Steven Spielberg on why we’re so obsessed with the ’80s

If anyone’s more obsessed than you with the ’80s, it’s Steven Spielberg.

The legendary director of new Easter egg-filled geek adventure Ready Player One reflected on why we’re so obsessed with nostalgia for the decade in a Q&A at the film’s Australian premiere in Sydney on Tuesday. 

And he should know — Spielberg directed, wrote or produced Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Gremlins, E.T., Poltergeist, The Goonies and more in the 1980s. 

Based on Ernest Cline’s 2011 science fiction novel, Ready Player One is set in a dystopian 2045 and follows the adventures of a teenager in an escapist VR game.

Spielberg filled the film with niche references to films, games, music and television from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s — but he clearly knows which decade wields the most power for his audiences.

“I think we’re nostalgic for the ‘80s because it was a stress-free decade,” he said in a livestream from the UK. “Everything was sort of innocuous: style, music, it was great — Duran Duran, Eddie Van Halen.”

Ready Player One‘s soundtrack is indeed a smorgasbord of ’80s classics including Talking Heads, New Order, Wham!, Devo, Men Without Hats, and the aforementioned Van Halen and Duran Duran — as well as a strong use of Twisted Sister’s 1984 hit “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” in one of the film’s big moments.

'Ready Player One' is chock full of nostalgic references, down to the poster.

‘Ready Player One’ is chock full of nostalgic references, down to the poster.

Image: warner bros

Spielberg continued, painting a pretty rose-colored picture of the political context of the ’80s (with a thinly veiled dig at current President Donald Trump). “It was a place with Ronald Reagan — we had an actor as a president and he actually was articulate and made sense, even though I’m a Democrat not a Republican.”

“We’re nostalgic for the ‘80s because it was a stress-free decade.”

Spielberg sees the present-day context of the film’s release, and that of Cline’s 2011 novel, as problematic enough for us to want to truly escape (and look, he’s not wrong).

“I think with what’s happening in the world right now, and even when Ernie wrote the book, I think we feel there have been times in the past that the present kind of forces us to return to — at least those who existed in the ‘80s.”

But perhaps, for those of us born in the ’90s and later, we’re just super keen on the ’80s because it was goddamn cool — anyone born after 1990 who’s watched Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, The Breakfast Club, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off has probably gone to a party in costume from these films. Just look at the kids from Stranger Things.

“Even those who didn’t can still relate to the movie not having been born in the ‘80s because of social media, YouTube and Google — the ‘80s, the ‘70s, even decade is so accessible to all of us today,” said Spielberg.

Ready Player One hits theatres March 29.

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