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Reflections On Writing About The 1980s

I've been doing my best writing over the course of the past 10 years, but it took a lot of work to get there. They say that all writers cringe when looking back on their old material, and I'm certainly no exception to that rule. I've been writing for 25 years now, starting when I was a teenager, and when I look back at the writing I did in my teens and 20s, I find myself thinking of how my love for the 1980s didn't always manifest itself in the best ways. With this article, I'll be looking back on some of my older writing, and explaining how the bad stuff paved the way for the good stuff.

In 1998, I expressed my burgeoning 80s fandom in a very unusual way. I utilized 80s references and characters from 80s entertainment in Animaniacs fanfiction I wrote along with the other users of a forum called the Warner Brothers Club. They would eventually be renamed Toonzone, and then further renamed Anime Superhero, with the WBC merely being one wing of an expansive animation resource.

I've alluded to this in some of my previous articles, but when I saw Beverly Hills Cop on my 15th birthday as a rental from the local video store, I thought that Eddie Murphy's Axel Foley was the definition of coolness. Unfortunately, when I was on the WBC, I came up with the idea for a story called Warner Academy, about the Warner Brothers and their sister Dot becoming police officers, and when I integrated Axel Foley into the mixture, I didn't write him as the screenwriters of the Beverly Hills Cop trilogy did.

I loved Animaniacs growing up, and the original series remains a favorite to this day. I didn't bother with the reboot since none of the original writers were involved with the show, apart from brief voice cameos by Sherri Stoner and Paul Rugg in the series finale, but even though, in my opinion, the writers of the reboot misunderstand the characters, they didn't misunderstand them as badly as I did. I thought I was writing funny material, but it was about as funny as a hospital fire.

The way me and other writers portrayed Axel Foley was a sterling example of misunderstanding and mistreating a character. Axel was portrayed as prone to heelish behavior, using words that he wouldn't normally use, words like "dude" and "capice", and very prone to anger. The Axel Foley of the Beverly Hills Cop movies was kind to his friends, cool under pressure, and a person who may have behaved badly at times, but in service of good causes.

This wasn't the only way in the late 90s and early 00s that I expressed my love for the 1980s in Animaniacs fanfiction. In 2000, the fanfic writers on Toonzone, myself included, wrote a story about an awards ceremony for our fan-fiction. We all loaded up our sections with celebrity cameos, and many of the celebrity cameos I wrote were 80s performers. I lampshaded that many of the other writers didn't get my references by having Stacey Q introduced with Yakko Warner asking the audience to say, "Who?". I would develop a friendship with Stacey Q many years later, but I figured that since most of the other writers didn't understand my 80s references, they may not have heard of her.

I would eventually find that my fellow writers, all of whom were adults to my teenager, did have a familiarity with the pop culture of the 1980s, but they didn't look fondly upon the decade. When other writers would make 80s references, they would mention that the references, unlike mine, weren't too obscure. After a meltdown on the Toonzone forums in 2001 over my autism spectrum disorder making it difficult for me to understand how the openly gay Elton John could be friends with Eminem, whose Slim Shady character is notorious for homophobic and misogynistic lyrics, I gradually stopped writing fan-fiction over the next few years.

I would reestablish ties with some of my fellow Toonzone posters about a decade later, and in a far better frame of mind than where I once was thanks to therapy and medication, and I was now able to explain my 80s fandom in a calmer and more rational way, leading me to get the understanding I had sought for so long. One of those friends, Eileen, is the woman behind Pop Geeks, my primary writing base, and a place where I've been able to express that love for the 1980s in a clearer-headed manner.

Along the way, I joined the old 80sxchange in 2001. I chose the name outofplacechild because that was a description of how I felt as a teenage fan of the pop culture of the 1980s. I was an angry young man, and my love for the 1980s showed in ways that weren't really loving in and of themselves. This was also the first 80s website I was a part of where I saw users expressing a love for the pop culture of the 1990s, a love that didn't make sense to me because of how the 90s had a great disdain for the 80s. The idea that one could love both the 80s and the 90s is an idea that will always be puzzling to me.

When it came to how I behaved on the old 80sxchange, I was very prone to outbursts and irrational anger. For example, I was stunned by the number of men on the 80sxchange who were more likely to be turned on by 90s icon Britney Spears than 80s singers like The Go-Go's. I had no idea of how Britney was being exploited even as a teenager, so I engaged in slut-shaming words about her on the 80sxchange, even going so far as to call her a whore, wording I'm now deeply ashamed of. One older user said his wife dressed like Britney Spears, following up by saying, "If I were in the same room as you right now, I'd punch you". He would've been justified in doing so.

