On The Subject Of Escape The Room: 1980s And A Past That We Won't Let Go Of

BY CHRIS CUMMINS

Philadelphia has reached critical mass in terms of groupthink games with the arrival of Escape the Room - 1980s, a would-be nostalgic jaunt backwards in time that is doubtlessly filled with day-glo environs and "do you remember this?" triggers. Perhaps tellingly, the official website for this excursion proudly declares, "You don't need to know anything about the '80s to play!" This makes sense, for such events are not for those who experienced the decade the first time around, but rather for those who wish to reconstruct it into less complicated segments: A Ms. Pac-Man machine here, a can of New Coke there. Unless "Forever Young" or "99 Luftballoons" is playing through a PA while participants try to get free of the room they've spent $28 for the privilege of entering, the presence of the era's nuclear threat will probably go unmentioned. Likewise for Ronald Reagan's ignorance during the throes of the AIDS crisis, and various other societal/social woes of the time. Nostalgia is never accurate, but rather a reflection on an idealized period that never really was — in this case, designed for individuals who only know Dexy's Midnight Runners from the school dance scene in The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  Who wants to look back on the grimy parts of a long-gone era? Where's the fun and money in that?

Which leads to the larger point here: How can one escape the past when it continues to be ever-present? Across the Internet at this very moment, Star Wars is being celebrated through personal reflections and commerce as Facebook urges people to share their recollections of George Lucas' space saga. May the Fourth Be With You, and also with you. Nostalgia is more than ever the thing that binds us together. Despite all the political and social upheaval going on, we can still all agree that the Saved By the Bell episode where Jessie got hooked on caffeine pills was pretty goofy. Valued friends binge Fuller House episodes simply because it's there, with no attachment to the show's predecessor other than it providing a feeling of warmth and familiarity for a time perceived as safer/better. (Cue Don Draper's "Carousel" pitch: Different era, same pablum.) