It’s been refreshing to see the rise of a more futuristic aesthetic and mentality over the last three years. Despite the best (or worst?) attempts of grumpy white folk to go back in time, things that should have been changing a long time ago finally are.
Retro has mostly run it’s course, at least as far as 60’s, 70’s and 90’s stylistic influences go. The obsession from the early 2000’s to the mid 2010’s with all that was vintage really stifled the growth of genuinely new concepts, with a flippant lack of imagination reflexively dismissing the possibility of bolder, more original futures. Bands simply aped older ones to the point of musical graverobbing and blatant plagiarism. Not one of those shitty retro rock groups still matters today – most of them quit when music stopped being such a lucrative pursuit.
In terms of fashion, we’re back to focusing on flow and form. Forget dressing like you raided your grandparents’ closet for clothes that fit absolutely nobody. To hell with oversized glasses and waistlines up to your ribcage, let alone scarves in summer. The hipster style pushed so aggressively against any notion of logic, sexuality and bodily flow in design that it almost became a sex negative approach.
Sure, it was refreshing to finally see people less frequently objectified, but it went too far – people started shaming over levels of bodily exposure that had been normalized years prior, and an almost prudish hatred of the more body confident types reared it’s ugly head. The scariest part was most of these judgemental pricks considered themselves liberal. Good riddance to bad culture.
Retrofuturism is alive and kicking, but that at least provides possibilities of ingenuity. If you love the past so much, the best thing to do is make new ideas from the influence old ones, and not just recycle past concepts to the point of diluting the original point. People use phrases like “It’s all deen done before”, but that’s a copout, and in many cases, a cash in for the less imaginative.
Indeed, if one era of retro seems to be doing well now, it’s the 80’s. Whereas the 60’s were mostly pop culture/pop art fluff until the arrival of psychedelia, and the 70’s and 90’s embraced a more jaded and nihilistic mode in terms of the counterculture, the heart on sleeve, balls to the wall attitude of the 80’s seems to resonate, even with people born into a different century. The intensity and sincerity of the times still permeates now – it was arguably the best era for youth culture at all levels, and the paranoia of the Cold War and the economic extremes of that time are somewhat reflected in current events.
Those 80’s styles and motifs still hold strong largely because of the futuristic thinking that dominated that era. The rise of the computer in mainstream culture, the emergence machine based music in the underground, and the sleek neon dreams of an era that really lived in the moment, but kept an eye on the future – these aspects helped that era more than any, until perhaps this one, to shape the culture. On a personal note, it’s been great to see people embrace the synthesizer again, and tap into that unfulfilled potential. Such a versatile instrument is especially critical in an era of solo artists dominating the landscape, with so many making their music at home.
The cyberpunk genre is back in full swing, and finally getting the credit it deserves. It gets far too much crticism for the tropes it uses while other genres (fantasy especially) get a free pass for the same dead cliches for decades. The truth is there is more artistic scope for imagination, innovation and social commentary in looking to the future, even a dark one, than in medieval archetypes. No more rings, no more dragons, let’s move on.
Of course, when it comes to politics, the cons still continue to try and move the timeline backwards, but several Pandora’s Boxes have already been opened: The black/trans/gay/whatever people aren’t going away. Progress will not wait for the religious, superstitious or cowardly. Truth is, a lot of these right (and left) wing maniacs wouldn’t be able to hack life in a less digital age.
These basement dwellers have been enabled and emboldened by the internet, their whole identities tied up in lynch mob mentalities that simply didn’t exist to the same extent 20 years ago, at either political extreme. Without the bleating herd to reinforce them, they’d sound as absurd as a single person booing in an otherwise quiet room.
So many people long for the glory days of old, whatever they were, without factoring in the tradeoffs. You may long for simpler times, but after a month without Netflix, UberEats and legal weed delivered to your door, you might change your tune. Every era has it’s tradeoffs, culturally and otherwise, so the trick is to focus on the advantages, and press them. Don’t be the proverbial tourist that starts longing for Mom’s home cooking on the second night of a vacation, and let opportunities pass you by. If you waste the here and now pining for what was, you’ll miss out on what could be. And you deserve to – this is the age of fast adapters and adopters, where the meek and flat footed get eaten.
Time travel isn’t real, so perhaps we should stop attempting it other than in dedicated, controlled environments like a Stranger Things dance party, or a re-enactment meeting. I find history fascinating, but really it’s more of an example of what NOT to do, a process of learning through failure. Far too many of those who want to return to those histories would be the least likely to survive in those more Darwinian conditions. Count your blessings, and learn to embrace the current moment for what it is; Those complaining about a loss of freedom forget just how restricted we ALL used to be.
People also forget that running off at the mouth with bigotry may have been more socially acceptable in past decades, but so was breaking someone’s jaw for such offensive bebaviour. Bullies didn’t get to play the victim card simultaneously, so you were one or the other, and there was no sympathy for picking the wrong fight. Which is usually how bullies learn to stop being bullies. Of course now, anyone can be a bully whenever they want to total strangers. If there’s one thing from the present we could do without…