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interesting thing about Back to the Future movie


redsquirrel
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I'm not even gonna lie, this is just more of me procrastinating lesson planning...but this is a real thing that happened and that has been batting around my skull.  Normally I wouldn't post something like this, but I guess I do stuff like this now, lol.

 

 

So, a couple days ago we watched Back to the Future with the kids. It was the first time they have seen it, but ds1 sort of knew the basic premise.  I haven't seen it since...the late 1980s?  It came out in 1985 and I saw it in the theaters and prob saw it at least once as a rental.  I have never seen the other films in the franchise. In part because I had no desire and in part because I was prob in college and didn't have the time. 

 

 

So, here is what I noticed: Back to the Future came out 31 years ago. He goes back, I think 30 years, into the past..I don't have all the specifics and I'm obviously not a huge fan of the film and don't have all the details down.

 

But I found it very interesting how little the world has changed in a cultural way in the last 30 years.  IOW, my kids could go back to 1985 with MUCH less culture shock than main character had when he went back 30 years.  The world of the 'present' in Back to the Future looked normal to them. They got the jokes about calling Fox a 'sailor' due to his puffy vest etc.  The music wasn't super different. Yes, a little different, but not unrecognizable.  There were jokes about Darth Vader and Star Trek etc. 

 

Yes, I know some of that is due to ease of access to movies and pop culture...but the clothes looked the same. Like my kids could go to 1985 and would fit right in.  But the main character had to get different clothes or he looked odd.  I bet my eldest could go to a high school dance in 1985 and it would look a lot like a high school dance now.  If anything, we had more freedom at dances in 1985.  My son's school makes the kids and families sign their lives away to attend a dance. A high school dance in 1955 looked VERY different from one in 1985. 

 

And I understand that things like communication are different, my kids are used to texting and have never made a phone call... i get that, I really do. But in general the overall feel of the time period was very similar. 

 

 

That's all. It's just a little thing. But it's got me thinking about cultural stagnation and a few other things.

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If we went back to 1985 in our current clothes, we'd look horribly unfashionable, but you're right that we'd fit in somewhat well enough. I mean, in 1955, there were very specific clothing styles you wore at school. In '85 and in '16, you can get away with a lot more. Sure, you'd look weird with your flat, straight hair and too-tight clothes, but you wouldn't be sent home to change. Instead, the next day, you'd let your hair frizz up and you'd buy a big chunky sweater and jeans that go up to your belly button and some tennis shoes.

 

Technology would be a huge difference. I happen to have a working dial phone in my house so my kids would know how to use it, but it might cause most kids to pause if they had to use one.

 

But you're right--music isn't the same, but it's not shockingly different (like the Glen Miller Band vs Metallica different.). Cars look different. Cars in the 80's were very boxy. Cars today are rounded. I know this to be true because I railed against the rounded cars. I love boxy 80s cars and mourned when all the cars started getting rounder and rounder.

 

TV back then was just dreadful. But...at least the family could watch it. TV today is a lot...harder? It's more raw then back then. TV back then was pretty tame. I've tried to go back and watch tv from when I was young and a lot of it is boring and shallow compared to today.

 

Smoking was EVERYWHERE. In my first job, people smoked in the office building ('89). You'd be sitting at your desk and the guy next to you would be smoking. The year I started working is when they started making it a law that you could only smoke in the bathrooms. Then, it was only outside. Public places were always full of smoke.

 

There is probably some slang that's different that I'm not thinking of, like how Marty is always saying everything is heavy. We don't say that now. For a while everything was epic. I don't know if they still use "epic" anymore.

 

I hope someone else chimes in with other things. This is a fun thread!

Edited by Garga
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Oh wait...women. Women were still struggling more for equality in the 80's than now. I remember hating that they changed it from fireman and policeman to firefigthers and police officers because DUH everyone knows that women don't want those jobs. Silly people! I also thought it was stupid to fund a lot of girls' sports because everyone knows that girls don't really like sports all that much.

 

That was changing in the 80s and I changed along with it and now I'm aghast that I used to believe those things. But it was very prevalent back then. I can't think of other examples. Well, they do talk about how women wore those horrible shoulder pads to make themselves look more masculine so they'd be taken more seriously at work. I mean, we all know it's still a problem (women being taken as seriously as men are) but not as much as 30 years ago.

