The early twenty-first century will probably go down in pop culture history as the moment everyone finally caved and embraced the 80s. While most of us are close to done with the hateful decade, there’s no doubt that those formerly underappreciated years will be recycled well into 2005.
However, the similarities between the mid 00’s and the mid 80’s are farther reaching than just fashion and music. Like 1984, 2004 saw the re-election of a Republican president in the United States who unabashedly favours tax cuts that put money in the pockets of the rich, and takes funding away from public programs. The divide between rich and poor, which had been bandaged significantly during the economic boom of the 90’s, is once again widening. The rich are getting richer, while the poor — with wage cuts, layoffs, and government spending all working against them — are becoming poorer. Plus, there are lots more of them. Just as it was real in the 80’s, it is real now, and there is no denying it… Or maybe there is. Hollywood, and the geniuses that pump the majority of programming into the minds of North America, seem to be completely oblivious to the fact that anyone is less well off than they were ten years ago. In fact, if you go to the movies, or watch TV today, you would swear we’re far more prosperous than we ever were in the 90’s, 20’s, or pretty much any period in recent memory.
Hollywood didn’t always dodge the issues. Stellar films like Lucas and Pretty in Pink tackled the problems of economic struggle and class warfare head on. Both of these films featured poor, lower class, un-cool social outcasts. Lucas, Andie and Duckie were by no means the typical, cookie cutter characters that young audiences have become accustomed to and expect. They weren’t extremely good looking twentysomethings, uglified with thinly veiled anti-social quirks, and they certainly weren’t dealing with lame issues like turning the fake, actually-hot ugly chick into the prom queen in less than a month in order to maintain their coolest meat-head in school status. Lucas was a four-eyed shrimp who got beat up constantly by jocks. He knew everything about bugs, listened to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra perform from a man hole in the sewer, and lied about living in a mansion when he actually lived in a beat up trailer with his abusive, alcoholic father. Andie also lived with her unemployed single father, got shat on constantly by the rich bitches at her school because she couldn’t afford to shop anywhere but thrift stores. Her walls were littered with Piet Mondrian posters, and she was driven to tears when rich hunk Blaine offered to drive her home because she was ashamed of where she lived. Her best friend Duckie was the raddest guy ever. Despite getting his ass kicked daily, he rocked the duck bill and lost it to Try a Little Tenderness. And he fucking meant it. Not even Ligers or Pegasus x-ing comes close to that.
While Pretty In Pink handled these issues realistically and honestly, they are completely overlooked by current cinema. Youth are fed reality TV that showcases the rich and exploits those with the hopes of becoming rich. The Osbournes, Newleyweds, and The Simple Life glorify bumbling idiots, airheads, and no talent twat sluts who roll around in unimaginably large troughs of cash, slutting their rich lives away in name brand wife-beaters and inch long mini-skirts. On the other hand, Fear Factor dangles false hopes in front of big breasted failed actresses as they choke down partially developed year old ostrich eggs, determined to be on TV at least once in their lives. It’s just so damn real.
On the big screen, there’s no equivalent to the gold that guys like John Hughes put out in the 80’s. The late 90’s saw a re-emergence of the teen genre, but it was all vacant crap. Now we get pre-teen girls coping with the discovery that they’re actually the Queen of England, and other equally insignificant garbage. This isn’t due to a lack of stimulating material. In addition to economic struggles, kids have also been faced with the tragic events of Columbine and September 11th, both of which Hollywood has completely ignored. (nope. Elephant doesn’t count). Instead of embracing the integrity of legwarmers and stretch denim, we should focus on the mundane beauty of growing up out of sync with your peers.