Monday, May 11, 2009

On the Allure of the '80's*

I saw a movie called Adventureland this weekend, and I cannot recommend it highly enough: I like to think of myself as a megafan of the "teen/college/post-college angst" genre (see: My first book), and this one was different from anything I'd seen in recent years. The humor was subtle. It did not overreach, and it did not resort to slapstick**. It was perhaps the best entry in the category of "overwrought youth romance" since Dazed and Confused.

Of course, I have an ingrained bias. Adventureland was set in 1987; the book I've been writing for the past two years is set in 1986. I have a colleague who recently wrote a book that was set in 1984. There is an obvious allure to setting stories in this time period, if only because this was the moment when so many of us Gen X-ers came of age. But it is also the last moment when youth culture was only superficially engaged by technology, when cable television remained a novelty (there is one scene that incorporates MTV, and it is perfectly placed), when even a cordless phone seemed an unnecessary luxury. Adventureland is set in a dreary old amusement park in Pittsburgh, of the sort I used to visit with my friends amid the doldrums of midsummer in central Pennsylvania. It is a movie about youth culture in the age before youth culture became tangled up in technological spiderwebs, and, perhaps because we've all been so swept up in these changes, this movie--despite a plot we've seen before--somehow seemed simpler and sweeter and less contrived. Also, the soundtrack is absolutely perfect, and afterward, I had a yearning to go to a record store and browse and purchase the remastered versions of the Replacements' Tim and Lou Reed's Transformer. I wanted to buy the actual CD's. After watching that movie, I felt like I needed a tactile experience.

And then I remembered that there are no longer any record stores in my neighborhood.

It wasn't really that long ago, and yet, given how fast we're moving, it somehow it feels like it was.

*This post has absolutely nothing to do with sports, but as the great Charles P. Pierce once wrote, "my column is like my house...If you don't like my paintings, my food or my music, don't come to my house."
**Unlike director Greg Mottola's previous film, Superbad. That film was entertaining, but in a completely different way--as is everything written/directed/produced by the Apatow mafia, none of which I would describe as subtle.

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