This article was originally published in 2018, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Wedding Singer. It is being republished in honor of its 25th.
“I call it the ‘Every Other Decade Theory,’” Marissa Ribisi’s Dazed and Confused character, Cynthia, tells Pink, Jodi, and Kaye at the film’s beer bust. “The ‘50s were boring. The ‘60s rocked. The ‘70s, my god, they obviously suck. So, maybe the ‘80s will be like, radical.”
The line always gets a chuckle. Part of the humor in her hopefulness stems from the fact that Cynthia’s explaining her theory in ’76; as an audience watching Richard Linklater’s out-all-night teen period piece in theaters back in 1993 or a couple of years later on VHS, we already knew that anyone relying on the ‘80s to bail them out was utterly doomed and shit out of luck.
That was our generation’s outlook by the mid-‘90s, a decade whose pop-culture attitudes, in hindsight, seem disproportionately formed as a reaction to the obviously lame decade that preceded it. Pseudo-sociologists painted us in magazines as disaffected slackers rebelling against the empty Reaganism of the ‘80s. I’m not sure about all that, but we were a skeptical and sarcastic bunch – the Beavis and Butt-Head generation who could sit on a couch and call things stupid even if we didn’t quite know why we thought that.
Look no further than the bands topping the charts to see the shift in mindset: leather and spandex had been banished in favor of flannel and ragged tees; hair hung down grimy and unkempt rather than peroxided and coiffed to the hair metal heavens; and a distortion pedal spooked away all the synths and keyboards lurking behind every hard riff that actually had a pair.
The ‘80s had become little more than a punchline: “That’s so ‘80s.”