Somehow, the sentence “I grew up in Amherst, Massachusetts, in the 1980s” sounds depressing. In truth, growing up there was excruciating. The economy in my town was centered on education. That is not a bad thing in itself, but it bred a smugness which rendered my childhood a minimalist dystopia in which pop culture had to be consumed surreptitiously, just the same as candy bars. Most of the kids my age there had the shared experience of being monitored and judged based on the ratio of hours spent practicing and studying against hours spent in front of the television, assuming there was a television in the house. Growing up in Amherst felt like living in a can of spinach, and transgressions were not punished with physical abuse, but with a frigid disapproval handed down from the Commonwealth’s Puritan founders and mixed with all the humor of the Swiss-German dairy farmers my mother was descended from. Relief came in the unbounded joy of watching the rest of the world funneled through MTV, HBO, and CNN. True, they had the disadvantage of being completely full of shit, but they also offered vogueing, glitter-clad women in high heels, Live Aid, Yo! MTV Raps, 120 Minutes, Club MTV, Blade Runner, The Road Warrior, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Rocky sequels, the Reagan Administration (which, despite its long periods of dullness, fit easily into this programming schedule), and movie promos which led to hitch-hiking trips to the four-screen cineplex in neighboring Hadley, Massachusetts.
more from Ben Marannis at n+1 here.