Why Is It So Hard to Get the 80s Right?
As I watched the charming Blinded By the Light, a familiar annoyance seeped in.
The film is set in my favorite decade, the 80s!
This is a blessing and a curse.
Because I am intimately acquainted with the music, style, and vibe from that decade. I lived it. Who am I kidding? I still live it!
Some found the film a bit cloying. Or too obvious. Or not fresh enough.
My quibble isn’t with the acting or story.
My question is: why is it so difficult for writers/wardrobe/music departments to pick the correct music, hairstyles, and clothing from that decade in particular?
It never fails that, regardless of the year the movie is set in, someone is going to show up with a 1982/1983 Flock of Seagulls ‘do, a neon ensemble a la Wham, and/or a reject red leather jacket from “Thriller!”
Blinded by the Light is set in Luton, England about 30 miles outside London during the back half of 1987. In fact, there’s a scene in the movie that focuses on the calendar in the school’s DJ booth: November 1987.
If you look carefully, the calendar has Depeche Mode’s 1986 masterpiece, Black Celebration, featured.
Ding. Ding. Ding. A college campus calendar for 1987 would have been made in…1986. So featuring an alternative band’s album from 1986 feels authentic.
I also have to give the DJ, Colin Hand, major props for his wardrobe. The hat, the colorful button-down shirt, the layers. That is VERY much the intersection of music and fashion in 1987.
The writers had the good sense to mention the Smiths a couple of times but failed to incorporate that baggy cardigan look into the film.
This means that someone in the music-meets-wardrobe department(s) bothered to pay attention part of the time, but then got very, very sloppy the rest of the time.
1982 is extremely different from late 1987!
Heck, 1985 has its own flavor compared to 1987.
A BIG part of the movie is making fun of Bruce Springsteen’s music from 1984(!) because it’s too passe.
The best pal, Matt, of the main character, Javed, is a singer/musician. Matt, claiming to be into the latest musical trends, relentlessly mocks Javed’s taste in music.
Then why is one of Matt’s band members decked out in the decidedly outdated Flock of Seagulls coif from 1982?!?
And it pains me to admit this because few people love a-ha more than I.
But why were these same band members blaring a-ha’s debut? They featured “The Sun Always Shines on TV” TWICE, for heaven’s sake! From 19, frickin’, 85!
Anyone who is a true fan of a-ha’s would not have been listening to songs from Hunting High and Low when they had a second album released in 1986! A real a-ha fan would have been blasting “Manhattan Skyline” from Scoundrel Days or the just-released “Living Daylights,” the theme for the Bond movie.
Why does Matt wear baggy, pleated pleather pants that would have fit in with a Fixx video circa 1983?
You can’t have it both ways: Matt can’t claim to be into the most current sound and mock Bruce Springsteen circa 1984 while ALSO wearing clothes from 1983, listening to music from 1985, and hanging with a bandmate who looks like a reject from 1982.
The 1980s isn’t one look or style; rather it has distinct looks, feels, styles, and sounds from the various years.
Respect that every year had its own flavor. Do more research.
Heck, hire me! I will help you get it right!
And please, for the love of cream corn, can we all agree that the Flock of Seagulls’ hairstyle has been played out enough?
[See also: Friends’ Thanksgiving episode from season 5. Though this flashback takes place in, yep, November 1987, Chandler is sporting, yep, a Flock of Seagulls’ hairstyle. For the record, I thought the episode was funny.]
Retire that look. Let it die. We never need to see it again unless we’re watching old videos of the ACTUAL Flock of Seagulls!
I implore the various powers-that-be in film, television, and media: stop featuring a few passing fads of the 80s and do the homework to properly reflect a specific year of the most awesome, totally tubular, gnarliest, most righteous decade of all time!
Until her 40’s, Bonnie’s worst nightmare included writing and sharing personal stories publicly. At her friends’ suggestion, she bemusedly started Bonnie’s Mixed Tape on Medium in 2017. She remains shocked that anyone reads her stories and that P.S. I Love You, the Writing Cooperative, and the Ascent have published her work.
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