Oh Baby Please Give A Little Respect to the ’80s

a little respect

I’ve been thinking about the ‘80s a lot lately. I mean, I always think about the ‘80s, because I am obsessed with them. But I’ve been thinking about them even more than usual, because I’ve been reflecting on my childhood and realizing that I had it pretty good as a kid.

I know people argue that nostalgia is a lens that makes the past look better than it actually was, and they’re not wrong — but you guys, growing up in the ‘80s was pretty awesome. I mean, I was too young to be worried about the economy, or Reaganomics, or doing too much coke. No, for me the ‘80s were all about ALF, John Hughes movies, sitcoms starring Michael J. Fox and Jason Bateman, and sleepovers where we listened to Debbie Gibson and experimented with blue eyeshadow (bad) and crimping our hair (worse). When people think about the ‘80s now it’s reduced to stereotypes — everyone was running around in acid-wash jeans and neon socks with new-wave hairdos. This is sort of true. I remember owning a lot of day-glo clothing and loving it. I also had an acid-wash jean skirt (ruffled no less!) that was my pride and joy. But the ‘80s were a lot more nuanced than we give them credit for, and there was some pretty rad stuff going on. I read a great book recently, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. It’s set in 2044 and the world is looking pretty grim. A series of climate crises have ravaged the earth and the general population is living in crippling poverty. Most people spend almost all of their time plugged into a system called OASIS (like the Matrix, but people are actually aware that it isn’t reality) that was designed by an eccentric billionaire obsessed with the ‘80s of his childhood. When he dies without an heir, he leaves a series of clues to his vast fortune hidden within the OASIS, and each clue requires those seeking his treasure to be well-versed in ‘80s pop culture. I won’t say too much, but check it out if you get a chance & are so inclined — I couldn’t put it down.

Anyway! As much as I loved the ‘80s of my childhood, I can’t help but be a bit jealous of the Finn — I was a mere youngster during that decade (I turned 14 in 1990) but the Finn was an actual TEENAGER in the ‘80s! When I look back through hid photo albums it’s all there — prom pictures featuring girls in pink and blue pastel puffy-sleeved dresses, the guys decked out in white ruffled tuxes. The hair is simply amazing — new wave, mullets, hair-sprayed bangs for the girls, and even one adventurous friend with a mohawk. Everyone just looks like they’re having so much fun — and yes, I know, nostalgia is a lens — but I’ve asked the Finn, and he tells me that they were having fun, that high school in the ‘80s was awesome. Those halcyon days before the advent of grunge and the inherent angst and apathy of the ‘90s. Don’t get me wrong, I love the ‘90s too, they were the decade that saw me through my teenage years and young adulthood. But the ‘90s bounced from one extreme to another, from the too-cool-for-school pessimism of grunge (everyone’s a sellout! damn the man!) to the soulless cheese of Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys-era pop. And don’t even get me started on the age of irony and contrarian hipsters that the new millennium has spawned.

the finn

The Finn as a teen. You know why he's so happy? Because the '80s rule.

Anyway, my favorite stories of the Finn’s are the ones about his high school dances, where everyone in his group of friends would pile onto the dance floor as a collective group and sing along with the words to Roxette’s ‘The Look’ or Gowan’s ‘Moonlight Desires’. Apparently everyone knew the moves for Men Without Hats ‘Safety Dance,’ and when to do the hand claps during Kim Carnes’ ‘Bette Davis Eyes’. How awesome is that? I picture it as a utopia of synth riffs, dance beats, and unbridled enthusiasm. And yeah, maybe I am idealizing the past. But I’ll tell you this: if anyone ever gets around to inventing a time machine, I’m setting the dial back to 1985 and hightailing it to the nearest high school prom. Maybe I’ll see you there. I’ll be the one in the white suit, pink shirt, skinny tie and day-glo socks.

In honor of the ‘80s, my Song of the Day is one of my faves from that era, Erasure’s ‘A Little Respect’. See ya on the dance floor!

