Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE being a 90s baby. I remember just enough of the decade, even though I missed almost half of it. The late 90s and the early 2000s are equally important to me. I get to claim Full House and cassette tapes as much as I do Zoog Disney (click here for more on the Zoogs) and a very impressive CD collection.
To put it plainly, I straddle two fascinating eras in television and pop culture. Family sitcoms were still all the rage when I was born in ’94, but I entered elementary school as homes were dividing into more age-specific viewing.
I came of age in a time when there were plenty of shows competing for my attention after school and on weekends. Disney Channel usually won out. You’re probably here because you like to go back in time. If I could go back in time and grow up anywhere on my mental timeline, I would turn the clock back by about 10-13 years and be an 80s kid. It’s so close that I can taste it. I had dozens of hand-me-down tapes from real 80s kids, not to mention all the leftovers us 90s kids got on cable.
Here’s what I wonder–would I want to go back as an innocent babe experiencing the world for the first time, or would I want to go back as an adult, knowing what I know now about television and technology? I am leaning towards the latter. So I’ll be an overgrown 80s kid.
I love obsolete technology. I want to see firsthand how the whole home video revolution went down. I want to test out a Sony Betamax tape. I want to use an 8-track player. I’m ready to experiment with early personal computers. Yes, I could order some of this equipment in 2021, but I think it’d be more fun to see it all in its heyday.
What am I going to watch on TV? This bleeds into the early 1990s, but I’ll be watching a ton of sitcoms at their appointed hours. We’re talking about Cheers and Growing Pains (these have my favorite theme songs, which I find a bit similar!), Full House and all the other early TGIF shows, plus everything in the Norman Lear universe. I want to watch more All in the Family and The Jeffersons. Some of my viewing will be brand new for the time, and some of it will be comprised of quality reruns from the 70s and prior. Even if I go back as an adult, I can still check out the Saturday morning cartoons and see if everything I’ve read about them (that they were basically just half-hour commercials for toys) is true.
Here’s what I’m most excited about: 1980s Allison will purchase The Disney Channel on premium cable. From 1983 and on, this luxury will afford me hours of quality, family-friendly entertainment. I’ll watch the giant puppets on Dumbo’s Circus and Pooh Corner. I’ll witness the first Disney Channel Premiere Films (before there were DCOMs). Heck, I might even get up early to Mousercise. Don’t worry, Nickelodeon fans–after watching The Orange Years, I’m definitely ready to see the first ever children’s network in its infancy. I want to see MTV’s first years, too, even though I’ve never watched the channel much.
Music, Movies, Fashion
I love wearing leggings, so I’ll fit right in wearing those and oversized sweatshirts. I want to be comfortable on this voyage. When it comes to movies, I can’t wait to see Back to the Future and The Breakfast Club (and all the other John Hughes movies of the decade) in theaters. Maybe I’ll laugh harder at Christmas Vacation if I see it in its era…I doubt it. It’s just not my favorite movie. I just watched E.T. for the first time, so that one would be fun to see at the theater, too.
I’ve always had a thing for cassettes. When I was born, Amy Grant had already made her most iconic pop crossover tracks, so I have fond memories of listening to “Baby, Baby,” “Every Heartbeat,” and “The Lucky One.” Those didn’t come around until the early 90s, but Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven is a Place on Earth” came out in ’87. I’ve decided that this is one of my favorite songs. Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” (1986) has always resonated with me, too. Olivia Newton John’s “Physical” (1981) is important because I’m a fitness instructor who would love to wear 1980s workout apparel. Bring on the legwarmers! Bring on the neon!
I have to add that my Disney Channel research has made me a huge fan of The Jets. I play “Crush on You” regularly now (beautifully remastered by Darrell Brand; music starts 0:16):
All that I’ve mentioned doesn’t even scratch the surface of the huge impact the 80s made on pop culture. I’m so impressed by nostalgia bloggers on social media who specialize in this great decade. I think a lot about how decades spill over into each other. The 2020s feel different from the 2010s because we’re in a global pandemic. But then I go back a little further: I was in high school in 2009, I was still in high school in 2010…the 2010s didn’t start to feel distinct right away. Even though Y2K fashion is a big deal, there were still some 90s leftovers as the 2000s got going. Same with the 80s into the 90s. And watching a movie like E.T., I couldn’t help but notice how the house looked like the 70s, even though the film came out in 1982.
It takes time for eras to be made, and I’m intensely interested in understanding how all the subtleties between decades, all the flashes of memories from shows and movies, the quotable song lyrics, and the fashions and aesthetics ultimately help make us who we are.
Thanks for reading.