It’s so weird that we’ve seemingly decided that there’s a ton of nostalgia for not stories about the 1980s but for the actual look of 80s media. That’s not an aesthetic that has aged particularly well, with its heavy use of neon-tinged bubble-fonts or faux-electric looking graphics meant to convey cutting-edge technology in an age before everyone had a personal computer and still regularly used rotary phones.
We’ve also passed the usual 20-year window for cultural nostalgia. Wistful longing for the Reagan Era happened 10 years ago while now everyone is pining for affecting the same unshaven pseudo-hippie look sported in the 1990s.
Still, a number of recent campaigns have shown there’s enough nostalgia for the days of Nike high-tops and Betamax vs. VHS debates for it to be a viable marketing hook for a few recent movies.
The campaign for Summer of ‘84 is steeped in the kinds of graphical interface and font usage that would have been common on the shelves of video rental stores in the days before Blockbuster Video was even a nationwide chain, when the market was filled with small independent stores.
Also, the trailer for White Boy Rick opens with a very 80s look and feel, with 4:3 video opening the trailer, using that visual shorthand to convey to the audience what time period the story takes place in, a message that’s reinforced throughout the rest of the spot.
Hot Summer Nights‘ trailer is filled with the sort of neon visuals and titles that were common across the 80s.
Then of course there’s literally the entire Ready Player One campaign, which was so steeped in the culture of the Atari 2600 age it practically parodied itself. Like the book itself, it relied heavily on nostalgia for the entertainment landscape of that era to drum up interest, so much so that it became a point of negative criticism about the movie before it even opened.
Maybe this is a result of Gen Xers gaining more of a say in Hollywood’s story and marketing decisions. Or maybe it’s wanting to appeal to Millennials by evoking the era they just missed and which, to them, feels like ancient history, albeit one that’s permeated throughout the culture in various ways.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.