Even outside the world of movies, the 80s have become shorthand for all the worst elements of American society. We deride the music, fashion, politics, and perceived sentiments of the whole time period. The hit VH1 series "I Love The..." started out with the 80s, with a menagerie of talking heads ragging on pop culture items of the time. It was a weird but irresistible exercise in brutalizing nostalgia that helped shape the image 20-somethings like me have of the decade. So now when we hear "80s," we see aviators, acid-wash jeans, and Top Gun.
|The first result if you Google "80s." I'll wait for your seizure to end.|
Part of it also has to be that the 80s directly follow the 70s, which we've all been trained to say is the golden age. But if a quintessentially 70s movie like Taxi Driver kicked off the cinematic exploration of urban alienation, there were a dozen excellent movies in the 80s that both broadened and deepened that. Movies like Blade Runner, The Thing, and The Shining were dark, misanthropic, and almost oppressive in their depiction of loneliness. Aliens, probably the best sequel of all time (which improved upon its 70s predecessor, by the way), wore its subversive nature on its sleeve - the gung-ho militarism that we remember the decade for was thwarted and destroyed, and the bond between a grieving mother and an orphaned girl was celebrated. And Drive continues that lonely, alienated tradition beautifully.
The cosmetic links are obvious - we've got a synth-pop soundtrack, aviators, a bewildering satin bomber.
|Seriously, though. Bewildering.|
And we've got a plot straight from a neo-noir tragedy, with seedy mobsters, feeble friends, and a pervasive sense of dread that hits you even before the bloodied bodies start to stack up (and do they ever).
Creations like I Love the 80s would have you believe that the only working actors between 1981 and 1990 were testosterone lumps like Stallone and Schwarzzenegger, and brash young hellraisers like Cruise. But ignore those for a second. The protagonists who really last, the ones who really stick in your mind like a little burr, are one just like the Driver - trying and usually failing to transcend their demons and the demons who surround them. Their movies are about evil and hostility, the futility of redemption, and the emptiness of the American dream. The 80s gave us some of the darkest and most beautiful films of all time, and I like to think that Drive, being a brutal little gem of a movie, goes a ways in defending the decade's honour.