an '80s revival
October 18, 2001
By Franklin Harris
Before going mad, the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche resurrected the old idea of "eternal recurrence," the belief that everything happens as part of an endlessly repeating cycle.
I tend to dismiss the notion. It's too mystical for our rational age. Nevertheless, it appears to crop up, in a small and seemingly trivial fashion and with clockwork regularity, every 20 years.
Witness that now, like a vampire with the stake removed from its heart, the '80s are back.
We have seen this sort of thing before.
The '70s gave us nostalgia for the '50s. "Grease" was the word scrawled in "American Graffiti" during those "Happy Days."
During the '80s, the generation that had never stopped reliving the '60s forced the rest of us to relive them as well.
Then came the '90s. Improbably, bellbottoms returned. KISS, back in full makeup, staged an endless string of farewell tours. And by the decade's end, one of the best shows on television was "That '70s Show." Simple and to the point.
You can follow the patterns.
The '50s gave birth to UFO mania, as large numbers of people first saw what they believed to be alien spacecraft. Children during those years grew up with little green men on their minds.
Eventually, some of them grew into television and movie producers.
By the time the '70s came around, they had accumulated enough years and enough authority to produce a TV series about the paranormal and the unexplained, "In Search Of," and feature films about the Bermuda Triangle.
Another generation grew up with that stuff. And when their turn came to helm the ship of America's popular culture, they sailed right back into the Triangle.
Perhaps you have seen that episode of "The X-Files?"
All of which brings us to today.
Image Comics has brought back the ultimate '80s comic book, "G.I. Joe," as a four-issue miniseries. Meanwhile, Marvel Comics, which published "G.I. Joe" during the '80s, is planning to reprint its old stories as trade paperbacks.
Fox has gone to Japan to pick up the latest version of that other '80s cartoon/comic book mainstay, "The Transformers." (Marvel is planning reprints of its "Transformers" comics, too.) And in January Rhino Home Video will release a "Transformers" DVD box set, collecting the best of the original cartoon series.
Hasbro, which produced G.I. Joe and Transformers toys almost 20 years ago, is re-releasing both lines, which is sure to drive collectors of the originals to distraction.
My own favorite '80s cartoon series, "Robotech," is out on DVD even now, with additional releases to come.
The upside of '80s nostalgia is that I might actually see DVD releases of the "Indiana Jones" and "Back to the Future" trilogies in my lifetime.
The downside is that Men Without Hats might stage a reunion tour. Assuming any of them are still alive. And, no, I don't care to know if they are.
So, in a sociological sense, maybe our mad German was right. Our popular culture always returns to its source, endlessly recycling itself. We relive good bits (like "Robotech") and try to ignore the rest (are Men at Work still working?). And both good and bad in some way influence the next generation.
You feel old when you see some boy who was born in 1993 wearing a Thundercats T-shirt. And you can only take cold comfort in knowing that, 20 years from now, Pokemon nostalgia will make him feel old, too.