GLOW: trashing the 1980s?

‘GLOW’ shines a less flattering light on life during the 1980s

Brian Lowry of CNN is delighted that a Netflix series, GLOW, examines the dark side of the decade of Ronald Reagan and hair bands:

The series, about a female wrestling program, has already dealt with sexual harassment, blatantly objectifying women and dismissing them in workplace settings. The new season proceeds along those paths while also tackling homophobia, the AIDS crisis, bulimia, fear of coming out as LGBT and the packaging of xenophobia and racism as entertainment.

CNN

I try to maintain some objectivity here. I am admittedly nostalgic for the 1980s; but the 1980s are also a decade that I remember fondly, for personal reasons that have little to do with broader societal trends. I was a teenager throughout most of that decade, and I lived in the self-absorbed bubble that all teenagers inhabit. 

I’m sure that if you were LGBT in 1985, you did feel a lot more constrained than you would in 2019. There were plenty of openly gay people in Hollywood by then; but yes, being gay was somewhat controversial in environments like suburban Ohio (where I grew up).

There was a fairly obvious, fairly openly gay member of my high school class. He was never physically attacked or outright bullied (so far as I know); but he was very much made to feel like an outsider. He was occasionally teased about his orientation. He has not returned to a single class reunion since we graduated in 1986….One need not wonder why.

On a more immediately personal note: I remember my mom coming home from work, circa 1983, irate and in tears, because her boss had said, “women belong in the kitchen or the bedroom”.  

Her boss had said this jokingly, matter-of-factly, but it nevertheless stung. I often wonder if her life (she passed away in 2015) would have been happier if “political correctness” had come to the workplace a few decades sooner. 

No decade is perfect–including this one. Societal failures, moreover, are not uniformly failures to be sufficiently progressive. Because of lax sexual mores (among other factors),  an unprecedented percentage of children now grow up in single-mother households, with all of the challenges that entails.

Neither my childhood, nor my parents, were perfect. But I benefited from having two married, committed parents, living under the same roof with me. Many children today grow up without that advantage. 

I get what Brian Lowry is saying, but we must always remain vigilant for the bias of presentism: There is a natural tendency to assume that the present age is more advanced, and more “correct” than previous ones, in every imaginable way. History often proves that assumption wrong.