Wednesday, May 21, 2003

80's Hades

This may come as somewhat of a surprise to the people who think Rush Limbaugh and I were separated at birth (and I've no doubt it will surprise, if not out and out offend, some of my fellow Ronald Reagan Fan Club members), but I hated the 80s. With a passion. Indeed, with a gag-me-with-a-spoon-like passion.

All that conspicuous consumption! Forget Abscam, the Ayatollah, even ALF. Conspicuous consumption ó not to be confused with "wretched excess," which, unless the subject is body fat, is an oxymoron anyway ó is what made the 80s so dreadful.

Take those ridiculous and annoyingly ubiquitous "Baby on Board" signs. Who, pray tell, were those signs meant to alert? Drunk drivers? "Whoa, there's a baby in that car. Better pick another lane to weave and bob in."

No. Those signs were meant for other Beamer/Volvo-driving upwardly-mobile professionals. Those signs were yuppie code for, "Yo, check me out! I, too, delayed childbearing on my way to the top, but I'm still fertile! Now put THAT in your sushi and smoke it!"

The 80s credo, "more is more," was evident everywhere. If you think SUVs are, as Ralph Nader would say, unsafe at any speed, think back to the 80s, when it was virtually impossible to see two cars ahead of yours what with all the sky-high hairdos everyone wore. We took our fashion cues from the folks at "Dallas" at "Dynasty," donning 10-gallon hats to ride mechanical bulls and sewing shoulder pads into our bathing suits. Bigger, we declared, was better.

Perhaps the lowest 80s moment was the advent of the Tell All Talk Show, which gave everyone, rich and poor alike, an opportunity to be shamefully conspicuous. The 80s made Merv and Mike Douglas passé, sidewalk shrinks out of Oprah and Phil.

What was wrong with keeping things in the closet, with celebrity guests who revealed no more than their upcoming projects? Ratings, I guess.

More was, after all, more. The more we told on ourselves, the higher the ratings.

And, boy, did we tell on ourselves! Gleefully!

In the 80s, every manner of consumption was justified.

If you had a problem with Twinkies, you were hypoglycemic.

If you couldn't manage to "just say no," it was because your dopamine receptors were depleted.

And if you had to kill your parents? Why, you were suffering from Menendez Syndrome.

Nietzsche claimed God was dead; Helen Reddy claimed He was a She. But the 80s, well, the 80s claimed God, and any notions thereof, were profitable ó and then set about conspicuously proving just that.

New Age Mystic Centers, Christian theme parks (one such proposal called for the Sea of Galilee Walk), Marianne Williamson, Funky Cold MedinaÖGod was everywhere. And His, or Her, children, even His estranged children, like Madalyn Murray O'Hair, were making a killing.

The worst thing about the 80s, of course, was their very conspicuousness. Too big to ignore, they never really went away. They just, well, mutated.

Junk bond kings gave way to dot com princes to Kenny-Boy Lay and the Enron gang. Tell All Talk Shows gave way to the Starr Report and reality television; blame games to class action lawsuits. And New Age spirituality heralded the end of Easter vacations and the beginning of vernal equinox breaks, not to mention "What would Jesus do?" ad campaigns and Michael Newdow.

On the up side, Grace Slick's daughter changed her name in the 80s. Once called "God," she disappointed her unconventional mama and changed it to "Muffy." That's a little bit better, don't you think?

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