When classic movies didn’t exist


Listening to NPR’s Morning Edition, they ran a story about the 40th edition of American Graffiti, Movies capture their actors and preserve them as young, and we are always surprised to see how they’ve aged. The other day our family watched “Back To the Future” (which I’ve seen several times) and BTTF 2, which I hadn’t seen. The third episode is probably up for tonight. Then yesterday I was YouTube surfing and saw a couple of things with Michael J. Fox, who of course is suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
Anyway, what I want to reflect on today is that I graduated from college about a month before BTTF was released. In other words, that movie wasn’t part of the cultural consciousness when I was in college. “I am your density” wasn’t there. Christopher Lloyd had voiced his “Great Scott!”, but not in the public view.
Here are some other things that have changed pretty dramatically since 1985:

  • Well, duh, the Internet. I used e-mail on campus, but nobody I knew off-campus had it. File transfer and web browsing were ideas for research topics, not daily events.
  • Political views have shifted dramatically to the conservative end. Reagan, the great scary wacko of the 1980s, probably could not even win a Republican primary now.
  • Gay rights have moved pretty dramatically. In the early 80’s it was fairly normal to be at least leery of open homosexuality, and AIDS was the “gay disease”. Now, in my state, we are happy to let gays marry each other.
  • In South Africa, apartheid was still the law of the land and “divestment” of companies investing there was an issue that got us going. Now the world watches an elderly Nelson Mandela in his decline.
  • Renting a video was a big deal. I remember pitching in with friends to rent, not just a movie, but a player on which to run it. Now, you can barely give away VHS tapes and the neighborhood video store is a thing of the past. (An entire industry, created and destroyed in less than 40 years!)
  • Nuclear Armageddon was still a real fear – the Soviet Union was around and we all thought Reagan was a dangerous cowboy. Now the nuclear threat is from little states and terrorists. Still bad, non-deterrable, but far less likely to end civilization.
  • I used to have my Swiss Army knife as a keychain and would routinely take it with me on airplanes.
  • Everything media was analog. I had a pretty sizeable record library which has been sitting in a closet for a decade, and a few hundred cassette tapes which are mostly gone now. You used to be able to go to a place called a “record store” and buy plastic circles with little grooves molded in to them. Putting on an album was a ritual in itself – handling the record carefully, the little velvet Discwasher pad, moving the arm – tone arm? – and the cuing lever…

Maybe nostalgia is just remembering the good and forgetting the bad? “Seeing the past through rose-colored glasses”.

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