This was an early example of me not being able to properly explain my puzzlement at how people could enjoy pop culture from both the 80s and 90s. Another example is my perpetual disdain for 90s grunge music. In the late 2010s and early 2020s, I have come to admire grunge singers for fighting for noble causes offstage, but I will never be able to get into grunge music itself because of how depressing and bleak grunge lyrics are, a depression and bleakness reflected by the large body count the genre has.

In the 2001-2002 time period, though, I was 18 going on 19, and my brain was at least a decade away from fully developing, so i had no hesitance about saying I was glad that Kurt Cobain, the artist I most associate with the 90s, had killed himself. I thought that my fellow 80sxchangers had the same disdain for grunge that I did, but I was wrong. All of them were correct on how it was rude and tasteless to say what I did, but I wasn't thinking straight at the time. Shortly after I posted those words, one member of the 80sxchange killed themselves, making my words even nastier.

I had several 10-minute-retirements on the 80sxchange, but I always kept coming back because I didn't know of many other websites that discussed the 80s. Many years later, when I had matured thanks to therapy and medication, I would post for a few weeks to the old 80sxchange's successor site, The Big 80s, but I would eventually stop posting there. This time, though, it wasn't out of anger or spite, but simply because my writing was keeping me too busy to be a message board poster.

A year or so into my time on the 80sxchange, In the 2002-2004 time period, I was writing for a website called Saturday Night You. This was a website where fans of Saturday Night Live would write alternate sketches for a week's show. I was an SNL fan at the time, although I don't know why, considering that 9/11 had turned me into an ardent and furious Bush supporter, a turn I deeply regret as I've matured and my politics have become more liberal.

My first exposure to SNL was 90s reruns of seasons 6 through 10. I loved those seasons, but I had no idea at the time that many people, including SNL cast members and producer Lorne Michaels himself, who didn't produce the show from Season 6 through 10, looked down lowly upon them. They've been willing to give credit to Eddie Murphy and a decent amount of sketches from Season 10, but otherwise, SNL gives Seasons 6 through 10 the Animal Farm treatment: All seasons of SNL are equal, but some are more equal than others.

My own writings for Saturday Night You made the worst of Seasons 6 and 11 look like the best of Seasons 13 and 14, and my 80s fandom was part of that. Whether it was writing a piece where LGBTQ icon Kylie Minogue and a pre-anti-PC John Cleese sang Lee Greenwood's God Bless The USA to honor a post-9/11 America or writing multiple pieces where people were calling for Anna Nicole Smith's death, it was clear from my writing for Saturday Night You that my medication wasn't working and I desperately needed psychological help.

To detour for a moment, my disdain for Anna Nicole Smith was SEVERELY misguided and SEVERELY worrisome. I wasn't able to explain my disdain for reality television in a calm and rational manner, and I took screen-filling advertisements for Anna Nicole Smith's reality show on E! Entertainment Television as offenses that called for her head. I even wrote a sketch called "Let's Torture Anna Nicole Smith" that had various fictional 80s characters thinking up ways for her to be brutalized.

That writing I did was very much victim-blaming and hateful. I had no idea of what Anna was up against that would eventually claim her life, and I deeply regret that misguided disdain I had for her. My understanding of marketing and programming decisions was very limited at the time, which was strange because of how much of a show business buff I already was at that age. I was still more than a decade away from being able to properly explain my autism spectrum disorder, and if I had the understanding of it at 20 going on 21 that I had at 30 going on 31, perhaps my "comedy" writing could've actually been funny.

Also in 2002, I got involved with an 80s movie review website called The 80s Movies Rewind. I've mentioned this site a few times before, mainly in regards to my misunderstanding of movies I reviewed for the site and how my disdain for the idea of the words "cheesy" and "corny" as compliments led me to leave the site for good after several 10-minute-retirements that reflected the phrase "This isn't an airline terminal. You don't need to announce your departure".

I've never really discussed my behavior on the Rewind's forums on here, before, though. Although I was seeing a psychiatrist, I wasn't taking my medicine when I should have, and as for a psychologist in this time period, I wasn't seeing one because I was working a full 40 hours a week. Because I wasn't following my psychiatrist's rules, I was very unhinged, and because I wasn't seeing a psychologist, I wasn't able to explain my trauma from the 90s in a rational way.

