How ‘Stranger Things’ is fueling an obsession with the 1980s and why

The 1980s are back, and nowhere more so than in the nostalgia-filled Season 4 of stranger things.

Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” is currently the number one hit on Spotify. Since the season finale of stranger thingsMetallica’s “Master of Puppets” joined Bush at the top of the charts.

[Photo: Netflix]

The mules are making a comeback. Billy Hargrove (played by Dacre Montgomery from Perth) rocked the hairstyle, as did Miley Cyrus and Leigh-Anne Pinnock from Little Mix. The famous 1980s banana hair clip is back, along with the perm, which Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Karen Wheeler (Cara Buono) are sporting this season.

A key feature of contemporary marketing is the development of products and services that present a new theme on an old idea. Called “retromarketing”, it is the relaunch or rebirth of a product or service from a historical period, which marketers typically update to state-of-the-art standards of operation, performance or disgust.

Sure, nostalgia sells, but what retromarketers are really trying to induce are feelings of “pseudo-nostalgia.”

We call it pseudo-nostalgia because young consumers of these relaunched products and services have never experienced the original. Gen Z (people born between the late 1990s and early 2010s) won’t have been there, that’s it.

In fact, they buy retrotastic products and services that sometimes bear little relation to the reality of the 1980s.

[Photo: Netflix]

More from the 1980s

stranger things Costume designer Amy Parris and her team collaborated with Quiksilver on five clothing collections based on 1980s fashion. Founded in Torquay, Australia, the surf-inspired clothing label was an integral part of the 80s look.

It’s not only stranger things reminiscent of the 1980s. Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021) not only brought back the much-loved movies, but also recreated the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man as “Mini-Pufts” for a new set of consumers.

Thor: Love and Thunder also has a distinct 80s adventure vibe, taking the master of beasts (1982), Conan the Barbarian (1982) and Californian graffiti from the 80s as visual inspiration with great effect and fun.

[Photo: Netflix]

Act as

Of course, Generation Z, born after 1996, cannot be nostalgic for the 1980s.

As young consumers grow pseudo-nostalgic for the 1980s, they seek to evoke that decade through “compensatory re-consumption”: they immerse themselves in 1980s pop culture to cope with their melancholic affection and sentimental longing for that decade. period of the past. Consuming products and services from the 1980s allows them to pretend they were truly part of that historical period.

For fans of stranger thingsbuying retrotastic products and services helps them reminisce about the 1980s and empathize with their beloved characters.

This recreation of the 80s leads to a transformation of the decade itself. TV series and movies like Stranger Things, Ghostbustersand Thor transform the relationship of consumers to historical time. As one person we interviewed said:

The original canon is not immune to what I experienced. It is no longer possible to distinguish between what you are going through. . . of what you [see] in the original version.

Simply put, when Zoomers feel nostalgic for the 1980s, they play at being part of that decade. They see themselves as experts with a genuine understanding of the historical period and its associations.

[Photo: Netflix]

Painful memories or something new to love?

It’s not just mules and pop songs. The 1980s was also the heyday of the Trabant car, the national car of the German Democratic Republic in the era before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The laughing stock of Europe, the “Trabi” was a small but sturdy car that could barely go 100 kilometers per hour. Due to the communist planned economy, it could take more than 10 years after ordering to finally take delivery of the car.

So it might come as a bit of a surprise that an electric Trabant nT or “newTrabi” was unveiled as a concept car. Better equipped than the old Trabi, in the purest capitalist style, it would come with all modern comforts.

Is the association with the old Trabi too comical or painful? Or will drivers love the new Trabi as a symbol of where East Germany started and how far it has come?

[Photo: Netflix]

If Quiksilver’s collections are any sign, drivers will love the new Trabi. Just a year ago, it was hard to imagine that neon or oversized clothing would come back into fashion, but today the Quiksilver/stranger things collaboration saw a neon purple hat and this pastel mishmash of an oversized nylon windbreaker sell worldwide.

The 1980s are back, but it’s worth remembering that these aren’t the real 1980s. No matter how big the fashion faux pas, consumers who embrace the current 1980s revival will go to this era by pseudo- nostalgia and compensatory re-consumption.


Tom van Laer is Associate Professor of Narratology at the University of Sydney. Davide Christian Orazi is a senior lecturer at Monash University.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

%d bloggers like this: