by George Krubski
Knowing that the one-year anniversary of the first 80its podcast is upon us, I decided to go back in time for 45 minutes or so. There’s something a bit meta about nostalgia for the first episode of a podcast about nostalgia, but if you haven’t heard it (or if you have, but it’s been a while), consider giving it a listen.
In “Beyond Nostalgia: Rock of Ages,” Will and Ray interview Alex Ambrose, the “Brunswick 80s guy,” specifically talking about 80s music, but what surprised me in going back was how much of the formula that’s still in effect a year later was set in the first ep: the intro, 80s news, some conversation about the topic, the guest interview, and, of course, the fact that the guys have proven something “beyond the shadow of a doubt.”
When talking about the premise, the boys talk about how everyone has nostalgia for the era of their youth, and posit that one of the things that makes nostalgia for the 1980s unique is that technology to allow us to “go back in time” was being invented or perfected as the decade was rolling. With the dawn of the VHS era, as Ray notes, “We had the ability to watch Ghostbusters over and over and over.”
That got me thinking about my own childhood. Sure, we may have had to wait a year or two for movies to come out, but my mom still talks about how she had to wait years to catch her favorite movie on TV just once. Heck, I remember my parents setting up a tape recorder in front of the TV when “Casablanca” aired in the early 1970s so that they could listen to it, because that was better than nothing.
I think that Ray and Will are right, but I think the technology they talk about (and they do talk about more – go check it out!) is only part of the equation. Just an hour or two after I listened to the first episode again, my wife and I were talking about my eleven-year-old daughter and her current favorite TV show – which she is just as obsessed with as I was with my stuff at her age – and my wife lamented that none of her friends are into the show. All the entertainment options that we have are great, but (at the risk of sounding like a grumpy old man) I suspect that for future generations, nostalgia will be more personal than cultural. When I listen to the 80ists, the experiences that Will and Ray talk about are not that different from my own. My 1980s and their 1980s are pretty damned close. I don’t know that our kids will be able to say the same thing.
Patton Oswalt, a true 80it, references a similar idea in his article “Wake Up, Geek Culture. Time to Die,” in which he talks about how the internet has brought us to the brink of “Etewaf : Everything that ever was, available forever.” He posits that the internet, by making everything available so easily, lessens everything. If anyone can become an expert on any given topic via some quick online research, it reduces the value.
I remember spending a lot of the 1980s scouring countless comic shops to fill in the gaps in my X-Men collection. I remember the excitement of stumbling across a small music store that had a bootleg CD collection of all of Springsteen’s B-side songs (okay, that was probably the early 1990s, but for me, the “1980s” was essentially a 15-year decade that started in May of 1977 and ended with my graduation in 1992). These days, you can just download all the songs, or nab all the comics you want on eBay. There’s nothing wrong with that (and, if I’m being honest, there’s a big part of me that loves it), but I think its going to make the nature of nostalgia different for kids of this century.
If you go too far in the other direction, there’s a different problem: Ray and Will note in the first episode that their nostalgia for the 1980s isn’t about sugar-coating the era and forgetting the bad stuff. And while the 1980s did have it’s dark side, our generation didn’t have to cope with Vietnam, or Korea or World War Two, or the Depression. In a very real sense, I think we got to enjoy our childhood for much longer, and to allow it to be part of our everyday lives in a way that my parents’ and grandparents’ generations couldn’t.
Will and Ray point out – and prove – repeatedly that you didn’t have to be a child of the 80s to be an 80it, but I think there’s something unique about the era in that not only was it the first era to have the technology to take advantage of nostalgia, but it was the first generation to get to stay in their childhood a little longer… paired with being maybe the last generation to have to put in the hard work.
So what am I saying here? That nostalgia for the 1980s is unique and is, in fact, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the best nostalgia. If you don’t believe me, Will and Ray have a whole year’s worth of podcasts to back me up.
Happy anniversary, guys!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
George Krubski has been writing for decades, but for the past 15 years or so has focused on screenwriting, consuming screenwriting books like candy, taking numerous classes, studying with screenwriting experts like Chris Soth, and writing a bunch of his own stuff. For a few years, he was head writer for a Firefly "virtual series" that produced 29 episode-length scripts, easily lapping the original series (which only lasted 15!). • George has seen thousands of movies in his life (many of them during the 1980s). At one point, Netflix told him there were no movies left to rate. • As for TV... before it was called "binge-watching," some of his friends called it "pulling a George."