To backtrack for a bit, the 90s were a very dark time for me. There was extensive school bullying, and times of being a bully myself because I thought that was the law of the jungle in school. I lost my dad to a heart attack in 1995 when I was 12 years old, and the combination of that loss and the hurt of being bullied led me to getting detentions and in-school suspensions all throughout my 7th grade year, culminating in an empty threat of school violence in October of 8th grade that landed me in the mental hospital where I was diagnosed with my autism spectrum disorder.

From there, I went to four schools (one middle school to complete 8th grade and three different high schools for grades 9, 10 and 11) in three years, and my relationship with my mom decayed to the point in the 00s where she loved me as a son, but didn't like me as a person. I also had a girlfriend in this time period, but I entered into the relationship for what, in hindsight, was a selfish reason. The relationship lasted from 1997 to 2000, and although I loved her, it was a child's concept of love, not a mature person's, and the selfish reason for the relationship is that I wanted, in spite of being diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, to be seen as "normal". I know now that there's no such thing as "normal", but because of all the trauma I went through in the 90s, I wasn't thinking straight.

I developed my focus on the 1980s as a way to cope with how the 90s and 00s were painful times for me. I saw happiness and maturity in the pop culture of the 1980s, and those were things I sought in my own life. On the Rewind, though, I posted a lot of hurtful and unintelligent things. Whether it was invoking Godwin's Law as a metaphor for my feelings on 90s grunge rock versus 80s pop-rock, or misinterpreting a female user's friendliness to me as something more, and then making the arguments public without considering her feelings, I wasn't expressing the happiness and maturity the 80s represented to me.

The thing that really irritated this board's members about me, though, was my insistence that discussion of the 1990s shouldn't be happening on a forum about the 1980s. I would say things like, "This is a 90s movie. You shouldn't be discussing it here", things I didn't have any right to say as I wasn't a moderator. I even chose the nickname The 80s Avenger as a term for my mini-modding. Seeing people on an 80s forum celebrating Nirvana and Pulp Fiction and Seinfeld was unnerving to me because I still hadn't processed the trauma the 90s had inflicted on me...That, and because I take language literally as a result of ASD.

When I see 8 in the year, I associate it with the 80s. When I see 9 in the year, I associate it with the 90s. Many users felt that work from 1990 and 1991 had an 80s spirit, or as some less charitably called it, an 80s hangover. I honestly didn't see it, and still don't. On top of that, the concept of "an 80s spirit" comes across as an arbitrary one. The people who feel that the early 90s were still the 80s will say that movies like The Adventures Of Ford Fairlane and Career Opportunities are 80s movies in spirit, but they won't say that about movies like Goodfellas and The Silence Of The Lambs. Similarly, they'll say that Wilson Phillips is an 80s group in spirit, but they won't say the same about Mariah Carey. The random nature of what they considered 80s and what they didn't confused me even more.

I was so gung-ho about 80s forums being exclusively for the discussion of the 1980s that some people on the Rewind even started referring to me as an "80s Nazi", and that's in addition to the one user who implied that I was a Nazi for supporting George W. Bush, support that, again, I deeply regret.

As I mentioned in my article about being on the autism spectrum and its' connection to my 80s focus, my not being able to see how "cheesy" and "corny" can be compliments was what really ended things for me on the Rewind. Seeing people say they loved 80s movies, but then using words to describe them that mean things like "shabby and cheap" or "simplistic and sentimental", didn't make sense to me. Although I had used the word "cheesy" a few times myself in the reviews I wrote for the site, I meant it in a negative way. I wasn't able to explain this in a calm and rational manner because I wasn't on the right mix of medication at the time, and I was still several years away from seeing the right psychologist.

I look back on the posts I made on the Rewind, and I feel a deep sense of shame. Some have said I take my love of the 80s too seriously, but that's because the decade's pop culture had things I aspired to. Unfortunately, the happiness and maturity I found in the pop culture of the 1980s was still a long way off for me in my personal life. I acted in an immature and egotistical manner on the Rewind. I thought everybody on that site should love the 80s as I did. It never once occurred to me that people on an 80s forum might not like everything about the decade.

As so much of 90s pop culture was based on making fun of the 1980s, the idea that one could love both the 80s and 90s, could love both Poison and Nirvana, could love both The Facts Of Life and Seinfeld, could love both John Hughes and Quentin Tarantino, is an idea that will always puzzle me. I couldn't see at the time how the neurotypical could hold multiple likes at once. The concept still puzzles me to some extent, but I've come to learn empathy, and I've come to understand that people can find happiness in many forms of pop culture, and in many decades as well. I wish I could tell my younger self that everybody has difficulty in their lives, and that no one decade has a lock on making a person happy.

