The biggest difference between now and the 80s

If there’s one thing I miss about the 1980s, something that I wish the teens of today could have, it is only this: We only had the most vague sense that everything we knew had happened before. Our parents told us that their teenage years had been much the same as ours, with the same joys and heartbreaks and pains and revelations, and we sorta believed them. Today, a teenager can get on the web and discover that The Killers really are a Duran Duran ripoff, and that we were just as goofy for “The Lost Boys” as they are for “Twilight.” They can recognize their faces in our own. And though our ignorance was part of what made the 1980s fun, I sort of envy the myriad ways through which today’s teens can retrace their steps.

Monkey Goggles: What the Eighties Were Really Like

(Thanks Josh)


  1. I have no idea, myself, if this is really the biggest difference, but it does in some ways reflect my own experience. I’m constantly struck by how seemingly little is actually new, peeling away layer after layer, decade after decade for seemingly everything.

    It seems to be reflected in culture as well. When I was a high school (1995-2000), some “old bands” were popular enough that lots of kids wore their t-shirts – Led Zepplin, the Doors, Grateful Dead, for instance. But contemporary bands like Nirvana, NIN, and Green Day were at least as popular. But what I’ve seen of “kids these days” is that they are wearing the exact same t-shirts we were when I was their age. A very few number of new artists have managed to break through (such as HIM) but it I’d guess 90% of the band t-shirts I see on people under 20 are older acts.

  2. You g’wan git off my lawn!

  3. Yeah, you tell ’em Trevor! I was gonna say that the biggest difference is that if you were partying hard in the 80s, you’re my age now. You kids just wait, you’ll see!

    As Klint mentioned, we no longer go through waves of fads that come and go. Due to the rise of niche culture, something has its day, but then never quite goes away, receding into its niche, so that every subculture you can think of still has people heeding its particular call, whether they are punks, bikers, rainbow tribe members, beats, or whatever. We really don’t have a “mass culture” in the way that we did prior to the eighties.

    On the other hand, certain technologies such as phones and cars have been around long enough to become iconic, which is part of why I am fascinated with the early to mid 20th century. The elements of the time had become absorbed into our cultural DNA. Urban life in 1950 is much closer to what we have now than it was to urban life in 1850. We have certain patterns that you can see in every generation, at least since the rise of so-called “youth culture” in the 50s (when teens first began to have some disposable income to market to).

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