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It's not that there are no differences between 2016 and 1985, but that the differences are much smaller than I would have imagined.  And they are infinitesimally small when compared to the differences between 1985 and 1955. It is the speed of cultural change, the flattening of things, that I find interesting.

 

Here is another example, I'm sure many of you have at least heard of the TV show Glee.  A couple years ago, during the summer, my son and his friends watched all the seasons that were available on Netflix and had a great time. But so, so many of the songs were from the 1980s and 1990s. They were songs that I grew up with. Someone commented that it would be like if in 1985 there were a hit show on TV where people sang Lennon Sister songs.  For my kid, songs by Journey were understandable and relatable. They were all belting out "Don't Stop Believing" and having a great time.  I doubt I would have felt the same way in 1985 about singing along to Chattanooga Choo-Choo.

 

 

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This is interesting.  We just watched The Sandlot, which takes place in the 50's and my 9 year old was commenting on how everything looks the same as it does now.  He said he expected it to be really different or old fashioned.  I think the internet is the biggest change since the 80s.  Everything else seems like different frosting on the same cake.

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I suspect that part of the difference might be that you actually lived the intervening 30 yrs.  I suspect only a few of us here lived the years between 55 and 85, and even fewer remember it well enough to do this sort of reflection. 

 

My DH did did a "rock and roll history" course in college (everyone has to have their complete fluff course right?  Mine was sci fi novels lol)  And, when you actually take the music decade by decade, the changes don't seem quite as pronounced.  You can see how one style flows and evolves into another.  When you live the time frame, you see how the changes flow into one another, and it's sometimes hard to see how it's really changed. 

 

Fair point. But my kids didn't live the intervening 30 years.  It's seeing them watch and relate to the movie that I found so curious.

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Well, I think the movie purposely highlighted the differences, presenting an image of the 1950's that was very different from the '80s.  I think it would be very possible to do a show today about going back to the 1980's and have it look just as different from today as that did to us when BTTF first came out.  The clothes dd16 wears to school would be really out of place in the 1980's.  The music she listens to would also seem so edgy to the point of unlistenable.

 

I think another part of why things looked so different is the change in access to media.  Back in the '80s, you still had only a handful of tv stations.  There was no internet.  There weren't hundreds of cable stations needing to fill content.  Being able to access media on our own time rather than when someone else chose it for you and aired it was just beginning (VCRs.)  We now have access to so much that we can pull  up in an instant that the past doesn't seem as different because we can see it any time we want to. 

 

If you think about Glee, its target audience was not just the young demographic.  Since it appealed to a much wider demographic, it made some songs popular with the younger set and then seemed more accessible.  The 80s did have throwback music and entertainment, but it was consumed by the older generation that had lived it. 

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I had a similar experience only not with that movie.  I was born in 1970, so a teen in the 80's.  A few years ago I had to show a video to one of my classes.  It was something every homeroom class saw that day.  At one point of the video it showed a bunch of kids in a lecture hall.   It looked just like it came from the 80's.   Everyone was wearing layered knit clothes.  I even said to the kids, "When was this made?   It looks like it was made when I was that age."   The kids in my class said, No that was current fashion.  

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Some of the music of today has some 80's elements. My daughter likes Twenty One Pilots, I like some of their songs, they remind me of music I liked in high school. I actually like their cover of Mad World better than the original, and I liked the original at the time.

 

The pouffy 80's hair will hopefully never come back, though...

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Well, I think the movie purposely highlighted the differences, presenting an image of the 1950's that was very different from the '80s.  I think it would be very possible to do a show today about going back to the 1980's and have it look just as different from today as that did to us when BTTF first came out.  The clothes dd16 wears to school would be really out of place in the 1980's.  The music she listens to would also seem so edgy to the point of unlistenable.

They did sort of do this lately with Stranger Things. It was set in the 80s (not supposed to be time travel, though). And while there were some definite differences, I would think most kids from today would manage to fit in ok. Cell phones and internet would be the biggest difference. Even some of our clothes right now are 80s-esque. I don't remember the 80s (was born the year BTTF came out) but I tend to agree with the OP. I think the culture shock would be a lot less going from '16 to the 80s than 80s to 50s. 