Around the time I left the Rewind for good, I joined up with the website RetroJunk, which is how many of you on this site first became familiar with my work. I was getting better at integrating my love of the 1980s into my writing, but it still took several years to get there. For example, I wrote an article about topics they didn't cover in the 1985 installment of VH1's I Love The 80s 3-D, and one of the topics I mentioned Richard Ramirez, The Night Stalker, whom I dubbed as "a psycho, but a cool (bleep)ing psycho". I had no idea of the depths and depravity of his crimes. I just thought that, with his love for 80s hard rock, he would've made for an interesting topic of discussion. If I could rewrite that article, there's plenty of stuff I could think of to put in the place I discussed The Night Stalker.

Another example of my bad writing about the 80s came on the RetroJunk forums. In 2006, VH1 Classic, now MTV Classic, was adding more 90s music videos to their lineup, and I wrote a post about how I wasn't ready for that. Another user wrote that it made sense, considering that 80s music videos were featured in programming on 90s VH1. What I wasn't able to explain at the time was that I saw those 90s programs with 80s music videos, and the snark about the decade was non-stop. Unless we're talking about the early 90s, the 1990s never really got the turn in the barrel that the 1980s did. I would eventually be able to explain the difference once I started seeing the right mental health professionals, but I still had a long way to go before that could happen.

Returning to my RetroJunk articles, i wrote many articles about my love of the 1980s, but I came to regret two of them so much that I would eventually ask for them to be removed from the site. The first was a piece called Don't Call Me A Poser. I've mentioned this before, but that was a piece I wrote when I was 23 about my love for the 1980s, and how it impacted my life from childhood to young adulthood. I looked at the article years later, and I came to look poorly upon it.

I wrote negatively about a lot of people without using their names, and I regret that. For example, I wrote about finding out that my girlfriend had designs on my best friend, leading me to break up with her in 2000. When I wrote about my reaction to that, I mentioned listening to Sam Kinison's Love Song bit from his album Louder Than Hell, and how lyrics from that piece reflected how I felt for years afterwards about finding out what my girlfriend thought about my best friend.

It was real incel crap. I thought I was a nice guy, but in that time period, I was actually a "nice guy". I thought other guys were jerks, but they weren't. I was the real jerk, and as I've mentioned before, it wasn't until I saw The Last American Virgin that I realized that I had to change a lot of things about myself if I wanted to have any chance of getting people to like me in any way. I would eventually come to identify as aromantic after years of therapy and medication, and identifying as aromantic has made my life a whole lot easier. I still love lots of people, but the love isn't romantic. It's familial love. It's platonic love. It's the love that good friends have for each other. I'm not in a relationship, and I don't care if I ever will be. I am enough.

That previous paragraph plays into another piece I had deleted from RetroJunk. In 2008, I published a piece called Some Of My Fave 80s Women. I thought I wrote this piece with the big head, but looking back in hindsight, I was writing with the little head. I wrote about the beauty and the works of a variety of 80s actress, models and musicians, but although I didn't view it as one at the time, the piece was an extension of my sexual frustrations in that time period, as were various lines in other articles I wrote at the time. I wrote about the sexual feelings that stirred up in me when watching these women, and again, it was a lot of incel crap.

Some Of My Fave 80s Women achieved enough notice that it was featured in article round-ups on various websites, but some of them were justifiably snarky about it. One article round-up had commentators noting things like a lengthy plot summary for Trading Places when discussing that movie's co-stars Jamie Lee Curtis and Kristin Holby, another saying that, in their opinion, all the women in the article would look better without the makeup and big hair, and a third saying that, when I mentioned collecting 80s beauty videos, their "gaydar went off". Considering that I have enjoyed adult entertainment with trans performers and would eventually identify as aromantic, that last user was right to some extent. All in all, I would eventually ask for both of these piece to be removed from RetroJunk, and now they only live on when visiting RetroJunk on the Internet Archive.

I had a lot of issues with the 90s, and those issues extended to the pop culture of the decade, but I came to love the pop culture of the 00s better, and that led me to write two pieces in the late 2008/early 2009 time period that favorably compared 00s music to 80s music. These pieces, Synthesis: The 80s And The 00s and I Love The Music Of The 00s, easily got the worst receptions of any piece I wrote for RetroJunk. In both form and content, they were trashed by not only users who didn't like my writing, but users who were fans of mine.

