It really hits you hard as a thirtysomething when you start to see the celebrations of 25th anniversaries of things that you were wholly conscious for in your youth. As it is, I’m witnessing the birth and growth of friends’ children and reconnecting with long lost friends on Facebook, many not talked to in 10-15 years, a startling revelation that comes to a surprise every time I count the years in my head. Was 1992 really that long ago?
In 1983, I wrote about the 25th anniversary of a now-defunct EPCOT attraction called Horizons. 1982 was the 25th anniversary of EPCOT itself and of my first visit to Disney World. It was also the anniversary of the relaunch G.I. Joe as the smaller action figures that my generation came to know, love, and blow up with firecrackers. And the first year of many that Family Ties aired. As I started doing research for this blog, it scared me how many beloved ’80s institutions had been around for 25 years. And yet we’ve only just begun.
1984 through 1986 are really the core years where the 1980s started forming its own identity. Those first few years had so much spillover effect from the ’70s. A lot of early music from the ’80s was essentially disco, new wave and soft rock, all genres owing significantly, if not entirely, to the prior decade. The music we would come to think of fondly as ’80s music started to thread itself through these ’70s holdovers and slowly take over. Think back to your favorite songs of the decade, or at least to the biggest hits of the decade, and you’ll see most of them came in the latter half of the era. (This is no different than the ’60s, ’70s and ’90s all decades with similar transitions).
Movies and TV shows had a similar aesthetic transition though many of our treasured favorites of the era aren’t always marked by an ’80s aesthetic. The Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises started in 1977 and 1981 respectively. The Star Wars trilogy was finished by 1983. But these film series informed the decade, not the other way around. But those ’80s-centric films which came to epitomize the sensibilities and imageries of the era, like The Breakfast Club, Back to the Future or St. Elmo’s Fire were informed BY the decade. And would come to epitomize our recollections of movies of the time. As a visual media, TV shows were much the same. Every kid remembers watching M*A*S*H* and Three’s Company reruns, spillover shows from the ’70s. But we came to identify the decade with shows such as The Cosby Show, Who’s the Boss, or Cheers.
As for cartoons and the toys that often came along with them, well this year one of their granddaddies celebrates its 25th anniversary: Transformers. With G.I. Joe and He-Man, the Transformers really came to influence the rest of the decade’s animation styles and toy collections. For me, it was also the first year that I started to collect trading cards (mostly baseball) and followed sports with more interest.
So pay attention in 2009. And don’t be surprised at how frequently you hear it’s the 25th anniversary of a number 1 song, the debut of a favorite TV show, the release of a major film, or the arrival of a favorite action figure.
Oh and for the record, I’m celebrating the 35th anniversary of my birth this year. Equally as scary and frightening as celebrating the aforementioned anniversaries. As of this writing, there are no plans to honor me with a live-action film or deluxe box set.