• The Wedding Singer wasn’t a dig; it was an acknowledgement that the 80s were an interesting time of development, sexual exploration and sequined gloves. (MARY EVANS PICTURE LIBRARY)Source: MARY EVANS PICTURE LIBRARY
Amal Awad was an 80s kid. She explains why this is a good thing.
By
Amal Awad

6 Feb 2017 - 11:01 AM  UPDATED 6 Feb 2017 - 11:01 AM

My name is Amal and I am an 80s tragic.

I had the privilege of being an 80s child by a Flock-of-Seagulls hair, and am pleased to note that the 80s remains an influential decade in all of its overblown glory.

I don’t put the 80s on a pedestal because I’m old and think kids are terrible these days or that the days of simplicity are over because social media and the Internet have ruined us all. Sure, you can argue all of those things, but the true beauty of the 80s doesn’t lie in what it didn’t have; it’s that decades later, anyone who grew up in the 80s will immediately transform into a puddle of neon-scented nostalgia, able to quote Eddie Murphy and demonstrate ‘Wax on, wax off’ with impressive accuracy.

And who can forget those plastic bubbles you blew through a thin straw that were later discovered to be toxic? Good times.

The funny thing about the 80s was how it didn’t take itself too seriously. The 80s got drunk on itself, uninhibited and willing to try anything.

Gross-out humour in frat-boy comedies? Check.

Jelly wrist bands? Hell yeah!

Leg warmers? Why wouldn’t you?

PC wasn’t a thing, and while we can comfortably critique this from our more enlightened 2017 viewpoint, I believe the 80s gave us more positive things than negatives.

Comment: On how the AIDS crisis of the 80s united the queer community
A look at how far we've come, and how far we have to go.

I know I’m not alone in this. Adam Sandler, for all of his faults, gave us The Wedding Singer, a comedic love letter to the Best Decade Ever. He poked fun at it, because very little from the 80s looks good now, no matter how hard fashion has tried to bring neon back. But the film wasn’t a dig; it was an acknowledgement that the 80s were an interesting time of development, sexual exploration and sequined gloves.

Meanwhile, nowadays 80s-kid lists abound on the interwebs, virtual nods to the awesomeness of the decade that gave us the moonwalk: Lolly Gobble Bliss Bombs, cobbers and lolly teeth, leg warmers, neon-coloured t-shirts, hairspray and music magazines that included song lyrics. And who can forget those plastic bubbles you blew through a thin straw that were later discovered to be toxic? 

Good times.

While its fashion leaves the 80s open to mockery, there’s no denying that it left an indelible mark on humanity. We got away with everything – frizzy hair was in style, a win for ethnic kids like myself who had to straighten their hair with a clothes iron. Tights and leg warmers were fashionable, once again a victory for an Arab girl who eventually had to show less skin in public.

No ads, no waiting for a movie to air on TV; you could watch films on a VHS or Beta machine that was so large and complex you needed training to make it function.

But perhaps one of the decade’s greatest gifts was the introduction of rental videos. No ads, no waiting for a movie to air on TV; you could watch films on a VHS or Beta machine that was so large and complex you needed training to make it function.

My love of cinema began with 80s movies. I can’t watch an 80s film without remembering my childhood, my brothers and I crowded into the lounge room with soft drinks and a big bag of chips between us.

In fact, for a few glorious years, my father owned one of Sydney’s first video rental stores, which meant unlimited access to Hollywood. While I initially tended towards Strawberry Shortcake and The Care Bears, growing up with three older brothers broadened my viewing catalogue.

Now we have easy access to all kinds of pop culture, a wobbly relationship with the cinema, and TV is outpacing movies, sating the appetites of binge-watchers everywhere.

I don’t wish these developments away. But I’m glad I experienced the 80s in all its terrifying neon glory. And it’s not just because it was a time when we lived things, rather than documented them.

The 80s wasn't just a decade, it was a vibe. Those years were my childhood, and I’ve realised as an adult that it pays to revisit them from time to time.

Love the story? Follow the author here: Twitter, Facebook, Three Quarters Full.


SBS is airing The Eighties - a documentary series exploring the decade - from Wednesday, February 8th at 8:30pm. 

Comment: The dangers of Australia’s tribalism
Australia Day is becoming increasingly controversial, and the reasons why are completely valid, writes Amal Awad.
Comment: The crisis of identity in Australia
Identity layers go beyond culture and religion. It’s tribalism that makes us feel whole, and Australia is full of tribes.
How to broaden Hollywood's worldview
Hollywood won’t improve its diversity credentials simply by casting people from different backgrounds – it needs to invest in stories written and produced by them.