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"San Junipero" is the standout episode from Season 3 of the British sci-fi anthology show, Black Mirror. Like all episodes in the series, "San Junipero" is a unique twist on reality that throws the viewer down an unknown rabbit hole of indulgence. Without giving too much away for those you have not seen "San Junipero," the narrative follows the love interest of two people arranged on a nonlinear path over two decades: the 80s and 90s.
Besides the romantic love and attraction of each other, the revolving backdrop presents a nostalgic choice as to whether the 80s or 90s appeals as the more enduring flashback. It's an interesting proposition. If you were given the choice of Walkmans or Discmans, what would you choose? Whatever way you go, the decision needs to be an informed one. I think we need to throw a handful of garbage into Mr. Fusion, fire up the DeLorean, and have a little bit of fun.
First Stop, The 80s
Stepping out of the DeLorean at the small beach resort town of San Junipero requires a change of clothes to blend in. Seeing all the Madonna and Cindy Lauper wannabes walking past is a quick reminder to put on some stonewashed jeans, a carefully selected Hawaiian shirt, and last but not least, some British Knights shoes for added style.
San Junipero spins you right round, baby like a record, baby right round round round. That's how well #BlackMirror portrays the look and feel of what it was like for heaven to be a place on Earth. To whip it on the dance floor time after time in a display of Egyptian power walking was a new sensation that had everyone wanting to dance with somebody.
The much loved anthems of this period are skillfully played throughout the episode and instill a sense of belonging. There is a great mix tape of songs from artists diverse as the Beastie Boys to Frankie Goes to Hollywood. All combine to collectively remind you how amazing 80s music really is. Now that I am here, I wish I had upgraded my tape deck in the DeLorean so I could play "Pump Up The Volume" by M|A|R|R|S as I cruise down the street like an adolescent teenager on a quest to impress.
Dance With Me If You Want To Live
Feeling a little less than zero after a big night on the pork chop express was no temple of doom in this iconic period. Whether you were tracking down one-eyed Willy with the Goonies, or hunting vampires with the Frog brothers, the movies and pop-culture of the 80s had your interests covered.
A great scene that encapsulates the 80s on so many levels is the above one from the 1983 cult classic, Terminator. The giant hair, swinging arms, skinny neck ties and male vocals blasting over the dance floor could be any other night in San Junipero. Luckily for the two ladies in the Black Mirror story, their names were not Sarah Connor. A young Arnold Schwarzenegger on the hunt as a cyborg assassin sent from the future is not part of their particular love story.
OK, that's enough 80s ghosts busted for now, before we take too much of a shinning to this awesome period of time we should jump forward and have a look at what the 90s has to offer.
What Do We Find in the 90s?
The DeLorean stands out in the 90s like a tragic perm, clinging to the past. After hiding the car under a pile of unused Milli Vanilli records, the transition into this new decade can now begin.
The 90s initially smelt like teen spirit. An ironically disenfranchised generation that found the world to be a vampire sent to drain their wonder walls. It was a bittersweet symphony of expectations that exemplified the struggle within. With the residual success of the 80s being broadcast into a new decade—with rerun shows and the cocaine nose jobs —the importance of matching leisurewear now felt empty. The 90s began by distancing itself from the hyper-colored hand prints of excess. It quickly became an unmotivated collage of flannelette shirts with no religion.
The grunge of the 90s set the tone in San Junipero. It is during this period that the characters' relationship loses focus and becomes confused on the direction it should take. It was an era where the past became ineffectively stretched too thin over something new that had not yet been properly defined. That is, until everyone decided to cut some shapes.
No longer under the bridge downtown, the hypnotic synthesizers of the 80s resurfaced to brighter days. The funk phenomena was back. In the forever turning loops of infinity, the groove was back in the heart, ready to once again build it up to tear it back down.
Dazed and confused, the nonconformist attitudes of the grunge movement presented a fight club of change that moved beyond fear and loathing. It was time for a new set of anthems, a die hard shift that represented everybody in the place with the music that took peoples brains to another dimension.
It is unfortunate that San Junipero didn't represent this turning of the tide in the 90s. The many subcultures that were formed throughout the mid to late 80s had interlocked around the world to hit the streets in a love parade of epic proportions. The groundhog days of the early 90s had broken free to a new generation of peace, love, and ecstasy.
They Both Have Their Merits
The music, movies, fashion, toys, games, and attitudes of these two decades represents the changing of the guard. It was an analog world where to be involved required being present. The fanaticism with this period in many ways is formed on the relatively simplistic technology that sparked an expansion of genres never before seen—a spliced reality, anchored in familiarity, yet not quite the future.
Dr. Emmett Brown: "I'm sure in 1985 plutonium is in every corner drug store, but in 1955, its a little hard to come by! I'm sorry, but I'm afraid you're stuck here."
It's easy to reminisce while siting in an age of connectivity and access. Would you really want to go back to an 8-bit world? It would be easier to strip away the noise of today. With the DeLorean still running on fossil fuels and vinyl records making a comeback, it appears the easiest way to bring back the past is by choosing to live in the present.