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I've been watching Friends on Netflix and my husband got a chuckle yesterday.  We were watching an episode where Joey wants to order a pizza but they can't because Rachael was waiting for a call about a job and wouldn't let anyone on the line.  That would never happen today, everyone would just whip out their smart phone and order online!  Their phone was this huge, chunky number with an enormous antenna.  

 

The 90's don't feel that long ago but the differences are pretty blatant.  

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Um, if you're an out LGBT teen in a relatively normal part of the country (not some rural bible belt or w/e*), going to the 80s would probably be a bit of a shock as the other teens probably wouldn't have the "so what?" attitude about your being out that they'd have now. And since someone mentioned phones, I don't know when touch phones became in, but we didn't replace our rotary phone until the early 90s - I vaguely remember using it, and I was born in 1984 - today's teens would probably know what to do with a landline, but a rotary phone? And card catalogs, lol. I don't know when libraries switched to computers - almost everything was on computers when I started using the catalog, but that was in the 90s, not the 80s. My high school library moved their last stuff from card catalogs to the computer in the late 90s or early 2000s.

 

Anyway, back to culture, since you'd already mentioned tech being different. I'd totally see today's teens looking confused at 6yos going to the playground etc without their parents. And other teens being less stressed out about grades and getting into college. Wait, what... you don't need a GPA >4.0? That probably doesn't make a whole lot of sense to 2016's teens. And not needing a zillion extracurriculars. Hanging out with friends at the mall?

 

*Though I've lived in rural bible belt 2010s, and even there people were mostly "so what?".

Edited by luuknam
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I'm kind of wondering what today's teen's views on sex are. 1985 would have been the hey-day of the AIDS scare.

 

I suspect that today's teens use the f-word more often than 1985's teens, and probably would need to clean up their language rapidly to fit in.

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I think the movie purposfully exagerates some things about the 50's.  That being said, there was a major change in pop culture in the 60's, music, attitudes, and so on, and I think that is where the gap really comes from.  Rock music totally changed, there was the Summer of Love, changes of attitude from the Vietnam War, the Pill, major changes in terms of women in the workforce, the availability of recreational drugs, television really took off, ...

 

OTOH - I started re-watching the original House of Cards series just recently.  It came out around 1990.  I was surprised at how old fashioned it seemed in some ways - the clothes, relative restraint in many things, the attitudes of the people.  And I shouldn't be surprised as I've had similar experiences watching other series from that period (North of 60, Twin Peaks), but every time it makes me suddenly feel really old.

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there was a major change in pop culture in the 60's, music, attitudes, and so on, and I think that is where the gap really comes from.  Rock music totally changed, there was the Summer of Love

 

Yeah, but then and again, talking to my wife (born in 1976, so not a teen yet in 1985 either), we agreed that sex had a fear of death (though I was on the tail end of that, as by the time I was a teen there were medications for HIV that nobody was sure of how long they'd work, but people were starting to stay alive longer). Whereas I doubt today's teens ever think along the lines of sex = death. Whereas the late 70s, before HIV, was different (as far as I know - I wasn't there).

 

Oh, and surveillance. Today there are cameras everywhere, everything's on the internet, nothing you do is private. 1984 was written in 1948, but in 1984, it was still quite sci-fi-ish. Whereas today, a lot of that is more taken for granted. Even companies like Amazon use algorithms and stuff to figure out what you'll buy so they can ship it to a warehouse near you so they can do 2 hour delivery. That stuff would freak people in 1985 out, I bet.

 

And obviously fear of terrorism is different from the Cold War. Geopolitically, 1955 was probably more like 1985 than 1985 is like 2016.

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I'm kind of wondering what today's teen's views on sex are. 1985 would have been the hey-day of the AIDS scare.

 

I suspect that today's teens use the f-word more often than 1985's teens, and probably would need to clean up their language rapidly to fit in.

1985 New York City, I still knew a lot of people who thought of aids as a gay disease. I was in college in 1985 and was appalled by how many people were still having unprotected sex because they were straight. Edited by kewb
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Did you not have 80's hair?  I sure did.  Big, poofy, permed hair.  And high rise pleated jeans, and a big Madonna bow in my hair sometimes!

 

When I look back at 80's styles and fashions and how we lived (no  cordless phones, no caller ID, and cassette tapes) I do feel very different.  And lots of wallpaper.

