- The "Balanced Breakfast": So we're all familiar with the cliche of the balanced breakfast. The weird thing, the thing I didn't remember, is that the balanced breakfast, no matter the cereal, always looks exactly the same: two slices of toast with butter, a big glass of milk and a big glass of orange juice. Sometimes it's real toast, sometimes it's cartoon toast, but there's always the toast and the multiple beverages. What the hell? Wouldn't you expect the balanced breakfast to include, like, fruit or something? Or an egg? Why would anyone eat a bowl of cereal and then, to balance it, add more processed wheat and another pint of milk? In the late '80s, when fiber became all the rage, the toast became two bran muffins in some instances.
- Businessmen: There are only a few kinds of males in '80s commercials: adorable/annoying kids, aggressively blue-collar guys with accents (see the Liquid Plumber commercial where they repeatedly compare the "thin stuff" and the "thick stuff"), and businessmen. The vast majority of males in commercials were businessmen. Businessmen eating cereal, businessmen drinking coffee, businessmen taking Pepto Bismal, businessmen lifting their arms to prove they wear Sure/use Dial, etc. (Women, on the other hand, are either sensible housewives, high-power secretaries, or out of your league.)
- Gum Makes You Cool: Chewing bubble gum, putting gum in your mouth (especially in such a way that the stick folds in half visibly as you push it against your tongue), popping a big bubble on your face, stretching your gum out in a tether between your teeth and your fingers (the epitome of cool, I thought, when I was a kid): these activities all signal that you are awesome and having an awesome time. (My old friend Marisa has a distinct memory of putting her hair up in a side ponytail, checking herself out in the mirror approvingly, and thinking, "I need some gum.")
- White People: Everything was marketed at white people in the '80s. Especially notably, McDonald's and other fast-food joints (Wendy's and Burger King were big) were all trying to appeal to a higher tax bracket than they do now. The only commercials we saw with black actors were for laundry detergent/fabric softener, whatever that means.
- Gender Stereotypes: Evident throughout, of course (this hasn't changed), I was especially appalled by the kids' toys. The stuff for boys was SO FREAKING VIOLENT. It's like, aircraft carriers that unfold into missile silos that transform into nuclear warfare. WTF?! Toy company executives should be taken out and shot by the bloodthirsty Republicans they've created. Girl toys, of course, are sickeningly domestic and thoroughly pink. Barbie's furniture is all pink. Who buys a pink dining room table, I ask you? I noticed that board games, on the other hand, are always depicted in play by both a boy and a girl (if not a whole family). Why is it that only board games are gender-neutral?
- Nightlife: The mid-80s-era commercials for Michelob, to which the night belongs: so hot, right? Singles' night out in New York. When I saw these as a kid I couldn't wait to be a grown-up. The aesthetics remind me of the video for George Michael's "Father Figure" (my favorite karaoke number, FYI). See both below.
*Up until watching this, John had a theory that William Hurt had never been in a bad movie. But wow is this a stinker. Within the first five minutes we were looking at each other like, "What?" It's so stiff and phony you think it must be by design, but eventually you realize it's just tone-deaf, poorly acted and poorly directed. I like Kathleen Turner so much better as a comic actress. Geena Davis is a bright spot though, and I liked the dog character, sort of.