As part of the Discovery 1983 Project I sat down to write a list of what came out in that year that I would like to write about over the course of this year.
I gave up.
Not giving up the project, or writing, but giving up trying to compile a list of every media release from one year that I would like to explore in 2019. Movies alone I’m over 100 films, many of which will be near impossible to find on streaming or in print. Some of the albums are out of print and expensive, and there are far more key comics from this year than I expected. That Amazing Spider-Man issue with the Hobgoblin on the cover is not going to be found for a dollar.
For the last few years I’ve heard many people complain that there is just too much these days. All of the network and cable channel shows, plus the streaming services. Then there are the movies, music, comics, books, digital, subscription. Pop culture nearly requires a personal to do list. Dishes, laundry, groceries, bank, dry cleaning, Stranger Things, Castle Rock, Spider-Verse, make dinner. In my ignorance I thought this was a modern problem thanks to the internet. However, as I dive into one year I see it’s a problem that has always existed but thanks to social media is amplified.
If anything there was probably more content to buy in 1983 and other vintage years. Emphasis on “to buy”. For this project I have searched the near by remaining stores that sell any media. This leaves Walmart, Target, FYE, Best Buy and Barnes and Noble within 30 miles. Five large companies with good size stores. I can’t find a single thing I’m looking for for this project. Yes, some of the items are obscure – which is part of the point of the project – but I should be able to find Ozzy, Kiss, movies based on Stephen King books. Even though super heroes and graphic novels are more popular now, I’m not even trying to find any from this year. Images of record and book stores from the early 1980’s show more quantity than stores today can sniff at. No Funko Pops or action figures, barely any t-shirts. It’s vinyl and paper for miles. My hands are being forced to not buy at any of these stores and to instead take my money online and download or stream all that I’m looking for.
Which is why I say there was more to buy then. To walk or drive to your local store, dig through the shelves and bins for hours, then take home your treasures to enjoy over and over again. Now the ease of renting (don’t ever think you permanently own anything digital) gives the illusion of more choices. Clicking the arrows on a remote from your couch is far less exhausting than perusing a store. Walking through Pop’s Video Store and looking at 100 VHS takes much longer than hitting the right arrow 100 times in Netflix. Still 100 titles, but one seems so easy and convenient whereas the other involves the back breaking work of moving your eyes in a store.
It leads to an abandonment of what came before that will get worse. To pick one film, I can’t buy the Godfather at Wal-Mart right now. Nor Target. Nor is it on Netflix. The Godfather. I’m not talking about an obscure horror movie I found for a quarter at a yard sale. So how would a young movie lover find the film? The two most obvious and easiest options are out. Sure, this film fan could go on Amazon and order a copy, but with everything streaming does he even have a DVD player hooked up to a TV? It shouldn’t be this complicated to watch a movie.
What will happen as these deals expire? Most of the created for streaming content aren’t released on DVD or Blu Ray. And certainly not in the new Ultra 4K. When the production companies don’t renew their contracts these shows and movies now disappear. When my son is my age and wants to look up the movie he saw on Netflix in 2019, he’s going to have trouble. YouTube content will be near impossible. There will be a digital version of out of print and another generation of fans trying to find any scrap of forgotten shows from their childhood.
While I can’t consume all that I’ve already discovered from 1983 I hope that it signs a light into a forgotten collection. A movie I see in May could inspire someone else to watch that, plus another film I didn’t choose to view. Strange Brew was all but forgotten since 1983 and now re-discovered by a new generation. They then discover John Candy, and SCTV and related works. My son and his friends will find some bootleg download of Orange is the New Black.