 

I love that show The Goldbergs because it takes me back to the 80's.  

 

My kids make a big deal about my photos from high school.

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1985 New York City, I still knew a lot of people who thought of aids as a gay disease. I was in college in 1985 and was appalled by how many people were still having unprotected sex because they were straight.

 

I worked in a high gay population school (teachers) in the late 80's and early 90's.  It was still a big deal.  We had several teachers who died of AIDS.  It was horrible! 

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Someone mentioned the 80s fashion that's popular now. What is it?

:)

Just to get started...

 

Ankle zipper pants

Short sweatshirts worn off the shoulder ala Flasdance

I saw stirrup pants somewhere recently

 

 

I giggle when I see today's teens dress in similar things I wore. They do it better now, though, not as gaudy. :)

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Between 1955 and 1985 we had the 60s. I don't think we've had a comparable decade of change between 1985 and now.

Yeah. I totally get what the OP is saying (or at least I have my own understanding of it which seems to agree with her musings). Of course there are changes--obviously technology being the biggest one-- but mostly they are minor *overall*. My 1980s teenage self would like, totally recognize today's world.

 

It's true we haven't had a cultural revolution between now and then that produced major social changes in a big fell swoop as it were. Instead, the evolution of our society has been slow but steady since then. For everything that has changed (minus technology), there is probably a modern-to-1985 that has endured. Overall our culture has modernized, of course, but isn't drastically unrecognizeable or shockingly different.

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Someone mentioned the 80s fashion that's popular now. What is it?

:)

 

Acid washed jeans.  Higher waists have been in for a while, though without the pleats.  Which is not a big surprise since skinny jeans came in as well, and leggings.  Big glasses.  Sneakers. Plastic sunglasses.  Jumpsuits, bodysuits.

 

Have a look at this video, I think it's probably 2 years old now, and the fashions are very 80's.  Of course this isn't what average people wear, but it's become a trendy aesthetic.

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I'm kind of wondering what today's teen's views on sex are. 1985 would have been the hey-day of the AIDS scare.

 

I suspect that today's teens use the f-word more often than 1985's teens, and probably would need to clean up their language rapidly to fit in.

He hee hee re language--you weren't a teen in the 80's, were you? ;)

 

And yes, we had the so called AIDS scare, but the viewpoint was that it affected a certain small minority. Sure didn't impact the rest of us the way maybe it ought to have. I'm not sure that's changed much, though kids today seem better informed about sex all around.

 

Also, coming out in high school wasn't that big of a deal then either, or at least not where I lived. The pop culture of the time made it much more "acceptable" than in previous generations, again at least where I grew up and in the social circles I hung out with. You really couldn't listen to 80s Brit pop and pretend like it didn't exist (assuming one would be so inclined). Gay culture was very much out in the open like never before.

 

I'm not sure the fear between the Cold War and today's terrorism were much different. First, there was a lot of terrorism then too--plane hijacks, hostages, etc. And the fear of nuclear war was ever present and very real, much more on people's minds, I think, than today. This was the era of that movie--The Day After Tomorrow I think it was called?--that left everyone I knew sleepless for a long time. Politically things were messy and I remember being very stressed out about world events.

 

Sorry if things are jumbled--I can't figure out how to mutiquote. These were just a few pre-coffee thoughts I'm having on this interesting conversation! :)

Edited by MEmama
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At my prom in 1986, the girls all wore long dresses with hoop skirts and giant puffy sleeves, ala Gone with the Wind. Today's teens would probably think we looked weird :laugh: .

 

We watched Back to the Future recently, too. My kids didn't talk much about the differences in fashion, etc. and just enjoyed the story. But it brought back memories for DH and me. And the second one, where they go to the future (today's time) was funny, because some of the ideas are still so farfetched (flying cars), while on the other hand, we've had a lot of advancements that the movie didn't predict. The prediction of the future does not really resemble our reality much. To me, that makes the movie seem more locked in time and dated than the first one.

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He hee hee re language--you weren't a teen in the 80's, were you? ;)

 

And yes, we had the so called AIDS scare, but the viewpoint was that it affected a certain small minority. Sure didn't impact the rest of us the way maybe it ought to have. I'm not sure that's changed much, though kids today seem better informed about sex all around.