I thought that I could find some links between 80s and 00s music to convince readers that there were good things to be found in that then-current time period, but I wasn't able to stick the landing. One user said that they didn't see complaints about all the Batman articles posted in 2008 because of The Dark Knight's release, but the reason those articles got great receptions and my two 00s pieces didn't was because not only were they better-written, but the Batman characters are timeless icons of retro pop culture, whereas a lot of what I wrote about in terms of 00s entertainment didn't age well.

One thing I did do that almost always got a good reception was interviews with performers, primarily known for their 80s work, but occasionally for their work in other decades as well. Even here, though, it took a while to get the bad writing out for my system. For example, many of my e-mail interviews started out by asking when the interview subjects were born. It never occurred to me that many talents might not want those details to be made explicit for fear of losing work. I would eventually stop asking that question, and start tailoring the questions more to the talents directly.

Another lesson I learned was that if a talent has written a book, then you should read it before putting together an interview request. In 2012, I did an e-mail interview with actress Diane Franklin, and most of her answers were variations on the phrase "It's in my book". I didn't know much about her book at the time, but I published the interview anyway, and users who read the piece wondered why I published it. In hindsight, I do, too, and ever since then, if a talent has written an autobiography, or a collection of personal essays, I now read those books and formulate questions from there.

In the late-2012 to mid-2013 time period, I did my first three successful phone interviews for RetroJunk, conversations with singer Samantha Fox, actress/stuntwoman Julie Michaels, and actress/writer Jewel Shepard, and these were all pieces I was very proud of. Samantha, Julie and Jewel all complimented me on my research and my questions, so the problem wasn't with any of them. The problem is that these pieces were all published after an overhaul of RetroJunk in mid-2012 that led to an exodus of users from the site, including pretty much all the users who liked my writing. The few users who were still commenting didn't really have an opinion one way or the other about what I was laying down, so in 2013, I knew it was time to start looking for a new home for my writing.

As mentioned earlier, I had reestablished a connection with my old Warner Brothers Club friend Eileen in the early New 10s, and she invited me to check out the forums of her website Bilateral Warp. I told her I was looking to do more than visit the forums. I was looking for a new home for my writing. I wrote up an audition piece called 10 Comedy Albums To Fall Asleep To, a piece inspired by what I need to help me get to sleep, and she accepted it. I published the piece on Bilateral Warp in January of 2014, and I knew I'd found a new home for my writing. A few months into 2014, Bilateral Warp would be renamed Pop Geeks, and almost a decade later, it's still my primary writing base.

By the time I left RetroJunk in 2013, I'd gotten all the bad writing and bad feelings out of my system. The writing I do for Pop Geeks reflects the changes I've made in my personal life in the past decade or so, as well as a now-healthy expression of my fascination with the 1980s. Many of the active-in-the-80s talents I've interviewed for Pop Geeks have become dear friends of mine, friends who love my writing and share that love with their friends. January of 2024 will mark my 10th year of writing for Pop Geeks, and I'll continue writing for it until I drop.

Finally, we come to the writing about the 80s that I've done for this incarnation of the 80sxchange. In the years since I first developed my fascination with the 1980s, I've since come to know about the downsides of the decade, and how not everything about 80s pop culture was happy and carefree. My very first piece for this incarnation of the 80sxchange was about how I misinterpreted some 80s entertainment in my younger years, and subsequent pieces have chronicled things like the personal impact of the Peter Gabriel/Kate Bush duet Don't Give Up, how my ASD and my 80s fandom inform each other, and meeting 80s stars at the Chiller Theatre convention. I've also written several articles in alphabetical order about 80s movies I love, and I will resume those someday, but I have a lot on my plate writing-wise at the moment.

I thank Tony, also known as Photog Smurf, for allowing me the chance to write about my love of the 1980s on this site. I'm not as active or prolific on here as my fellow writers, but I'm glad that both this website and Pop Geeks allow me the chance to express my love of the 1980s in different ways. My love of the 1980s hindered me in many ways in the short run, but in the long run, it has benefited me greatly. I know now that not everybody loves the 1980s, or at least not in the same way that I do, and I no longer get upset by that. I know now that there was a lot of darkness in the 1980s, but I'll always continue to bring up the positive things of the decade.

As I always say to my fellow 80s fans, and to the talents who made the decade's pop culture so memorable, the pop culture of the 1980s got me through the dark of the 90s and 00s, and led me to the light of a better and more hopeful day. I thank you all for letting me share that light with you.

Keep the spirit of the 1980s alive.


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