The 80s is such an interesting time. I feel nostalgic for it even though I never lived in it. Even more nostalgic than for the 90s, which a lot of people seem to be nostalgic for. The fact that I find it so familiar and right is potentially even more interesting than the time itself.
I guess it’s not too much of a mystery why that’s so. It’s because filmwriters and directors—even game designers, the most effective storytellers of the most effective media were alive then, and were in their youth then. They’re able to create such realistic yet simple recreations of the decade that I feel as if I lived then. As if I grew up then. I’ve been able to piece together enough stories of small-town 80s America that it actually feels like a memory.
These storytellers have made me more nostalgic for their youth than I am for my own.
I wonder if this is the first time that this has happened. I guess it’s almost certainly not. People born after the fall of the Roman Empire probably heard enough tales and read enough stones about life that it seemed real. But I’m not positive.
While written and spoken words can be better media for stories themselves than the more modern ones, they’re not as effective at capturing environments. I can watch a movie like It Follows, play a game like Gone Home, or watch a series like Stranger Things and immediately recognize the time. The recognition is even so strong that it brings feelings along with it. Reading will always be better for capturing characters and story lines, but it will never be quite as good at capturing the world itself. After all, a book that described the setting in painstaking detail would be extremely boring and no one would even bother reading it.
So I feel pretty confident that visual media are the only ones to cause this, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the 80s is the only era. Moving pictures have been around for a relatively long time now. It seems likely though. Old films are pretty objectively terrible at capturing setting. We live in the golden age of nostalgia, and while many millenials spout memes about the 90s, the giants of the arts have made me miss a time that I’ve never witnessed first hand.
Relatedly, I’m on the last episode of the first season of Stranger Things. It is as good as everyone makes it out to be. Watch it, and It Follows, and play Gone Home if you haven’t.