I’m a child of the eighties. That’s not to say I was born in the eighties. I wasn’t. What I mean is that my formative child rearing years stretched between 1980, when I was six and 1989, when I was (I hate math) fifteen.
My gaming habit was formed by Pong (for you youngens, Pong wasn’t just a game, but an entire game system that played ONE game), Atari, Colecovision, Commodore 64, Apple IIC, Nintendo and Sega. My love of sci-fi was fostered by Creature Double Feature (only here in New England–Godzilla, Gamera, monster movies), Battlestar Galactic (with a fuzzy robot bear!), Dr. Who, Greatest American Hero and Star Trek (Khaaaaaan!). I ate Cocoa Pebbles and lived in a cartoon bliss ruled by Space Ghost, The Herculoids, G.I. Joe, Robotech, Transformers, Go-bots, Force Five (Gai King, Starvengers, etc), M.A.S.K., Gummy Bears and that pink chick that was truly outrageous. *Yes, I know its Jem. Don’t doubt my mastery of the 80s!
You get the point. And I’m still a fan of many of these shows and games. I’m raising my kids on Pac-man and Thundercats. It’s what we children of the 80s do: we adore our childhood. Well, most of us. There was something about the time, I think, that made us hyper-fond of our youth culture. Maybe it was the beginning of the technological revolution. Or the emergence of cartoons that weren’t about giant purple apes (Grape Ape) and hairy kiwi with a club (Captain Caveman). I’m not sure, but that’s how we are. We can sit around and listen to 80s TV theme songs for hours and feel like a million bucks when we’re done.
BUT, Hollywood is spoiling some of that good fun by systematically raping the culture of my childhood. It’s one thing for Family Guy to have the Kool-Aid man jump out every now and again, or have Peter do an M.C. Hammer parody. They get it. Family Guy teases us with quick 1980s jokes that make us go buy T-shirts. But movies…movies are a different beast that makes me put away my T-shirts.
Since G.I. Joe came out I feel a smattering of shame when I don my Cobra logo T-shirt. It’s not that the movie was bad. It was fun. And had one of the lowest IQs ever (Ice FLOATS!!). But I enjoyed it. But at the same time, by being remade for a new generation, the 80s version has been made less-cool. The retro fun is gone. I don’t want people to see my Cobra shirt and think, “Wow, that guy must have really liked that G.I Joe movie.” I want most people to think, “What the hell is that on his shirt,” and other children of the 80s to point at me and say, “Yes! Awesome shirt!” which makes me think, “Hey we could be friends,” but then I respond with a quick, “Thanks,” before walking quickly away with my head down. But I feel good inside. But now? Hell! After Transformers 2 I started looking for a black hole for my Transformers T-shirt.
LAND OF THE LOST
And this is effecting more than my T-shirt collection. I’m an author. And as a lover of the 80s, I sneak in postmodern references whenever possible. I wrote my novel, INSTINCT, a few years ago (yes, it was just released this year—publishers are slow). The story involves a tribe of Neanderthals hidden in an extremely remote mountain range in Vietnam, that devolved into hairy, savage beasts. When the character, Rook, first come across one of them, he refers to it as Cha-Ka. He goes on to describe the show (Land of the Lost). Marshal, Will and Holly. Sid and Marty Croft. All good fun for us 80s kids. And then, when the book is being edited, I see a commercial for the Land of the Lost movie. I watch for thirty seconds, and then, “Sonofabitch.” Will Ferrell ate something sacred from my childhood, digested it, squatted over my postmodern scene and dropped a big, stinky, quasi-funny load. The scene is still in the book, but it’s not nearly as fun and I think I even edited it so no one would think I was referring to the movie.
The point is, with every 1980s franchise remade by Hollywood, I lose a piece of my childhood that I so adore.
So, who’s to blame? The children of the 80’s, that’s who. I’m currently trying to get the novelization gig for the impending Godzilla reboot. I’m guessing a lot of the directors and screenwriters of the rash of 1980s remakes are children of the 80s, too. But we’re not only pillaging our childhoods, we’re also paying to see our childhoods violated. It’s like we have a 1980s culture snuff-film fetish. I know the impending A-Team movie will make my retro A-Team T-shirt obsolete and uncool, but I’ll probably see it anyway. I saw Land of the Lost. I went to G.I. Joe, both Transformers. And if they make a Thundercats movies, I’ll wait in line with my son.
Is there hope? Maybe. Hollywood might eventually move on to the 90s (though the 90s weren’t nearly as fun). Or maybe we children of the 80s who are going to these movies and taking our kids to these movies will get tired of seeing remakes (I doubt it). Okay, so the only real hope is obscurity. My Oregon Trail shirt (You have died of dysentery) is probably safe. I think The Herculoids might make it through unscathed and certainly a lot of the admittedly dumb shows…like the formerly mentioned Jem. He-man’s probably safe too. Inhumanoids certainly are.
In closing, I have a message for Hollywood. Lean in close. Listen up. Don’t miss this, cause you’ll regret it. Thundarr the Barbarian is off limits! If you make a Thundarr movie I will hunt you down and shove the Sun Sword where the sun don’t shine. I will go Ookla on your ass and shout Demon Dogs! at you until you weep like so many evil wizards emasculated by Ariel’s sultry sorcery. Unless you want me to write it. Then, call me. Screw it, I’m going to write the script right now. I’ll have it on your desk next week.
So, reader, what do you think? What 80s franchises would you like to see remade? Which are off limits?
— Jeremy Robinson
Jeremy Robinson is the author of seven novels including PULSE and INSTINCT, the first two books in his Chess Team series published by Thomas Dunne Books, and imprint of St. Martin’s Press.