We have reached the point where the 1980s has become an era for which people feel nostalgia. This is because those people who were born in the ‘80s are now in their late thirties or early forties and so have begun to look back fondly on the time during which they were born and grew up; especially since their own children are now the same age as they were then. At the same time, a generation with no memory of the period—the Zoomers—has come to adolescence and young adulthood and can also look back on a period they know from repeated films and TV series with nostalgia.
The trend was first in evidence around 2014, with synthwave and neon-glazed imagery in full vogue; it had a certain political significance, for the ‘80s was a right-wing decade—in some respects a cool and aggressive decade, embodied by Schwarzenegger—that culminated in Communism’s defeat; if a generation spans about twenty years, then the right’s return with Brexit and Trump marked the cyclical backwash to the right—absent from 1992 to roughly 2014. The 1980s feels purple and neon; it feels crepuscular, the pastel-purple evening light that melts into man-made neon—and twilight is the time when wisdom rises, and the right is associated with wisdom.
However, the nostalgia is somewhat delusional. I have even seen youngsters celebrate 1980s popular culture as a time when there were no “woke” issues in evidence: in this 1980s fantasy, men were men and women were women—and all was right with the world; even more laughably, some people even suggest this was true for the 1990s—perhaps they merely troll. In reality, the 1980s represented temporary uptick on a chart that would—if you zoomed out enough—show a long-term decline; the 1980s provided a respite, a Golden Age as oasis in the desert of decline. Indeed, what is today called “wokeness” was evident in a fully articulated mainstream form in the 1980s; and this is partly because wokeness is progressive liberalism, it is the West’s civic religion—only the iteration changes slightly, but even the iteration that we know today was out there in the 1980s.
In James Cameron’s blockbuster hit Aliens (1986), we see what is recognisably today’s woke ideology fully articulated. The Alien franchise has always been feminist: the heroine Ripley is a strong, independent woman; the alien, the Xenomorph, represents masculinity—it “impregnates” people with a phallic object; and its birth will kill you. As such, the franchise conveys an anti-natal message: women must be strong and independent and avoid impregnation by men, since this will only produce killing machines (Xenomorphs-boys) to serve as advanced weapons for corporations—the ultimate goal for the corporation that employs Ripley.
In Aliens, Ripley is sent back with a company of tough Space Marines to the world from the original film on which she first encountered the Xenomorph; yet the men in this company—particularly the white men—prove to be useless incompetent cowards; only one Space Marine proves to be any good, but Ripley has to rescue him and he ends the film bandaged and disabled. Ripley rescues a female child—a lone survivor from a space colony, only a girl could survive the alien onslaught. She adopts the child, to have your own children is bad—and at the film’s conclusion Ripley exterminates the mother Xenomorph and her brood with a flamethrower; to be a mother is evil, the mother must be burned to death.
Within the Space Marine company, we find a tough Latina with a crewcut who is more masculine than any man and semiotically a butch lesbian; we also find a black drill sergeant, archetypally with a heart of gold—more competent than any white character; and, finally, a kick-ass girl pilot who flies everyone about the planet. The bad guy is a representative—a white man, natch—from the company that employs Ripley; he betrays everyone for a quick profit: property and corporations are evil—only interested in the Xenomorph as a weapon and willing to make any sacrifice to use it as such. The basic story: white men are incompetent and useless, if not actively evil; women should rely on themselves and avoid motherhood; and the only other people you can vaguely count on are ethnic and sexual minorities. Sound familiar?
Aliens could be released today and be considered perfectly woke; perhaps there are too many white men among the Space Marines, and that would be reduced—otherwise it would be ideologically perfect, even the Latina is so masculine that she is practically trans. Cameron’s films are often very leftist, from Titanic’s (1997) class war theme to Avatar’s (2009) cartoonish “masculine Western colonialism bad, indigenous Mother Earth good” storyline. From a leftist perspective this makes no sense, Cameron’s films are mass spectacles that make oodles of money; surely he should propagandise for “capitalism”, not against it? Yet the right is really about responsibility, not profit; money-grubbing materialism and communism are two sides of the same coin, both are based on envy. What has value is made from love, from excellence—from love of excellence. However, Cameron makes films for the masses and the masses thrive on envy, irresponsibility, and degenerate novelty—particularly in a democracy, an envy machine.
Consequently, Cameron’s films are very progressive, it maximises profit and viewership; his irresponsible and greedy white villains project his own nature onto the screen. “Wokeness” is recognisable in popular culture as far back as the 1940s and beyond; it is just our perverted civic religion, and it has been around for centuries. The problem is that man lives in a very narrow temporal horizon and it takes time for young people who are naturally conservative to realise quite how deep the corruption runs, since cultural products from a generation before will seem relatively healthier than what is produced now. Of course, in general, what people call “popular culture”—mass entertainment—represents a degenerate activity in and of itself.