April 15, 2001
Page 1 2
Onto a totally different topic - I never, ever thought the gaudy, fluorescent, Michael Jackson zipper jacket 1980s would make a "come back." I even recall saying in conversations, and probably to myself a few times, that "the 80s will never come back - not like the 50s or the 60s." Did it start with "Sex and the City"? All of the sudden these women show up on TV, in front of millions of people, wearing gold lame and side-pony tails, big earrings - basically ever "bad" 80s fashion besides the nylon track suit - which they probably did don, in some episode I missed. Anyway, the question isn't really why these hideous fashions didn't stay in old episodes of "Dynasty" and "Family Ties," but what makes a decade worth recycling, and is it a consequence of something more meaningful than what's hip- like, say a manifestation of the collective consciousness of the U.S.?
Not that "Sex and the City" weighs in there with some so-called higher arts that reflect their era, like surrealism in the 1920s or modernism (whatever that really means anyway) after the milk-fed, conservative fronts of the 1940s and 50s. But it's not an isolated 1980s throwback. Films - like it or not, the most potent cultural reflectors of this day and age - have jumped from the 70s obsessed chronicles of the last decade to a fascination with the 80s in all their materialistic, hard-rock, yuppified glory. American Psycho's a prime example of this. Mary Harron took Bret Easton Ellis's (the annoying voice of the coke snorting Wall Street youth of the 80s) novel, tweaked it into a subtly feminist study of 80s greed and vacuous morals gone wrong that seemed perfectly in synch with the dot-com gold rush and stock market hysteria of the past few years. It was a reminder of just how close America was swaying back towards the Reagan years and their right wing, glassy-eyed pursuit of money, and only money. Then George W. (or, as he's known outside the U.S., George Junior - so much more appropriately) waltzes into the picture, throwing his bearskin rug and oil wells over Bill Clinton's saxophone and oval office blowjobs, dragging us right back into the decade of Biff and Buffy and their great white ways. If that isn't enough, since George Junior's been in office, for what, three months - in this short time he's bombed Iraq, pissed off China, and started picking fights with Russia - renewing, to a neurotic mind, the Cold War. And it's not at all George Junior's fault - hardly - and not all America's fault either, it's much more complicated than that, or than blaming all this on the fact that a character on an HBO show wore her hair teased and went to the tanning salon. But it does lend weight to the idea that the recycling of past decades is never accidental. It's pushed up,exhumed, exploited (and maybe even improved, or rightly praised, like the good-old-days of MTV, or whatever) and written about because there's some sort of truth lurking behind it's existence. The tribal consciousness of pop culture - trite as that may sound, it's all we've got, and like Andy Warhol seemed to understand, we better pay attention.