12 responses to “Oh Baby Please Give A Little Respect to the ’80s

  • Krista

    I agree! I managed to sneak into the erasure show on Sunday night, and the crowd was so into it. Mostly people who were children and teens in the 80s. They played ‘respect’!

  • Alan Murrell

    Well as someone who was there, the 80’s were all that and more. I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to the late 70’s, which fueled the 80’s. The 80’s for me were amazing, I was in my 20’s, in a band and enjoying life. I was either playing a show, seeing a friends band, or off seeing one of the cool bands of the time. The early 80’s in Toronto felt like a community and I was part of it. I remember going to speaks (speakeasy) and coming home with the sun rising. It was all DIY whether clothes ( we made our own skinny jeans and t’s) or recording an ep and distributing it. CFNY was a big part of our lives too, I’d wait eagerly for the show that played the latest releases, hoping to hear the latest Echo and the Bunnymen or Buzzcocks single. Oh the memories, of which I have a ton of them.

    Alan (Kinetic Ideals)

    • Spencer

      Oh man, now I am even more jealous!!! That all sounds amazing. I was totally born too late…! I love the idea of DIY’ing your own skinny jeans and t’s…sigh. So awesome.

  • Thinfinn

    An 80’s disscusion- i want in!

    One of the most exciting things for me about the 80’s was the invention of music videos and MuchMusic. We had our own music station and i would watch it for hours and hours everyday and into the early mornings on the weekends. You would be able to see Iron Madian, Flock of Seagulls and Marvin Gaye in one video flow. it was the best music station, you got exposed to so much different stuff.

    There was a great sence of optimism in the 80’s and it was reflected in outrageous fashion and haircuts, but it wierdly seemed normal

    In the 80’s it was “safe to dance” and we did in our own special way.

  • Nick Spence

    You know Krista went to see the Erasure concert last Sunday? Solo! She’s hard core. Only straight person at the venue…

  • Megan no h

    So Ernie Cline totally posted a Ready Player One “soundtrack” on his blog, because he is full of win: http://www.ernestcline.com/blog/2011/09/21/the-official-ready-player-one-soundtrack/

    LOVE A Little Respect! Thanks for putting it in my head 😀

    • Spencer

      WHAT!!!! OMG!!! Thank you so much for sharing this link, Megan no h!! I just checked it out and it’s an awesome mix!!! He’s got the Family Ties opening theme on there! And Star Wars!! And Howard Jones! And Ladyhawke!! And the Safety Dance! And that song by the Plimsouls that I love. Gah!!! It’s just too amazing.
      Oh, Cline…could you get any cooler??

      I notice he threw a couple of Rush songs on there too, which will make The Finn (my husband) happy as he is the geekiest Rush fan ever & I’ve been urging him to read this book since it’s so awesome. In fact Megan it was your review of the book on FYA that led me to read it, so thank you!! I feel like you and I have very similar taste in YA books so I usually check out the ones you like 🙂 I’m dying to read ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone’ after your reco — I actually went to my local bookstore to get it but they were sold out. Bah!

      And yea, A Little Respect is awesome. Ah, the 80s. Even though James Halliday was like seriously CRAY, I totally related to him with his 80s obsession.

      • Megan no h

        I love it when authors do extra fun things like making a mix. He clearly knows how to pander to his fan base 😀 Really glad you liked RPO too!

        Ahh! I can’t believe DOSAB was sold out! I mean, I’m GLAD, because I loved it, but sad because there is nothing worse than going into a brick bookstore and NOT getting instant gratification. Not sure if you saw, but we’re doing a DOSAB giveaway on the blog if you want to enter.

        Now I’m listening to A Little Respect AGAIN. GAAAH, this song is so damn catchy.

        • Spencer

          I saw the DOSAB giveaway on your site, but I’m in Canada so I figured I was automatically disqualified! 😉 Let me know if not though. Totally understand if you guys don’t send stuff outside of the US — the postage fees can be pretty ridiculous.

          I think I may have to review the RPO soundtrack…it’ll give me an excuse to review the book along with it & spread the word about how good it is (I normally review strictly “music” themed books on this site, but I like to slip in a little YAngelism where I can!!) 🙂

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