Explaining the 80s

One night my wife and I were taking a walk down memory lane, watching 80s music videos on YouTube. Specifically, we were watching Murry Head’s music video of “One Night in Bangkok,” when my wife raised one important question: how are we going to explain the 80s to our children?

For example, the “One Night in Bangkok” song doesn’t really have a tune besides the chorus, but just a man in a white suit chanting strange lyrics on a chess board. If our kids run across this, how are they to believe us that yes, this did make sense (culturally speaking) and yes, this was actually cool.

I ran into this problem directly not too long back, when I tried to explain to my little brother who Max Headroom was. If you don’t remember Max Headroom, just be thankful. However, I will explain it to you. Never mind, it’s unexplainable. I think I would spend the rest of this column trying to explain it and it still would not make sense. However, I can say there was something about a man in a plastic suit standing in front of a computer generated background while trying to sound computer generated himself.

I tried to tell this to my little brother, but I’m not sure he believed me. Why would someone pretend to be computer animated? I have to say, it doesn’t make sense. The 80s were a time when the impossible was possible. And then the possible was dressed up in really bad colors.

My parents never had to explain the 60s and 70s to me, because back then, decades stayed put. If a TV show ended, that was it, you never got to see that show again. If the style changed, you only had an old Polaroid of that style ever existing.

Now the 70s takes place in our house on a regular basis. That’s because my wife likes the TV mystery “McMillan and Wife” which is now available on Netflix. So for a while there, our family would gather around the TV often, watching men with exceptionally large collars chase each other with guns (women weren’t allowed to run with guns on TV in the 70s).

We may have watched it a little too much though. I was watching a basketball game with my two-year-old daughter, and I was pointing out what bad shots one team was taking. My daughter interpreted this as one of the players was going to get shot. She kept asking me persistently which one it was. I explained that they were shooting the basket with the ball. I think she was disappointed.

Of course, she’s probably going to have to explain to her children that back in her day, basketball players weren’t robots. It probably will make as much sense as explaining TV hosts in plastic suits pretending to be animated.

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