by Catriona Mills

Articles in “Books”

The Existential Horror of the 1980s

Posted 25 July 2010 in by Catriona

My students seems quite fascinated by the 1980s. I suppose, when the majority of them were born in the 1990s, it seems oddly exotic and ancient to them, a state of mind that in turn makes me feel ancient, though not particularly exotic.

So I tell them the 1980s was a time of unremitting horror, and they should be lucky they don’t have to revisit it.

(I’m actually quite fond of the ’80s, myself, in a nostalgic kind of way, but I seem to have gone a little mad in front of my classes, ever since I started teaching students who were born while I was in high school.)

I could tell them about the sense that we were all going to die in a nuclear holocaust or, this being a giant isolated island, survive in a nuclear wasteland among mutant kangaroos before committing suicide with Armand Assante.

(I may be mixing up Tank Girl and the 2000 adaptation of On the Beach, there, but, hey, it was a confusing time.)

But to drive home the true existential horror of the 1980s, all I really need to do is to show them the covers of Paula Danziger novels:

The tight jeans!

The short jeans!

The socks that match your magenta-and-black-striped jumper!

The magenta-and-black-striped jumper!

The blue slip-on shoes!

The polka dots!

Truly, an impending nuclear holocaust would always have been slightly less terrifying than those lemon-coloured, three-quarter-length leggings with white high heels and matching plastic bracelets.

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