Ah, back to school season in the ’80s. When the biggest dilemma was whether or not to help your nerdy classmate become popular in exchange for a payment of $1,000. This is child’s play compared to the angst and parental guilt that this year’s pandemic back-to-school season has unleashed. Your dad wants to go back to school with you so you won’t drop out of college? Awkward, but nothing compared to dealing with the daily challenges of a Zoom education. As a former teacher, please know that I’m not making light of a very serious situation. To those on the front lines this fall, my heart is with you.
It’s time to escape again, and nostalgia is here for you. If you have a few hours to spare, let the fall excitement wash over you. While life may be monotonous right now, there are some changes on the horizon, such as the changing weather and the promise of fresh school supplies. No, you don’t have to be a student to buy them!! It’s time to get energized and get organized. Keep reading for suggestions on how to go back to school, retro-style. Let’s shop for ’80s school supplies, “get it together” for the new season, and binge watch our favorite campus movies, shall we?!
Start with a Movie
One of my favorite ways to get motivated is to watch a movie…about characters who are motivated! With so many ’80s campus movies to choose from, this list isn’t pretending to be comprehensive. But it’s a good place to start. Here are a few Mirror80 favorites:
Can’t Buy Me Love – When you “borrow” your mom’s $1,000 white suede outfit and it gets doused with red wine, WHY NOT agree to help the lawn boy become popular at school for a fee of exactly $1,000?! This movie has it all: ’80s Arizona interiors, loads of high school fashion, a plot centered around the ultimate meaninglessness of cliques, and an epic dance scene. Plus, Patrick Dempsey before Grey’s Anatomy. I recently escaped into this movie on a rare afternoon when I had a little time to spare. It completely and totally holds up, and the two strong leads have a certain heart and soul that transcends the high school years.
Pretty in Pink – Speaking of campus movies that inspire you to rise above the clique scene, Pretty in Pink is another ’80s treasure that totally and completely holds up. Written by John Hughes and directed by Howard Deutch, this is more than an “opposites attract” love story. If you’re not into truly romantic movies, just be in it for the ’80s-meets-vintage wardrobe. Or the New Order soundtrack. After watching the prom dress montage with “Thieves Like Us” blaring in the background, ask yourself what your prom dress is this season, and create something wonderful that will help dig you out of the epic hole known as 2020. Check out Mirror80’s Pretty in Pink archives here.
Just One of the Guys – While the gender stereotypes reinforced by this film feel very outdated by today’s standards, the premise that a girl would have to pretend to be a guy to be recognized professionally is still relevant on many levels. The amazing cast and undeniable comedy make this 1985 classic a truly enjoyable experience. Seriously, laughing along with this movie literally saved me one summer (in the late ’90s) when I ran fever for 10 days straight. On day 8 I discovered that this was playing on cable 2-3 times per day, and let’s just say that I made a quick recovery after a few viewings. Plus, William Zabka once again plays the campus villain (see the Back to School section below). And yes, that’s a young Sherilyn Fenn in the photo above, along with lead actress Joyce Hyser!
Back to School – I totally should have included a photo featuring Rodney Dangerfield, the star of this film, but I couldn’t resist this screen shot of cast members Robert Downey Jr., Keith Gordon, Terry Farrell and William Zabka. When Gordon’s character ponders dropping out of school, his business tycoon dad (Dangerfield) enrolls so they can go through the college experience together. There are so many reasons to love this film, from the ’80s modern interiors of Dangerfield’s house (before he goes back to school), to the fashion…to that crazy-epic dorm room that features many a 1980s design trend. Throw in Oingo Boingo playing at a kegger, and there’s just no other way to go on a Friday night. More on Back to School in this Mirror80 feature.
Night of the Creeps – This is what you get when you combine pledge week with aliens and zombies. I should probably just stop typing so you can watch asap, but I have to reinforce what a truly great film this is, thanks to an incredibly strong cast and the magic of writer/director Fred Dekker. There’s just something about a movie where the writer has creative control, and this one does not disappoint! For more info on Night of the Creeps, check out this Mirror80 feature. I’ll end with a quote from the film: “This is college life. There’s toilet paper in the trees. Spring is in the air. We’re a couple of bitchin’ guys on the prowl for major-league babes.” Need another reason to watch?!!!
Real Genius – I recently recommended this movie to a friend by explaining the smartly written script. I stand behind my description, but it inadvertently undermines what a truly fun, quintessentially ’80s film we’re dealing with here. Yes, we’re focused on college geniuses who are working to develop an extremely powerful laser (in the age of Star Wars, is there anything more ’80s?!), but it’s the wonderful comedy and the irreverence of the dialogue (largely due to the timing of Val Kilmer) that make this cult classic prime for repeat viewings. And these were the days of musical montages that lasted the length of a song, so get ready for some amazing synth tracks, plus a killer ’80s scientific aesthetic. Real Genius turned 35 last month. This article pays homage to the film. Happy viewing!
Do a Little Shopping
Now that you’ve gotten a burst of energy from some campus movie binge watching, it’s time to make some plans, to turn 2020 around, to get off the couch. Even if you’re still on a pretty high level on lockdown, you can set personal goals and have fun doing a little online shopping! Here are a few ’80s school supplies currently featured on Etsy…
’80s fruit erasers from Brown Eyed Rose Vintage:
1980s pencils from Lindsey’s Whimsy:
’80s Stuart Hall pocket portfolio folders from Hintz of Vintage:
There is SO MUCH out there to shop for, including new school supplies with ’80s flair. They’re affordable, and they’ll freshen up your desk so you can enjoy making lists of things to do while stuck at home. Here’s a shot from a Mirror80 photo shoot featuring some retro-fabulous school supplies, along with a back-to-school playlist from a couple of years ago. Enjoy it here.
There’s nothing more therapeutic than making a plan to be productive. A lot of our plans have been sidelined this year, so if you start with the space that surrounds you and the time you have control of, big things can happen. This pandemic has affected all of us in different ways. I have friends and family members with nothing but time (and they’re not thrilled about it), while I’m frantically typing this blog post in what little time I have, thanks to my 7th month of pandemic parenting. My to-do list includes how to keep my house from being overrun with junk and how to carve out some major self-care moments. How to get through the upcoming holidays and make them more meaningful. How to keep life interesting for a young child during this crazy time. What does your list look like?
If you have a little more time, don’t forget to check out Mirror80’s retro school supply post from 2017, complete with a quote quiz. Here’s a sneak peek…
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for a special Halloween edition of Camp Mirror80, coming soon!