Are we stuck in an eighties bubble?

Nuala Woulfe explains why we’re living in an eighties bubble and it’s down to clever marketing preying on our nostalgia.

Since Meghan Markle became Duchess of Sussex there’s been something bothering me about the way she dresses but after her recent Australian tour, I finally worked it out. Whether it’s a raincoat, a jacket or a shirt, Meghan often pushes long sleeves up, Duran Duran or Miami Vice style. It seems even royalty is getting sucked into the ever-growing, shiny eighties bubble of late.

If you’ve tuned into the radio recently you’ll have heard Culture Club are back on tour, supported by the Thompson Twins, and Swedish heartthrobs Aha are on the concert circuit too. Recently my 16-year-old went to see Bohemian Rhapsody, the movie of Freddie Mercury’s life, which ends on a near perfect recreation of the 1985 Live Aid Concert. “

The eighties were amazing, the music was amazing, you’re so lucky to have lived through the eighties,” she told me, and no, she really wasn’t being sarcastic.

If you ‘own’ a teenager you’ll know the 1980s is resonating big time with that age group. Netflix’s Stranger Things, set in the ’80s has a huge teen following and is laced with real eighties hits, movies like Sing Street made the eighties seem fun; genuine eighties movies like the Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off have a cult teen following and to top it all, Tom Cruise is currently making Top Gun 2; amazingly he still looks exactly the same.

Flash Gordon is being remade; ditto for Splash, Masters of the Universe, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and a host of other eighties favourites. The 80s have infiltrated little kids’ movies too, the 11-year-old got Despicable Me 3 recently, the soundtrack is all American 80’s, the baddie even moonwalks; I watched it just for nostalgia.

Mums and daughters especially adore Mama Mia, but a good deal of their hit songs like One of Us came from the early eighties especially from their album the Visitors, the title track which was about the Cold War. That’s another thing — Cold War Tourism is big in Europe — the idea of the Soviets nuking us into prehistory scared the living bejaysiz out of real eighties teens, more than a few of us seriously tried to talk our dads into digging a nuclear bunker in the garden, but today the Cold War is almost exotic. From Checkpoint Charlie to Stasi headquarters, Berlin is the city of choice for time travellers, but other Eastern European cities are cashing in on the craze too.

You’d want to be on another planet if you haven’t noticed the eighties making inroads into fashion. Apart from Meghan and her pushed-up sleeves, oversized jumpers in bold, block colours are de rigueur, dungarees are back, even Lidl was selling ladies’ jumpsuits the last time I checked. 2018 has even seen the impossible happen; the return of permed hair with celebs from Emma Stone, Lily Collins to Blake Lively opting for curls. Today’s perm is softer though and doesn’t look like you’ve been plugged into an electrical socket.

Toys are nostalgia heaven and if you secretly enjoy commandeering your kids’ pressies under the Christmas tree you’ll be happy to know, Cabbage Patch Kids, Furbys and Tamagotchi are trendy. Remember the BMX bike chase in ET and how a BMX was for kids like a Harley Davidson? Well, new improved lightweight BMX bikes are a hot commodity. So, what’s happening exactly? How have we all of a sudden gone Back to the Future with regards to the past? Has this ‘new eighties’ just happened spontaneously or are we being manipulated into this time warp by stealth?

Dublin psychologist Susannah Healy says without a doubt savvy marketeers are very aware of the age profile of today’s parents and have worked out the high points of our childhoods and youth and know exactly how to trigger nostalgia into buying sprees.

Memory is fairly inaccurate; we gloss over the bad bits. Marketeers know how to do that in a clever way. The eighties wasn’t all good but marketeers pick out the fun bits; the music, the clothes, the lifestyle and young people see that era nicely packaged through the chosen lens, but it also makes adults feel nostalgic and makes them want to share that feeling with their children. Advertising is psychology savvy; they know exactly how to trigger emotions to get results

So it seems, when adults buy a BMX bike or a cabbage patch doll what we’re really doing is triggering feel-goods in ourselves.

For many of us food does the nostalgia trick. Twitter has been lit up lately as people discuss their 80’s memories. Author Paul Howard says he’s especially fond of Bird’s Trifle and Angel Delight. “I love Bird’s Trifle, it just makes me feel very nostalgic about being young,” he told the Irish Examiner.

“My mother in law makes a beautiful trifle every Christmas as does my wife, but I always insist on making a Bird’s one every Christmas too.”

My 1980’s posh dessert of choice was Vienetta. This summer when Iceland did a tribute Vienetta on a stick adults went into nostalgia overdrive and bought them by the crate. I now find I’m nostalgic for Black Forrest Gateaux and Cherry Coke, I might even search ‘High and Low’ for them this weekend — that by the way is an Aha reference, but then you knew that of course, didn’t you, oldies and new, knowledgeable modern teens?


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