American Society

We were normal. Our cartoons didn’t cry like the characters in Pokemon, they shot red and blue lasers and landed ten point somersaults out of falling airplanes and had poorly written dialogue.

Tickle me Elmo? Psst. We had transformers. We are the old school that they refer to now. We, the children of the 80’s, made MTV what it is. We watched the Friday the 13th franchise when Jason Voorhees was dangerous and scary. We survived legwarmers and watched hip hop go mainstream. We were cooler than the 70’s and much more optimistic than the 90’s.

I miss the 80’s. We had the cold war and we Americans knew who was evil because the country did a better job of making propaganda a seamless part of our lives. Now, we seem to pick evil countries out of a hat. And what is this reality TV nonsense? Our reality television was the Dukes of Hazard. It was real – there really was a Cooter, and there was a Hazard country in Georgia, and the Duke boys really were in trouble with the law since the day they ‘was’ born. We had real classic television shows like The Cosby Show, and Cheers, and above all else, Night Court. We had real action heroes like Charles Bronson, and a fresh Sly Stallone. We had horrible fads that made us stronger like yellow smiley faced t-shirts and parachute pants. From Ferris Bueller to “Brewster’s Millions”, our movies had a simplistic charm that we have since missed dearly.

Of course, the 80’s had its valleys as well as its peak. Ollie North? Trickle down economics? Richard Pryor in “The Toy”? (which almost single handedly set back civil rights 120 years). Yahoo Serious? New Coke? Why did these moments happen? I asked these questions then, as I ask them now about “Joe Millionaire” and “Bridezilla” on Fox.

But let’s not focus on the negative. Here is my list of 80’s Allstars – classic members that made my 80’s experience so great. Of course there are going to be some omissions, but I think I hit most of the key ones. Feel free to write me to let me know if I missed something that I absolutely should have had.

Long before the all-in-one guided missile console that we know as the PS2 came along, we had Nintendo, and Nintendo was great because it was the first time video games in your house resembled the games in the arcade. The little gray square box was full of magic and created volumes of memories. I remember when I discovered the secret rooms in Super Mario Bros. (every child of the 80’s remembers the above ground, sunny as well as the dungeon underground remix versions of the Super Mario Bros. music by heart). I remember when I got the code from Contra that gave you 33 lives. I remember when I found out that Bo Jackson was unstoppable in Techno Bowl and banned him from my house. My Nintendo sits in my uncle’s attic connected to a 14′ television, its home for the last six years. He simply refuses to give it back. Every year, we relive the 80’s in our momentous battles of Baseball Stars. My record against him, by the way, is something like 8 zillion to 1.

Compared to today’s super video game consoles, the Nintendo has punching power of a drunken Gary Coleman, but yet, Nintendo seems like more fun. Metroid, Blades of Steel, Zelda – these were great games with secrets that if you knew them, you became part of a secret society. I’m never getting rid of my Nintendo.

Honorable mention: Commodore 64, Atari 2600

One of the greatest action shows of all time, and like MacGyver, they showed us that literally nothing is impossible. My favorite group of ex-commandos effortlessly made the U.S. military look like idiots while doing community service for the indigent and downtrodden.
The A-Team in a 15 minute segment could build an armored tank that shot flaming, exploding cabbage with some metal scraps and a dirt bike that caused a truck to flip and explode without killing a single person. In fact, the closest the A-Team ever came to killing anyone was in the doses of sedative given to BA Baracus, aka Mr. T, so he would fly.
The A-Team had cool music, live G.I. Joe like characters, a cool truck, mindless goons, and great catch phrases like “I pity the fool” and “I love it when a plan comes together”. One bad thing about the A-Team is that when I would play with my friends, they would force me most of the time to play the maniacal pilot Murdock, which I resent until today.

Honorable mention: Air Wolf, Knight Rider: Knight Rider would have won my vote had David Hasselhoff not soiled its heritage with “Baywatch” and worse “Baywatch” spin-offs.

Paula Abdul:
Even when singing with a cartoon cat, Paula was 80’s cool. This was true then, and is still true in the midst of her revival on Fox’s “American Idol”. She was one of a breed of entertainers that sang only with the help of electronics, but sure were great to watch. Like Madonna, Bobby Brown, and Janet Jackson. Moreover, her songs were fun and mindless.
Honorable mention”: Pre “2 Legit to Quit” MC Hammer, Falco, Milli Vanilli, and Wham. Regarding this category, the 80’s were definitively Michael Jackson’s. I don’t care who you are, you liked the “Thriller” LP; it was involuntary. When Michael’s hair exploded, you were worried. When Michael started traveling with a chimp named “Bubbles” you were worried too. Anyway, he’s the obvious choice here, even ahead of Madonna and Prince – since their shelf life extended into the 90’s, they don’t count.

Karate Kid Franchise:
Karate Kid would be great, and I mean truly great, standing alone with its power packed soundtrack with hits like “He’s the best around” by Non-descript 80’s rock band. But if that wasn’t enough, the movie was great in that it made us think that if we performed our chores with the proper repetition and rigor, we could whoop someone’s ass if need be. With a John Hughesian brilliance, young Brooklyn replant Danny LaRussa bucked the California high school social system by escaping his waif body and relative poverty to score the most popular girl in school and to beat up each and every one of his enemies, not withstanding the swan kick with a shredded ACL that Mr. Miyagi fixed with a lie.

Honorable mention: Ferris Bueller’s Day off, Breakfast Club, Real Genius, Berry Gordy’s “The Last Dragon”, and Weird Science. I would have liked to spend more time talking about the worst movie ever made, the previously mentioned “The Toy” staring Richard Pryor, but I’m tired and I need to read my finance case.

Pac Man:
Forget that this is the greatest video game besides Madden 2003, this was the world’s introduction to crack rock. There is no other explanation for Pac Man’s reaction when eating the big pellets – why else would he eat ghosts? It doesn’t make sense.

The author, Allen Narcisse, will go in depth on the 80’s in the next issue, covering Rubix Cube, Air Jordans, The Smurfs, Diff’rent Strokes, Nightmare on Elm Street, and MTV.