Remember the 80’s?

Tonight’s entry is all about this fun list: 50 Things Only 80’s Kids Understand.

Being mostly an eighties kid (ages 7 to 17, and it’s not like I remember anything from the first two years), I enjoyed perusing this little list.

Some of things I remembered fondly, other things I remembered but didn’t really care about, and some of the things I flat out do no recall at all.

Well, the culture is rarely evenly distributed and not everybody gets every update.

I don’t think Muppet Babies is the greatest cartoon of all, although looking back, it was high quality kiddie entertainment. I watched it, but only because it was the Muppets. The Muppet Show was a huge part of my childhood (70’s kid!)and I was Muppet deprived.

But looking back, it had a great deal of warmth and imagination, and had the very comforting message that you can go anywhere with your imagination, but if things get too scary, you can stop and instantly be back at home, safe and sound.

If you had asked me at the time what the greatest cartoon of all time was, I would have said “Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends” without hesitation. It’s kind of hard to watch as an adult, but when I was a kid and that show was on, the rest of the world just plain ceased to exist.

And unlike other children’s shows, it didn’t treat me like an idiot. That was a very big deal to me.

As for “Team Madonna” or “Team Cyndi”, I was never aware I had to choose, but if I had been asked at the time, I would have chosen Cyndi hands down. Madonna has done some great music and some extraordinary things both with her public persona and her business sense.

But I love Cyndi. She just seems like such an awesome person.

Looking over the list, I remember 24 of the fifty things. So, not quite a pass. For instance, I didn’t even know what “pegged” jeans were until I saw the picture.

And I sure as hell don’t remember kids going to 50’s-themed parties. Honestly, I am pretty sure I would have thought that was totally lame.

I mean, it’s not like those were my Happy Days. But I guess it was kind of like the kids with their 80’s parties today. Somehow, they inherit our nostalgia for a while.

We had a bunch of Disney Book and Record sets, though I listened to them on the family stereo, not my own Fisher Price model. Between that and my Disney Encyclopedia (seriously), I was indoctrinated into the world of Disney quite early.

Maybe that is why I still consider myself a Disney fan even though they have behaved quite badly over the years, and why I still admire Uncle Walt and the empire he built on the feeling of magic, despite knowing some of the ugly truths about the man.

Disney has a place in my heart that nothing can replace. Ditto the Muppets.

Oh, and speaking of movies (kinda), I was definitely traumatized by one of those movies, namely The Dark Crystal. My Dad took me to see it. The whole movie was a trip and I was absolutely rapt throughout the whole thing.

But at the end, when (spoiler alert!) the Skeksis and the Mystics merge into one race of beings, I was absolutely blown away. Mind went PING. It was so unexpected and so, well, wrong to my young mind that it threw me for a lot of loops.

I mean, the Skeksis were horrible, horrible creatures. I still think of them as some of the most disgusting, vile, detestable, awful villains ever. I spent the whole movie waiting for them to get their righteous comeuppance. After all, that’s what always happens, right? The good guys beat the bad guys in the end.

And I wanted the Skeksis dead, dead, dead. Not just defeated. Dead. No mercy, no negotiation, no hesitation. Children can be quite bloodthirsty, and I wanted those fuckers dead.

So to have them actually merge with the good guys, the Mystics, was a total mindfuck and I spent a long time trying to come to grips with it. You can’t merge with them. They’re EVIL.

That movie really expanded my little mind. I had to reconcile myself to a more Taoist and less Zoroastrian view of the world. Balance, not victory.

What else… I sure as heck loved Scratch and Sniff stickers! I had a teacher who gave out stickers if you did well on a spelling test, and so the sticker collection in the back of my spelling notebook was not just fun, it was a trophy room.

And I had a lot of stickers, bright lad that I was. But you had to get a perfect score, 10/10, to get a Scratch and Sniff sticker, and that was rarer for me because I always made some little dumb mistake on one answer, like not forming my letters right or mishearing the word or the like.

So my Scratch and Sniff collection was my Gold Medal trophy room. And they were just plain fun, too. You got a little reward every time you scratched one.

I scratched my strawberry one so much that I basically shredded it.

A lot of the stuff on the list passed me by, though. I never played Oregon Trail, presumably because I was a Canadian kid. I never had a Trapper Keeper. I never wore British Knights or L. A. Gear sneakers.

And I watched Double Dare exactly once, and thought it was completely horrible. A total nightmare. So I mostly ignored it and all its clones.

But I definitely watched 3-2-1 Contact (but not for the Bloodhound Gang, they were lame) and Square One Television (yes, entirely for Mathnet, the rest of the show was laaaaaaame). I played in Pee-Wee’s Playhouse and watched a ton of the Cosby Show. I drank New York Seltzer (though I preferred Koala)and blew on my NES cartridges to get them to work. I remember the dark day of the Challenger explosion (I watched it happen on Canada AM, poor little me) and the phenomenally awesome day the Berlin Wall came down. I remember trying to figure out why everyone was watched the Baby Jessica rescue (not that it wasn’t important, by why her, why now? That kind of thing happens all the time) and being extremely impressed by the idea of Hands Across America while also being pretty sure they could not pull it off (and they didn’t, but it was still a wonderful and amazing thing to see). I collected Garbage Pail Kids cards and got told to Just Say No, or something a lot like it, so very, very, very many times.

