80s Themes With A Millennial Twist

When I saw the still photo from the Netflix film, Sierra Burgess Is A Loser, I couldn’t help but notice how comparable it was to one of my favorite movies from the 80s, Sixteen Candles. Besides the soft glowing light being similar and the fact that Sierra and Samantha are both redheads, or the fact that Sierra Burgess and Samantha Baker are similar in that they’re both unpopular girls who end up with the jock in the end, Jamey and Jake, I couldn’t help but observe how it pulled from a John Hughes film, but with a millennial twist.

(They also share first and last names that start with the same letters as well as their love interests both have names that start with the letter J. I’m just saying.) 

I’m all for a resurgence of one of my favorite decades (one that I had the pleasure of living in for a whole 33 days), but as the synth continues to seep out in today’s music, let’s all be thankful the big hair and the catch phrases have kept their place in the past.

I dressed up as someone from the 80s for Halloween during my sophomore year of high school, complete with an off the shoulder sweater, minus the shoulder pads (I couldn’t step that far into the past) and a side ponytail. As a society we still have a fascination with the past and what this time period stood for. Whether it’s represented in music, clothing, or recent films and TV shows, the 80s are making a comeback and there’s no sign of it slowing down anytime soon.

I want to make it clear that it’s not a full-blown dose of the 80s that we’re currently living in. There are hints of it here and there, but when it makes itself known, it’s pretty hard not to miss.

Not only have recent films been nods to the 80s, they pull from John Hughes’ films by having an outcast lead character who goes about finding love, although they’re very much set in a millennial world. Where texting is the main form of communication, two movies that have recently come out show how it can be detrimental to our relationships.

In the movie adaptation of Jenny Han’s book, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, main character, Lara Jean pulls her ideals on love from Sixteen Candles. When Lara Jean has a crush so strong, she writes that person a letter, but never intends on sending the letters out. When her younger sister intentionally mails the guys the letters, Lara Jean has a hard time trying to confront each of them in person as the guys come forward. 

In Sierra Burgess Is A Loser, lead character Sierra, played by Shannon Purser who portrayed Barb in Stranger Things, learns that her phone number was given out to popular football player, Jamey, played by Noah Centineo, when he starts texting her. He thinks she’s Veronica, a popular cheerleader who didn’t want to give Jamey her number but gave out Sierra’s as a joke instead.

As Jamey and Sierra continue to text, Jamey suggests the idea of actually talking on the phone. The first time her phone rings with Jamey’s name on the screen, Sierra looks at it like she doesn’t know what to do, like as soon as she answers he’ll hear what she sounds like and the true inflection in her tone, like it would’ve been so much easier to continue to converse through emojis. Where two starting a relationship in the 80s would have usually started out by talking on the phone, Sierra shows how people today find themselves stuck in the comfort of communicating from behind the screen.

When Shannon Purser was asked about what the film says about how people begin dating in today’s society, she said, “I definitely think that texting is kind of the sort of safe first step. It’s sort of a buffer between you and the other person for better and for worse. I do think technology really has changed the way that we communicate with each other and texting can be the way to communicate and to kind of get up the nerve to say things that maybe you wouldn’t say in real life, but that also comes with a price.”

While characters in Sierra Burgess Is A Loser don’t flat out mention a John Hughes classic as their inspiration for love, there are still very noticeable characteristics present. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off alum, Alan Ruck, who played Cameron in the John Hughes film, plays Sierra’s dad. Lea Thompson plays her mom, another notable actress who was in 80s classics such as the Back to the Future trilogy. Though it’s small, having these actors as Sierra’s parents pulls in another note from the 80s.

I think we’re still getting used to how we use technology and social media to interact and I think we’ll continue to adapt as it changes. There’s something very telling about our society as a whole when it’s portrayed in films. It shows what we’re struggling with in the moment, how we may be overanalyzing ourselves and how we think others perceive us.

Navigating adolescence can be tricky, it’s much more broadcasted now than it was in the 80s but pulling from a decade that was thought to be disastrous yet innovative, it is very easy to see the parallels between then and now and where many recent movies get their inspiration from.

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