I was born in 1975.
That means that everything that everyone loves from the eighties was hitting right about the time I became a sentient human.
And the 80’s was the best time to be a kid:
We had two of the three original Star Wars movies. We had Masters of the Universe, Gi Joe, Transformers, Chuck Norris, Rambo, Terminator, Predator, and Robocop. Don’t get me started on Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street. We had Ghostbusters and Karate Kid, for Christ’s sake. We played Atari and the NES. And, to top it all off, we had Guns and Fuckin’ Roses.
I was a little kid with a big imagination and generous grandparents. It was the perfect time to be alive. Everything was awesome. The world was a bright and lovely place where, solely for the entertainment of kids ages 4 and up, heavily muscled men fought large-breasted women atop green and orange panthers. My nostalgia bone gets smurfy just writing that sentence. The 80’s ruled.
Then came the 90’s.
In the nineties, it wasn’t cool to like stuff.
First, we had the tortured soul Kurt Cobain screaming a lot and wearing angry homemade shirts on the covers of popular magazines. Then we had everybody else who had ever been in a room with a guitar saying that everything that has ever been recorded, except for those few bands nobody had ever heard of, sucked. Then came Beavis and Butthead.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I loved Beavis and Butthead. But looking back, I can’t help but wonder if their critical views weren’t given a bit too much gravitas. In the 90’s it seemed like it was a contest to see who could dislike more stuff than everyone else. Movies sucked. Books sucked. Albums, songs, and bands sucked. Fuck it, EVERYTHING sucked. And it was a clever trap, too. If it was on MTV, it was corporate crap rock, and they should pay attention to indie and alternative bands. But when they did, the bands that ended up there became sellout corporate crap rock. Now that I think about it, no wonder MTV no longer plays videos; they had an entire generation of kids loudly disliking everything they played.
To be fair, there was a lot of legitimate suck out there. In the 90’s we had the Macarena, Michael Bolton, and the rise of reality television. We also had the first of three oh so horrible Star Wars movies. Creed came out in the 90’s. So did Nickelback. I could keep going but I don’t want to. Let’s just say that a lot of mid-to-late 90’s pop culture made it really easy to be a cynical elitist when it came to critical review. There was a lot of good, but man if it wasn’t greatly overshadowed by mountains and mountains of godawful.
The aughts saw the true rise of the internet and everyone began telling everyone else on the planet all the reasons things sucked, and I was right there with them. Although I wrote more stuff than I read on the internet back then, from what I can tell, most things from 2000-2009 sucked because of Hitler and/or George Bush. Don’t we just love comment sections? (Yes, yes we do. Leave a comment. I will respond with something poignant and witty.)
But then something happened.
About four years ago, my then 18-month-old daughter found an old Spiderman doll I’d had as a kid. She was immediately smitten and carried this big plastic action figure with her everywhere she went. If we saw Spidey anywhere, she was completely overjoyed. I happened to have an old t shirt with Spiderman, The Hulk, Captain America, Wolverine, and Silver Surfer on it. She used to quiz me constantly.
“That’s the Hulk.”
“Hulk say rawrr?”
And on and on like that. It was precious.
As she’s gotten older, her love for superheroes has only grown. And then, about a year ago, she came home from a weekend at her grandparents’ house. She stepped through the door and walked over to me looking very serious indeed. “Daddy,” she said, then leaned in close, wide-eyed, “Do you know about Darth Vader?”
We watched The Force Awakens in the theater twice. At times I was tempted to see it through the lens of my cynical, child of the 90’s self. There are plot holes and too many unlikely coincidences and… Then I looked at my little girl sitting in the seat next to me. She was sick that day but begged me to take her anyway. She stared at the screen from beginning to end, the look on her face one of pure bliss. I looked back at the screen and any real criticism I might have had melted away. These characters, this storyline are going to redeem the series. When I was a kid I used to pretend to be a Stormtrooper that went rogue and became a bounty hunter. This movie has a Stormtrooper gone rogue. This movie may not be perfect, but it is truly awesome.
Ever since that day, so many things that I would have normally been either overly critical or downright dismissive of, I am now seeing through the eyes of a five and a two-year-old. It really changes your perspective on things. It makes me remember how things used to be before I forgot how to fly. I find myself sitting on the couch on a Saturday morning, coffee and sleepy-eyes firmly in place, watching cartoons with my kids, and loving every minute of it. It was just a flash of realization as I read through all the upcoming movies and shows that good or bad, my kids will enjoy a lot of things, and I plan to be right there with them.
Besides, when was the last time you watched an old episode of Knight Rider or Thundercats with a critical eye? It certainly wasn’t high art, but it was fun. And now, my kid is standing behind me. I’ve been challenged to a lightsaber duel. It’s time to have fun again.