their cover and Reagan always seemed to be one ill-timed joke away from killing us all with fire. It was a tense time, even if you were an adorable child at the time, like I was.
In all honesty, this cover just kind of made me want a nuclear weapon of my own.
However, by 1988, we were signing treaties with Russia and eliminating nuclear arsenals became all the rage. By 1991, the clock was set the furthest from midnight it's ever been: 23:43.
Unfortunately, the world wasn't able to keep that trend going. We've been slowly creeping back toward midnight ever since that brief moment of relative peace. In 2015, the clock was set back to its height-of-the-Cold-War time slot of 23:57. I know what you're thinking. A lot of that must have to do with ISIS and terrorism and such, right? Nope, still mostly just tense relations with Russia and the fact that we refuse to stop eating the planet. Hey, fuck you, progress!
Adam will be telling jokes with Alex Schmidt on Thursday, April 7th in Kansas City, and he sincerely hopes you'll come watch. Get tickets here! You could also be a pal and follow him on Twitter @adamtodbrown, if you're so inclined.
See just how nuts the '80s were in The 4 Craziest Holiday Episodes of '80s Cartoons. And find out why only in the '80s could rock stars dress in drag but still deliver the most misogynistic lines ever in 5 Baffling '80s Trends (Explained by Rare Mental Disorders).
Also follow us on Facebook, because it's a great spot for misplaced '80s nostalgia.