 

Also, coming out in high school wasn't that big of a deal then either, or at least not where I lived. The pop culture of the time made it much more "acceptable" than in previous generations, again at least where I grew up and in the social circles I hung out with. You really couldn't listen to 80s Brit pop and pretend like it didn't exist (assuming one would be so inclined). Gay culture was very much out in the open like never before.

 

I'm not sure the fear between the Cold War and today's terrorism were much different. First, there was a lot of terrorism then too--plane hijacks, hostages, etc. And the fear of nuclear war was ever present and very real, much more on people's minds, I think, than today. This was the era of that movie--The Day After Tomorrow I think it was called?--that left everyone I knew sleepless for a long time. Politically things were messy and I remember being very stressed out about world events.

 

I mentioned the year I was born in upthread, so yeah, I was 5 when the 80s ended.

 

So maybe the AIDS scare didn't start to affect straight people until later (we watched the movie Kids on the bus during school trip to Paris in 10th grade, and that one was definitely straight AIDS). Today's kids probably don't care as much about STDs as they should, but my perception of HIV at this point in time is pretty much just a PITA with too many expensive medications to take - it's not "dead in 10 years tops and nothing you can do about it".

 

My wife turned 9 in 1985, but she says that being gay in high school was a big deal back when she was a teen (in Texas). And being trans in high school? Inconceivable (note that upthread I didn't say gay, I said LGBT). I'm not saying people didn't know that gay people existed. But if you were on the high school football team, it probably wasn't a great idea to come out as gay in a lot more places then than today.

 

I didn't say terrorism didn't exist back then. Of course it did. But the Cold War thing probably ranked higher in people's minds back then (and by that, I did mean the threat of nuclear war). And school shootings are probably more in people's minds now than in 1985 (were there even schools with metal detectors etc in 1985?).

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And since someone mentioned phones, I don't know when touch phones became in, but we didn't replace our rotary phone until the early 90s - I vaguely remember using it, and I was born in 1984 - today's teens would probably know what to do with a landline, but a rotary phone? And card catalogs, lol. I don't know when libraries switched to computers - almost everything was on computers when I started using the catalog, but that was in the 90s, not the 80s. My high school library moved their last stuff from card catalogs to the computer in the late 90s or early 2000s.

 

 

 

There was push button and there was touch tone, and they were different. A push button phone was just that - It had buttons to push rather than a dial, but didn't connect any faster. A touch tone phone connected the instant you pushed the button. My roommates and I were pretty excited when we got one in the mid-80s. They came out earlier but the phone company (which was one big AT&T monopoly then) charged more for them, so not a lot of people had touch tone. It wasn't until the break up of Ma Bell in the early 80s that they became more affordable. I remember how cool it was that you could actually price shop for a phone. 

 

We were in Knoxville last summer and were browsing a vintage (not antique) shop. Ds then 17, saw a rotary phone and was shocked that you had to dial each digit in the number and wait for the dial to go back each time. :D

 

Did you not have 80's hair?  I sure did.  Big, poofy, permed hair.  And high rise pleated jeans, and a big Madonna bow in my hair sometimes!

 

When I look back at 80's styles and fashions and how we lived (no  cordless phones, no caller ID, and cassette tapes) I do feel very different.  And lots of wallpaper.

 

 

 

My kids make a big deal about my photos from high school.

 

And shoulder pads! You forgot shoulder pads! Those lasted into the 90s. 

 

Any time I try to fuss about ds' hair he shoots back with "Hey! I saw pictures of you with big hair and of Dad with a white man's afro."  :lol:

 

Just to get started...

 

Ankle zipper pants

Short sweatshirts worn off the shoulder ala Flasdance

I saw stirrup pants somewhere recently

 

 

I giggle when I see today's teens dress in similar things I wore. They do it better now, though, not as gaudy. :)

 

Stirrup pants? I wore those as a kid in the 60s. They were stretchy. I actually hated them because I'm high waisted and to get pants that came up far enough to the crotch area, the stirrups would be tight. I always had marks on my feet when I finally changed out of them. I chose style over comfort.

Edited by Lady Florida.
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And I understand that things like communication are different, my kids are used to texting and have never made a phone call... i get that, I really do. But in general the overall feel of the time period was very similar. 

