As the 80s-tastic Ready Player One hits cinemas, one millennial comes to terms with the fact that all the culture he’s ever known has, in fact, been rubbish.
I wasn’t born until the early 1990s. And while I am partially grateful to my parents for giving me life, I also profoundly resent them for not having me several years earlier. They deprived me of being a kid in the 80s, when everything was wonderful and everyone looked exactly like that bloke from that time travelling film with the car.
My level of resentment has been made even worse after watching large screen-occupier Steven Spielberg’s latest film Ready Player One – a CG sensory assault about a virtual reality world filled with pop culture references from the 80s.
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While I was able to identify most of the nods to shows, movies, games and music from the decade, it wasn’t possible for me to emotionally connect with any of it, or feel a sense of ownership over stuff that was released before I was sentient.
I wasn’t alive when the first RoboCop film came out (my punishment for that was RoboCop 3). I had no idea how to dance at Halloween or that you were even supposed to, because Michael Jackson’s Thriller music video came out almost a decade before I was introduced to the world. And disgracefully, I never got to experience any of the original Star Wars trilogy in a cinema, which essentially means I don’t count as a person.
To put it simply, I missed out on everything that was actually good. It’s as if all the decent entertainment culture was used up, primarily by Arnie and Prince, leaving my generation absolutely nothing but wireless internet, smartphones and liquid crystal display televisions.
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I often get jealous when I see people who clearly look like they’ve lived through the bulk of the 80s. They get to walk around with a disenchanted look on their face and outright claim from experience that everything was better when Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister, there was a massive recession and everyone was constantly filled with a sense of moral panic.
Of course, we’re now experiencing mass nostalgia for that superior period in human history. Almost everything you see is ripped straight from the decade – your Nike high-tops, your Bruno Marses, your Ghostbusters. Then there’s the popular prepubescent Netflix show Stranger Things, which is basically an endless onslaught of denim and perms.
The film industry in particular has become heavily dependent on the era, returning to properties like Star Wars, IT and Blade Runner to pull in big, nostalgic audiences. In fact, of the top 15 grossing films of the 80s, only three of them haven’t been given a sequel, rebooted or bastardised. But also from a stylistic point of view, recent films like Thor: Ragnarok heavily draw from the colours of the decade. Like red and green and blue and pink and others.
It seems that in an attempt to pay back my generation for all the quality culture we missed, creatives have focused all their energy on finding new ways to steal old material, instead of making something new and original that no one wants. And for that I am eternally grateful.
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But I’ve played my own part, too. Even without the commercial influence of a retro advert, I listen exclusively to Queen on the ghetto blaster, I only watch Emilio Estevez films on VHS, and I still wear jumpers that are three sizes too big for me. All so I can block out this modern hell.
Hopefully in the future they will create a virtual reality world so I can fully escape from real reality. And inside it everything will be from the 80s, when everyone was happy and no one died. Synthesisers will endlessly play and the scenery will be soaked in neon lights. And then Ready Player One will become a piece of non-fictional pop culture that we can reference forty years later.
Ready Player One is in UK cinemas 28 March