Sure, we are all sick of the nostalgia trips, the ‘80s and ‘90s theme parties, and the endless blah blah about how great it was THEN and how much it sucks NOW.
Like, whatever, right? There are so many awesome things about the world we live in today: the incredible access to information, the innovations in technology, and the way we can communicate for almost no money to anyone, anywhere in the world. Now is an awesome time to be alive, but, you know, the 80s had something to offer too, even if there is no way in hell you could pay me to go back and live in that time. Let's just take a moment to look at a few of that era's pluses, because why the hell not?
1. TV was free:
Yes, that's right. FREE. Although you could buy cable or HBO if you could afford to, you didn't have to pay to watch TV, the entertainment just flew over the airwaves to little brown and black floridum tube television sets. You had to actually MOVE to change the channel or adjust the reception, helping to circulate the blood a bit as opposed to our "struggle for the remote" or "click the mousepad" present. You did have to watch the commercials, however, but back then they were sort of "winky innocent" like the Diet Coke commercial, "Now you see it, now you don't," which made sex seem fun and a little "naughty" as opposed to watching Paris Hilton nauseously have an orgasm over her hamburger.
2. Watching TV was an event:
If you were watching the nightly news, you could bet that a hundred thousand other people were just getting filled in at the exact same time you were on the fall of the Berlin Wall, for example. This made people feel oddly connected, like in the movie Network, and if you pulled down your window and shouted "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore," other people would know why and not call the cops. These days (unless you are one of those super cool hooked up people) you have to find a forum to talk about the same thing everybody else saw yesterday.
3. Being a groupie was cool:
Via MTV, music videos were bringing the best of urban culture and art to the world. Music suddenly started being associated with an art form (claymation, stop motion graphics, cutting edge film techniques) and inspired many to want to work in the music business, or at least sleep with a musician. Either of which was considered an AWESOME profession.
4. The 80s had its very own fashion style, even if it was totally hideous:
In fact, they discovered neon and wore it loud and proud. As perms became the rage, even white girls could have afro's. You could wear a mullet, ugly but original, with your "stone washed or acid washed jeans." You could do things with headbands and rubber bands you wouldn't even dream of doing today.
5. There was no such thing as global warming, or ozone deficiency:
"Laying out" aka "getting a tan" was as much of a sport as soccer. You could burn yourself to a crisp and think nothing more than, "I should have put some zinc oxide on my nose," not "OMG I'm gonna die of skin cancer." Unless you lived next to Chernobyl or Three Mile Island, there were also no worries about a water shortage, or toxins in the water supply. Like Leonard Nimoy, a.k.a Spock, we were going to "live long and prosper," even if our children were born with six fingers on each hand.
6. Sex was still sexy:
The 70s had pretty much liberated everybody, so if you wanted to be innocent, you could be, and if you wanted to let your freak flag fly well, that was okay too. It depended on how old you were and where in the country you lived. If you were a teenager in the suburbs, any kind of sex was a major coming of age, not something you bragged about on Facebook and gained a purple bracelet for. If you were a bit older and perhaps living in a big city, sex was still "hot stuff" that was resonating glamorous shades of Studio 54, not something you just did to pass the time ... not that there's anything wrong with that.
7. There was also no access to free internet porn, so you were instantly a rebel if you wanted to watch a "dirty movie":
If you wanted to watch a dirty movie, you were going to bravely have to walk to the video store and enter the back area and pick out a flick. Then you had to take it, the photo cover perhaps proudly displaying three hot girls and a sheep, to the counter to get the actual video, which they would then place inside a more discreet black tape box. This was almost a "coming out" process. You could choose to buy the tapes and have them sent in the mail, but you still had to search them out and give your information to buy them. All porn was still either on videotape or at the movies. Hmmm. On the other hand, "thank you, internet!"
8. Video games could still require actual contact with other human beings:
Home video games were just sneaking into our consciousness via the hallucination-inducing Pong and the battle of the scalene triangles reproduced by Asteroids, but if you were one of the working class who couldn't afford Atari 2600, you still loved your neighborhood arcade. Arcades were places where skateboarders and other rough types would go to play Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, and the very scary Super Mario Brothers. Those with the highest scores were encouraged to post their number on the game, thus earning a certain "street cred" in their neighborhood. You didn't want to mess with ARN7000 because he could totally sink your battleship.
9. Movies were grounded in a sense of innocence, not of awareness:
This made you feel like every moment in your life was a big deal, not like just another "Oh duh," episode where you realize everyone is just as screwed up as you are. And there was nothing uncool about being older, in fact some of the coolest people were older than you. Ghostbusters was full of wacky guys we'd all consider overage for the job. Michael J. Fox was way too old to play a genius teenager, he was practically thirty by the time Family Ties ended but no one made a big deal out of it. There was no way Patrick Swayze was in his 20's when he made us all fall in love with him in Dirty Dancing (which is so not dirty by today's standards) but … like, what EVER. He was, like, oh my god, so HOT.
So that's why life was better in the 80s: it was just simpler and sillier. And sometimes simple and silly in a complicated and serious world can look pretty good.
(Editor’s note: This story has been updated to remove an offensive reference to Michael Jackson. As a result, the headline has also been updated.)
Sept. 12, 2018, 4:11 p.m.: This story has been updated.