 

 

I think you are being blinded by the superficial similarities. Once you actually try to do something on your own the whole experience is going to be deeply qualitatively different.

 

Texting is one example. It's not texting vs cell phones which aren't common.  It's the difference between texting/cell phone/email vs a single phone mounted on the wall in the kitchen and long distance being so expensive it never gets used and  you try to keep up with friends from camp by sending letters.

 

Forget itunes or buying music online... Best Buy doesn't exist. Walmart and Target haven't made it to  your town. You could find a small top forty selection at Zayre or Roses or K-mart or shop at the small store at the mall... and buy the latest music on cassette.

 

Class research... forget google... head to the library and use the card catalog. The resources you really want are almost always unavailable. Fine maybe I'll just but books... Amazon's far in the future. B&N and Borders don't exist. You're shopping at WaldenBooks at the mall and ordering stuff site unseen.

 

Grocery store have much smaller selections... perhaps more local stuff but things like raspberries, avocados, or non iceberg lettuce are rare luxuries. Starbucks has 6 stores in Seattle. Ethnic food is rare.

 

In '85 noone in my extended family or anyone we knew had ever flown on a commercial flight.

 

I think a modern teen would be shocked at how few choices were available and how expensive everything was. Mass culture is pretty homogenized and teen culture even moreso... but the difference today is that there is a huge amount of choice where in '85 it was more the default option or nothing.

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Class research... forget google... head to the library and use the card catalog.

 

Oh, and writing multi-page papers by hand (or typewriter). Which, I know, is tech, not culture, but still something I'm glad I missed out on.

Edited by luuknam
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I agree that it is the huge cultural shift of the 1960s that makes the difference. That was before my time so my understanding is only intellectual and a bit like asking a fish what it's like to be wet.  Everyone is pointing out difference between now and the 1980s, of which I agree are many, but they are differences of degree. Things in 1985 were a little more this or a little less that.

 

But I think it would be easier for my kids to go back to 1985 and quickly fit in, than they would if they had to go back to, say the time of the first Mad Men episode, which I think is right around when the kid from Back to the Future gets sent back. Which isn't, when you think about it, exactly a brain storm, lol, more of a brain drizzle.  Going back one generation, thirty years, is obviously easier than two.

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It's the difference between texting/cell phone/email vs a single phone mounted on the wall in the kitchen and long distance being so expensive it never gets used and  you try to keep up with friends from camp by sending letters.

Yep. And busy signals. I don't think ds has ever heard a busy signal. He vaguely remembers the modem sound and not being able to be online if someone was on the phone or vice versa. Call waiting was just becoming popular in the mid 80s as the cost dropped. Long distance calls were made between Friday night and Sunday evening to keep the cost down. And of course you watched the clock to see how long you were on, because if you went one minute over you were charged for another big chunk of time. 

 

 

In '85 noone in my extended family or anyone we knew had ever flown on a commercial flight.

This I think would depend on what your life was like then vs. now. I flew more in the 70s and 80s (as did my family), than I have from the early 90s to now. Our family was actually more spread out then than they are now, so we flew to visit one another. Ds will be 19 in a few weeks and has only flown once in his life (well, twice because it was a round trip). 

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I guess I see less differences than other people.   My Dad was a Computer Analyst.   Our first home computer was the Mac+ when it first came out.   It had a hard drive which was external and the size of a Dictionary.   It had internet, you put the phone headset on the modem and if you sneezed the connection would be lost.  The charge was by the minute.  But, I could search journal articles.  I was born in '70, and I've never touched a typewriter, or a dial phone.  

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I guess I see less differences than other people.   My Dad was a Computer Analyst.   Our first home computer was the Mac+ when it first came out.   It had a hard drive which was external and the size of a Dictionary.   It had internet, you put the phone headset on the modem and if you sneezed the connection would be lost.  The charge was by the minute.  But, I could search journal articles.  I was born in '70, and I've never touched a typewriter, or a dial phone.  

 

That's really interesting. The Mac+ came out in '86, my high school still had all Apple 2es and a couple of 2gs's when I graduated ~'90. Regardless, I had to literally type a few papers in jr high and high school. 

