Which Era Are We?
by Alexandra Molotkow
The Wedding Singer takes place 30 years ago, in 1985. It was released in 1998, which means we are farther away from The Wedding Singer than it was from the time in which it’s set.
The Wedding Singer is one of those period movies set in the very recent past, where the ongoing gag is how silly we were not so long ago. (“Jules, it doesn’t play records. It plays CDs. It’s a CD player.”) It worked, because the mid ’80s felt distinct from the late ’90s. I was three when the ’80s ended, but by 12 years old I knew well what was ’80s and what was not.
I have a general idea of what the ’90s were, but that sense of era disintegrates around 1998. I used to think the aughts were just too recent to pin down, but 13 years was long enough to wax nostalgic for the Moonwalk.
There are certain subtle, but unignorable signs that now is not then: movies are less homophobic and overtly sexist, and the “Boy George” gag in The Wedding Singer, thankfully, would no longer fly. People wear things in 2015 that they wouldn’t have worn in 2009, but they might have worn ’em in 1998.
The difference, really, is that in 2009 it would have been hard to imagine cybergoth making a comeback, while in 2015, you can really wear anything.
It’s not that nothing new exists; it’s that everything accumulates. Someone in jean overalls, Fimo beads and a Blossom hat at the bar would not be a Disco Stu. They would be a stylish person making a reference.
But still: which era is this?!?! The urge to define our current aesthetic is both frivolous and pressing, like finding out what our Email Signoff Says About Us. But it’s hard to identify the past three decades by overarching aesthetics. You have to fall back on details, things particular to each time period but not unique to it.
So we humbly present the Past Three Decades: A Work In Progress.
Big Willie Style
Giant walls of speakers
Classic literature adapted for teens
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
“House of Jealous Lovers”
Willow and Jaden Smith