Back to the Future: Why the 80s Are Having a Major Moment in Media Right Now

“Are we approaching 80s nostalgia fatigue?” asked a skeptical Aline Doline in March 2018. Well, one pandemic and a year later, at the start of 2023, the 80s vibes are still in the air tonight.

Right now, no one can put the 80s baby in the corner because they are making executive decisions in film studios and spending wads of cash in theatres. It is why Top Gun Maverick came into fruition — some 36 years after the original debuted. It is also why it worked.

Similarly, classic creations like Bill & Ted, Beverly Hills Cop, Ghostbusters (Afterlife), Dirty Dancing, Halloween, Indiana Jones, Last Starfighter, and RoboCop are all having a revival moment. Cobra Kai even uses as many of the original film actors as they could find, including the 5-year-old kid Daniel saved in Karate Kid 2). And it's chock full of multiple 80s movie references.

For older millennials, this is the moment to have a throwback. There is pseudo-nostalgia for younger kids who were never part of the neon-scented glory of the 80s—the call of an innocent time that had not yet met technological advancement head-on. 

But, honestly, it's not just about reviving glorious old shows and beloved movie franchises. Almost everything is drawing from or tipping its hat to the unique 80s aesthetic, from music videos to movies and children's tv shows. 

Artists like Bruno Mars and BTS have been in on the secret for a while now, with their music videos playing freely with the 80s vibe more than ever. And what is Harry Styles' Harry's House if not a glorious tribute to the 80s sound? The best songs from the album are starkly reminiscent of the 70s and 80s rock band Chicago. 

The 80s wave isn't just sweeping over the music scene, though. Even a recent Doctor Who episode, i.e., “The Power of the Doctor,” aside from being an emotionally-charged regeneration tale, featured a nod to the 80s with the return of Ace and her classic punk-chic jacket. Then there's the case of Stranger Things  — a show entirely set in a small town in the 80s.

With every new season, the show seems to lean even more heavily on recreating the aesthetic, sound, and emotion of the time. And it did well enough to make Kate Bush's “Running Up That Hill” top the billboard charts 37 years after its original release.   

The 80s are the new 20s. It seemed untouched—an age of innocence and not just opulence. Climate change didn't loom large. The war on terror had yet to begin. And technology had yet to create virtual lightyears between people. What the pandemic did is drive this very knowledge home. That despite all the technological innovations, we still crave human company. 

It was as if a moment of rebellion. An urge to not silently into the night. It also reminded us of our individualities, the things that truly make us unique. It is a positive existential movement that reminds us of all that's important and all that makes us happy. Combine nostalgia, a need to go back to innocence, and the inner call to rage against the dying of the light — and it makes perfect sense why media right now is still riding the 80s wave with more enthusiasm than ever.

Seriously, though, what's not to love about the 80s? Poppy colors, peppy music, and quirky queerness were in. The arrival of MTV and Nightflight had shaken the music scene to its core. With walkmans and personal VCRs, pop icons — with Lady Gaga and Prince at their helm — walked into our living rooms.

It was a moment of access where individuality, in all its outlandishness, was celebrated and not derided. 

Sure, it was later exploited and characterized by consumerism, with the wall street slogan claiming that greed is good. Still, it was never just about decadence and excess. It's about expression — in all your loud oddness and eccentricities — and being celebrated for it. It's pure, untouched escapism.

It's rebellion and rejuvenation. In the post-pandemic era, with two years of repressing selves inside the walls of claustrophobia-inducing spaces, it's understandable why one would crave the breath of boozy, neon-tinted air of the 80s. People want a carnival. They want acceptance. To stand out and blend in. And the 80s have that to offer that in platterfuls.

This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Ananyaa Bhowmik is a neurodivergent and queer pop-culture journalist with the Wealth of Geeks. She has previously worked with brands like Sterling Holidays, Myntra, Bajaj, and the Loud Interactive. She is an independent scholar, cat parent, and performance poet. Her areas of research and interest focus on and around digital marketing, Canadian indigenous history, queerness in media, and pop-culture and fandom studies.