 

When I was applying for scholarships, all of them had forms that had to be typed and couldn't be word processed. Likewise, DW had forms for med school apps that had to be typed on carbon paper in triplicate as late as the mid 90s.

 

In my experience, the rare need to use a typewriter extended for a shockingly long time.

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But I think it would be easier for my kids to go back to 1985 and quickly fit in, than they would if they had to go back to, say the time of the first Mad Men episode, which I think is right around when the kid from Back to the Future gets sent back. Which isn't, when you think about it, exactly a brain storm, lol, more of a brain drizzle. Going back one generation, thirty years, is obviously easier than two.

You know what? That might be it. Maybe it's going back two generations that is tricky.

 

If you were born in 1985 and went back 30 years, it would be to '55. I'm not so sure that would be as big of a difference. Of course BTTF played things up to make the movie more entertaining. But, as we saw, Marty's mom was still drinking and hoping to hook up with Marty at the prom. (The prom. I remember in the 80's it was THE prom. Today it's just prom.). Marty was shocked at how his mom wasn't as innocent as the 50's makes things out to be. Marty seemed to fit in pretty well. His taste in music was a little perplexing to his parents' class, but other than that, they liked him and he fit in. Yes, he had to dress up a little more for school, but he still knew how to handle himself in that society. I think teens from 1985 might be perplexed at some of the super raunchy rap music out today or some of that screaming angry heavy metal with the devil-sounding men singing. (They sing super deep and sound like they're trying to sound like demons. I don't remember that from the 80s.)

 

If you go back from the 50's to the 30's, that's like another world. (ETA: My math was wrong! It wouldn't be going from '55 to '35; it would be going from '55 to '25--even bigger difference!) It's the Great Depression and well before the boom of prosperity in America. (ETA: Roaring twenties, not Great Depression.). So, from 1985 to 1955, differences, but I'm not sure how different they really were. As another poster said, someone who was a kid in 1955 might not think the change was all that dramatic--it was 30 years. But now to us, it's currently 60 years in the past.

 

Someone in 1985 going back 30 years might not be too big, but going back 60 years to the 30's? (ETA: '20s) Wow, that's a long time.

 

And think of someone in 1955 going back to 1935. ('25) Big changes. BUT, what if the person from '55 went back 60 years to 1895?? WOW! Major changes! Indoor plumbing! Cars! Huge, huge, huuuuge changes. From full length skirts with bustles to mini skirts and pants.

 

So, sure. A change from 1955 to now is huge. And sure, our kids could go back to '85 and fit in. But a person who was a teen in '85 could probably handle '55 pretty easily. They wouldn't be spoiled on electronics. The Cold War was still around. (I worked for a government agency from 1988-1992 and the Russians were still our Number One enemy. In the 80's I'd have never, ever set foot in Russia because I was honestly afraid the KGB might kill me in an "accident." Rather like I wouldn't head to the Middle East now. Except now they might not call it in "accident."). Women and Black people had some advances, that's true, but nowhere near as many as now.

 

I think it's a matter of going back 60 years vs 30 years. If you look at 60 year jumps, they're hard. 30 year jumps, not so much.

Edited by Garga
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Someone in 1985 going back 30 years might not be too big, but going back 60 years to the 30's? Wow, that's a long time

 

Going back 60 years would be 1925, not 1935. And I thought that the original post was trying to compare going back 30 years in both cases. But yes, generally, going back one generation would not be too hard to handle, whereas going back two generations would be harder. Up to a point. At some point in history, it probably didn't matter all that much.

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I am sort of wondering at what point in history 2 generation jumps would become about as easy as 1 generation jumps. Like, we see the middle ages as a relatively uniform blob, but I'm wondering if it just looks relatively uniform to us, but whether a 1 or 2 generation jump would look as different to someone from back then as a 1 or 2 generation jump looks to us now.

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Well, I don't want to de-emphasis the importance of the 1960s, of the civil rights movement, the women's movement the LGBTQ movement, the sexual revolution , .... etc, etc.  I still it would be very, very difficult if you had picked me up in 1985, a high school student, and made me live in the world of Mad Men or the world my mom grew up in. I still think my kids would have an easier time of fitting in in 1985 than I would have in 1955. I'm not talking about big hair and how tight their jeans are. They have grown up wearing jeans and so did I, and that is representational of what I am talking about.  I'm talking about cultural expectations and norms.  I do think it's something more than just 30 years vs 60, but the time is an obvious part of it.

