The inventors of television probably thought they were pioneering a revolutionary new communications medium. What they couldn’t have suspected was that they were creating the next best thing to a time machine.
Yesterday I stumbled across this compilation of TV commercials someone had taped on a Saturday morning that time forgot. But the internet never forgets. Thanks to television and its digital incarnation YouTube, we have this living snapshot of what life was like for younger Gen Xers and older Ys ca. 1984.
Drink in the nostalgia, but not too deeply …
What’s most striking after the initial wave of nostalgia subsides is how different--i.e. degraded--Current Year TV programming is compared to 30 odd years ago.
Yes, your dad could say the same about TV 60 years ago. That should be a wake-up call.
Here’s what stood out to me:
- No cuck-mercials. The trope of the befuddled manlet husband standing knee-deep in water while the kitchen sink geysers behind him and his omni-capable wife rolls her eyes had not yet darkened our screens.
- Looks like America: The US was 70% white in 1984. That was the year Reagan won the kind of landslide the GOP will never see again. The commercials reflect those demographics. Most of the actors in them are white, with a black or Asian kid thrown in the mix. Absent are families composed of Anglo trans lesbian dad, disabled Maori mom with Indian kid and Laotian kid living in Wisconsin. The ads come off as mainly trying to sell products to their audience, not demoralize them.
- Commercials aimed at boys depict action, conflict, and camaraderie. Commercials aimed at girls portray nurturing, consensus-building, and emotion-primary communication.
- The seeds of destruction had already been planted, though. True to the 80s stereotype, these ads push unmoderated consumption and materialism. One Barbie commercial sells girls the lie that they can “have it all” with hassle-free corporate success, romance, and a family.
Originally published here.