I am serious. If you grew up in the 80’s and you didn’t know drugs were bad, mmmkay, then you lived under a very large rock.

And the only reason I don’t remember being traumatized by the death of Optimus Prime in the eighties was that I didn’t get to see the movie until the nineties, and it traumatized me then.

It still does, honestly.

And you know, looking over the list, while I was only directed involved with 24 of the things, I was aware of all but 7 of them at the time.

So maybe I got a passing grade on the 80’s after all.

One thought on “Remember the 80’s?

  1. I watched Muppet Babies for the opposite reason. I had no particular interest in the Muppets as characters, but the animation was good, and I appreciated that. Like you, I wanted shows with sophisticated writing that I could still enough at age 12 or 15, so that 1980s wave of shows like Transformers and Jem was a godsend.

    I don’t remember if I ever found a copy of The Joy of Sex in my parents’ belongings, but at my junior high school there was this book called something like “Your Erogenous Zones” with a disturbing photo of a 1970s guy, with a Welcome Back Kotter afro and mustache, wearing a turtleneck unitard, not unlike Slim Organbody. He had this cock-eating grin and a ball of lightning forming at his crotch. It was hilariously gross.

    Never liked The Cosby Show. Thought Cosby hated his kids. True story, no exaggeration: when Cosby’s real-life son Ennis died, I thought “Well, Cosby must be happy.”

    Like most people, I was at school watching the Challenger explosion on TV, but not live. It was the next day in Current Events class. Still, I’ve always considered that my generation’s “JFK assassination” moment: where were you, and what were you doing…?

    Punky Brewster was OK. I didn’t see much of it until it was in reruns in the late 1980s. I thought Alan should have been a better character than the show allowed him to be. I liked the cartoon (despite Glomer), which aired as part of Maxie’s World.

    The Breakfast Club sort of scared me. At the time I saw it (on TV, probably around 1986), my real-life school experience wasn’t nearly as stable and calm as that movie (or any 1980s teen movie) made it out to be. So I was really worried for the two nerd characters.

    I don’t remember actively wanting to be as cool as any John Hughes character, but I did identify with Anthony Michael Hall in The Breakfast Club. Ferris Bueller (the character) was so off-the-charts cool that I don’t think it would even have occurred to me to try to be that cool.

    Like you, I have no memory of there being Teams Cyndi/Madonna, nor 1950s parties. (I do remember that the 1950s were in style in the 1980s, but no theme parties took place that I know of.) The closest I can think of was when one of my mom’s students, a nine-year-old Chinese girl, had a birthday dinner at a restaurant, and the waiters sang “Chantilly Lace” to her, which was traumatically embarrassing for her.

    I don’t remember an emotional blow per se when Optimus Prime died, but I do remember that on every subsequent viewing of the movie, I kept hoping that the plot would change, it would come out differently, and he wouldn’t get stabbed and shot and end up dying. If I just concentrated harder!

    At the time, Small Wonder seemed vaguely cheap and unambitious, but in retrospect, I’m glad it existed. I only saw tiny bits of ALF because it was on on a school night, but I thought ALF (the character) was cool at the time. That may have been the secret: if I’d seen a lot of the show I might have concluded sooner that he’s kind of an asshole.

    I was out of the loop enough that I was barely aware there was a difference between Garbage Pail and Cabbage Patch Kids.

    My mind was also blown by the ending of The Dark Crystal, I think largely because those Skeksis fucking scared the hell out of me, making it all the more wild that they become necessary to make the whole beings with their counterparts.

    I remember British Knights shoes, though never owned them. They’re in my “Random Nostalgia” list.

    I didn’t think anyone remembered New York Seltzer except me. I liked it for two reasons: its name was in an awesome font, and it was a pop-like nonalcoholic drink that I could have when my parents had dragged me with them to somewhere that only had a bar, such as concerts.

    The wave of Double Dare-style shows made me wonder if the whole world secretly had a WAM fetish.

    The first thing that pops into my head when I think of the 1984 Olympics is that I was in LA on vacation with parents then, and the people there seemed deflated by the boycott. (That may have just been a sample size of one or two cab drivers or hotel or restaurant employees, though.)

    Pee-Wee Herman looks like Alan Cumming in that photo. I either did not get the channel that he was on, or ignored his show because it seemed too old-fashioned and did not have cool animation.

    I completely missed the entire ET phenomenon. I bet there are people that now have a “creepy vinyl doll skin” fetish.

    I did not own a console until the PlayStation.

    I only remember Vuarnet on rereading that list, but it seems like a very pretty logo.

    I miss Pac-Man cereal.

    I had no idea there were book order forms. But hey, do you remember Danny Dunn books? They were supposed to encourage kids to like science. I didn’t know that, so I was unprepared for my dad liking the fact that I read them at the library.

    I have 15 of the Scratch & Sniff stickers shown in the photo. I still have my photo album where I saved them.

    I miss tractor-feed printer paper edges.

    Up here we had a variant of the Trapper Keeper called “Finder Binder.” I should add that to my Random Nostalgia list.

    What a weird item to end on: cake pans?

    I was impressed that the list did not include things from the 1990s. Usually they fuck that up on this kind of list.

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