 

I still feel like I have experienced a slow down in the rate of a type of cultural change.  I think it is less than my mother has experienced...or maybe it goes in cycles and I'm just not aware of it.  Or maybe I'm on the other side of a such a huge one (the 1960s & 1970s) that we won't really see it again. Or, maybe there will be another huge shift in my grandchildren's time. 

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Another relevant movie might be Pleasantville, where 2 teens from 1998 go back to the 1950s (but, in an idealized version of the '50s like on the TV shows from that time, not the actual 1950s).

 

I really enjoyed that film when it came out. I was doing a support group with teenagers at the time and the ones that saw it learned a lot from it, it was meaningful to them. 

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I think you are being blinded by the superficial similarities. Once you actually try to do something on your own the whole experience is going to be deeply qualitatively different.

 

Texting is one example. It's not texting vs cell phones which aren't common.  It's the difference between texting/cell phone/email vs a single phone mounted on the wall in the kitchen and long distance being so expensive it never gets used and  you try to keep up with friends from camp by sending letters.

 

Forget itunes or buying music online... Best Buy doesn't exist. Walmart and Target haven't made it to  your town. You could find a small top forty selection at Zayre or Roses or K-mart or shop at the small store at the mall... and buy the latest music on cassette.

 

Class research... forget google... head to the library and use the card catalog. The resources you really want are almost always unavailable. Fine maybe I'll just but books... Amazon's far in the future. B&N and Borders don't exist. You're shopping at WaldenBooks at the mall and ordering stuff site unseen.

 

Grocery store have much smaller selections... perhaps more local stuff but things like raspberries, avocados, or non iceberg lettuce are rare luxuries. Starbucks has 6 stores in Seattle. Ethnic food is rare.

 

In '85 noone in my extended family or anyone we knew had ever flown on a commercial flight.

 

I think a modern teen would be shocked at how few choices were available and how expensive everything was. Mass culture is pretty homogenized and teen culture even moreso... but the difference today is that there is a huge amount of choice where in '85 it was more the default option or nothing.

 

Another example would be food---my husband and I often reflect upon the fact that we were both raised on salty, canned veggies and that there was not nearly the access to fresh foods or variety that we have now.  We were both born early 70s and lived in well-populated suburban, middle class areas.  Going to a farmer's market would have required travel and happened rarely.  Fresh produce from the supermarket would have been mactintosh or red delicious apples, bananas, iceberg lettuce, etc. We are less well off then our parents, and yet our kids eat a wide variety of fresh fruits and veggies regularly. They have never tasted canned peas.

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I've never tasted canned peas and I was in high school in 1985. Frozen peas, yes.  My mom didn't feed us food like that when I was growing up. That is what she grew up on and she didn't like it.

 

And again, these are differences of degree.  My kids gasped at the casual racism in Back to the Future, "No one ever heard of a coloured Mayor".  Is there still racism? Of course there is. My kids are very familiar with those issues. But casual every day racist epitaphs are not accepted in polite company, at least not in the circles I have grown up in and my kids know. Does it it exist? Again, I am not trying to say it doesn't...but there is a bigger difference between 1955-1985 and 1985- 2016. I suspect if I were African American teen, and I had to choose, I would rather go back to 1985 than 1955.

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I think for dramatic effect they used an exaggerated version of the past in Back to the Future. If they were to make the film today, I suspect they'd use the 80s as half-remembered from TV-reruns and kitschy 80s movies, jumbled together to form a world that never existed in reality --  making it seem like a very different place from today.

Edited by Anacharsis
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I think for dramatic effect they used an exaggerated version of the past in Back to the Future. If they were to make the film today, I suspect they'd use the 80s as half-remembered from TV-reruns and kitschy 80s movies, jumbled together to form a world that never existed in reality --  making it seem like a very different place from today.

 

Really? I mean I doubt it was vetted for accuracy, lol, but Mad Men season 1 was set in 1960 and seems fairly similar to Back to the Future in 1955. And I find the idea of having to function as an adult woman in 1960 to be overwhelming. When I watched the first couple episodes of Mad Men I kept thinking that I would have a nervous breakdown if I had to live like that.

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