Back to the glorification of the 1980s

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Sincerely, The Breakfast Club // Looking at a scene from The Breakfast Club, Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald) looks off in the distance. This is one of John Hughes’s most well known films. (Photo by Talia Medina)

by Talia Medina

This article contains topics such as Homophobia and racism 

The 1980s was a time when pop culture was at its peak, and many films that are well-known today were just beginning to be released. However, with popular shows such as Stranger Things continuing to be released, the popularity of the 1980s style resurfaces again. 

Stranger Things is a supernatural show and doesn’t heavily focus on some of the issues in the 80s. As a result, many fans of the show say that they “wished that they were born in the 80s instead”, yet they don’t understand what it was truly like to live in that time. Even those who lived during the 80s still reminisce on when times were “simpler.” There were many issues throughout the 80s that people seem to simply gloss over completely. 

Two of the most prevalent problematic ideas being expressed throughout the 80s were homophobia and racism. With the way America began to transform, many people living in the 80s obtained the idea that being one of the rich Wallstreet business people was needed to be “perfect,” and it was normalized that minorities were hated outcasts. 

In the eyes of society, the idea of being “perfect” was to be white, rich, and popular. Since many of the popular coming-of-age films consisted of primarily white casts it was challenging to find the level of representation that we now have in cinema today. Even if there was a person of color (POC), it was usually an exaggerated caricature of them that stemmed from some of the many negative racial stereotypes that were created. 

The truth about the 80s is that it was a very diverse time. Still, since the media rarely attempted to give attention to minorities, this would cause young POCs to wonder if they would ever see someone like them on the big screen even though most coming-of-age films would discuss a lot of topics that most teenagers at the time were dealing with. The films coming out would usually cast the same people because they were popular or were thought to be attractive since the magazines would feature them almost all the time, especially when a new film was about to be released. 

Another thing to note about the 80s was the raging homophobia that was happening at the time, mainly because the AIDS epidemic was at its peak. This caused people to villainize others that were a part of the LGBTQ+ community although the disease didn’t spread the way regular illness would. Teenagers during the time also used homophobic slurs as a way to insult others’ actions and had absolutely no hesitation when it came to using them. Things like these were mostly seen throughout coming-of-age films that were heavily popularized by the director John Hughes and can even be seen throughout his own films such as Weird Science, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and more. Most coming-of-age films released in the 80s included a lot of sensitive language and ideas but played them off as inconsiderate because they were so heavily normalized within society. This normalization caused kids that were growing up in this time period to take what their parents, or the media, were showing them as what they should believe, which primarily was just hateful. These derogatory sayings spread fear within minority groups and caused them to feel as if they were unable to express themselves, due to the fear of being put in a harmful situation.

Flashing forward to 2022, people have become more open to discussing these topics and even push to show more diversity and consideration in what is shared with the media. As more shows and films express what the 1980s were like, it’s important to remember that not everything you see is portrayed correctly.