The ’80s vs. the ’10s

Facebook Friend Michael Smith first wrote:

I was out and about this afternoon and got tired of the crap that passes for music these days, so I flipped to the 80’s on 8 channel on Sirius XM and “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins was on – and I immediately thought of this scene from Miami Vice and remembered how cool I thought it would be to be rolling in that black Ferrari Daytona with Sonny and Tubbs…

But I also thought about how our situation today is like and unlike the 80’s at the same time.

We had a Republican president whom the left despised, just like today and they were out to get him through non-elective methods, too. Remember Col. Oliver North and Iran/Contra? We were also coming out of the economic “malaise” and “stagflation” of the Carter years (as we are the Obama years).

But I also remember it being a happier time when politics didn’t totally consume the entertainment industry and the newswires.

If our entertainment mirrored culture, look at what we watched:

– Magnum P.I. (the real one)

– Miami Vice

– Night Court

– The A-Team

– The Dukes of Hazzard

– The Wonder Years

– WKRP in Cincinnati

There’s not a single one exploring the collapse and rebirth of families and the damage that ensues (A Million Little Pieces, This Is Us), pushing alternative lifestyles (Gray’s Anatomy, Will and Grace) or every TV series trying to be woker than the next.

In short, the 80’s were fun, the 10’s have not been.

Fun has become the enemy of our culture rather than a part of it. The evidence lies in the fact that almost none of the great movies or TV shows of the 80’s could be made today. The social justice warriors would never permit it. We can’t just be entertained, we must be scolded until we learn our lesson. It’s almost like we are supposed to feel bad about ourselves after each episode and spend the next 12 hours in navel gazing introspection.

I sorely miss Reagan and the optimism of the Reagan years. If we had a little of that, there is no limit to what we could do.

Smith then added:

Sometimes (and by “sometimes”, I really mean “often”), when I write something, I put words into electrons that are unintentionally intelligent or bear further discussion. I did this yesterday when, in celebration of Crockett and Tubbs (and the 80’s), I wrote:

“I sorely miss Reagan and the optimism of the Reagan years. If we had a little of that, there is no limit to what we could do.”

Thanks to all the folks who liked (or hated) it enough to comment, I was looking a that this morning and had another thought about our current circumstances.

I asked myself a question. I said, “Self, let me ask you something … what is it from the 80’s that the contemporary Democrats fear most?”

And after Self thought about it, he (being that I identify as a cisgendered heterosexual male of pallor with the pronouns of he, him and sire) said, “Optimism. That’s what they fear.”

More than anything, that’s really why they hated Ronald Reagan. After Carter’s disastrous turn at the wheel (the Iran hostage crisis, the failed rescue and getting bitch slapped by OPEC), Reagan made America feel good about itself again. He was clear about our greatest geopolitical enemy (about the only thing Mitt got right in 2012) and faced them head on until he broke them. He cut taxes and brought the economy back but more than that, his affable and engaging style made people feel good about themselves.

For years the Democrats have debased the language, eroded civility and destroyed tradition – and simply crushed anyone who tried to speak plainly, engage nicely and tried to keep within established boundaries. They are the ones who defined the rules by which one must fight if one has a chance win. Maybe Trump is an abrasive ass – but that’s the kind of person it takes to win – the gentleness of Reagan or the nice guy, milquetoast affectations of Bush I, Dole, Bush II, McCain or Romney wouldn’t get it done (even when Dub won, he still bent toward the Democrats).

I actually think Trump is a product of the times. He is the way he is because his environment forces him to be that way. Given different circumstances, it is entirely possible we would see a completely different side of him.

I get a feeling we are seeing the first half of Alexandre Dumas’ The Man in the Iron Mask play out in real time.

What is missing is optimism … and what Democrats know is that optimism is contagious. Because it is, they know they have to keep everything negative and in chaos so that people have no opportunity to realize that things have gotten measurably better and can become even more so with a little confidence.

No wonder they are such sour scolds.

Consumers of unhappiness always are.

Moreover, those whose support of this nation is based on whether or not they are in charge are bound to be unhappy as well, since the electorate swings back and forth between voting for Democrats and voting for Republicans despite their best efforts to portray conservatives as the embodiment of evil, even though evil is a concept they really don’t buy.

As someone who graduated from high school and college in the ’80s, I can attest that not everything about ’80s culture and entertainment was great, not to mention politics. If you were a UW–Madison student you were bombarded on a daily basis by tales of the evil Ronnie Raygun and how he was too senile to blow up the world in his first term in office, but was certainly malevolent enough to blow up the world should he be reelected in 1984. For four years this state had Tony Earl, sort of Wisconsin’s answer to Jimmy Carter if Carter had spent his adult lifetime in government, as governor. And there were the fortunes of UW and Packer football, which went from fair to good in the early ’80s to the disaster of 1988, when the BADgers and pACKers combined for a 5–22 record.

(Taking one of those Facebook quizzes about the ’80s that included references to shows I didn’t watch, such as “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” made me remember that during the ’80s I didn’t exactly feel like I fit in, since there was at least some popular music and a great deal of popular TV I despised and refused to, in order, listen to or watch. I didn’t race out and buy a white blazer because of “Miami Vice,” nor did I own parachute pants, and my Members Only jacket wasn’t actually from Members Only. That sense of cultural alienation trained me well for being in journalism, where you’re supposed to be an outsider. Either my life in the ’80s was a whole lot better than I probably thought it was at the time, or I remember my life in the ’80s as being better than it actually was.)

On the other hand, the properly disdained “We Built This City” looks like inspired art compared to some of what fills air time on contemporary hits radio today. It’s hardly surprising that Smith’s aforementioned adventure/dramas have either been remade on TV …

… or as a movie:

The voters get it wrong at least as often as they get it right (which is why you should never rely on the voters’ getting it right), but at least they got it right in 1980 and 1984 with Reagan and 1988 with George H.W. Bush (who was unquestionably better than any Democrat running in 1988 would have been), and 1986 with Tommy Thompson.

Smith is correct that politics didn’t inundate our lives in the ’80s, even though there was more daily politics at UW–Madison than in normal places. The culture was also less forgiving of public statements that are self-evidently stupid, such as the idea that there are more “genders” than male and female, or that anyone’s free expression is valid whether or not there’s anything correct, logical, moral or sensical about whatever they have to say. (But I was used to that from UW, where one day I read an assertion that Jesus Christ looked like Yasser Arafat.)

Someone wondered on social media how a generation raised on “South Park” could have become so emotionally fragile and prone to offense at the slightest imagined excuse. I have no answer for that, since I come from the ’80s, the decade of irony and sarcasm, courtesy of David Letterman. (“Dukes of Hazzard” reruns haven’t been shown on TV due to the Confederate flag painted on the roof of the Duke boys’ car, the General Lee.)

Trump came into prominence in the “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” ’80s, where celebrities started to exert inappropriate influence on the culture, so maybe it’s appropriate he is now president.


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