Tuesday, April 22, 2014

piece by Amy Merrick at New Yorker on "vicarious nostalgia for an era [one] didn’t actually live through" and "the commercial allure of the Eighties" - meaning literally the allure of the 1980s deployed in TV commercials

 "For advertisers, the eighties are suddenly the decade to strip-mine for memories. During the Super Bowl, RadioShack débuted a self-mocking commercial with pop-culture icons such as Mary Lou Retton, Hulk Hogan, and Teen Wolf clearing the store of its old boom boxes and fax machines. Its punch line is “The eighties called—they want their store back.” (The background music, incidentally, is Loverboy.)....

"At RadioShack, the idea for the Super Bowl commercial came from focus-group participants who accused it of being stuck in the eighties. The company decided to own up to its image, while explaining that it had, indeed, remodelled its stores since the Reagan Administration. “There were so many memories associated with the decade that we realized we were onto something,” Jennifer Warren, the chief marketing officer for RadioShack, told me. “I was a big Cyndi Lauper fan, and I remember teasing my hair.

Merrick's explanations for the enduring appeal of the Eighties even to those born after 1990: 

"The eighties might also be the last era associated with an exuberant visual vernacular. The nineties are too dour for marketers—try selling a Waffle Taco with Kurt Cobain and dark flannels....  when you excise the actual news from our collective memory and are left with neon leg warmers and keyboard guitars, the eighties at least look fun."

Another  explanation:

"Since the nineties, though, it’s become more difficult to define the aesthetic of a particular decade. This might have something to do with the fragmentation and the proliferation of media, and with the fact that so much of our cultural experience is now virtual rather than physical. It also relates to the democratization of fashion; a few big brands can no longer dictate a look. Valerie Steele, the director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, told the Times that, if people in the future want to throw an aughts-themed event, “it does seem like it would be harder to dress for the party.”

Finally, snippets of research  on nostalgia and its relation to age. This first seems obvious and well-known ("as  people enter their fifties and begin to take stock of their lives, they become more susceptible to nostalgia, according to Erica Hepper, a psychologist at the University of Surrey" - yeah, tell me about it!). But this other  discovery is intriguing: "According to Hepper’s research, the other time nostalgia tends to peak is when people are in their late teens and early twenties. They’re facing a series of anxious life transitions, such as starting a career and moving out of their parents’ homes."

1 comment:

  1. Can identify with that last piece of research, as during the rest of my 20s indulged stupidly in longings for college life of early 20s. The current vogue for Britpop nostalgia was me 3-4 years after 1997, including sighing along to "Shine"-type compos with the likes of cast, menswear and the one good song from each act. Tho nostalgia for any time or place with unifying concepts/structures possible now, even if they were shite at the time- the top 40, 4 channels of tv, anything consumed by millions. And when that gets old, or utterly unconvincing, dredge up niche fads such as the likes of C86, or NWOBHM and attempt to imbue with new significance. Me and the likes of me are only fit for that now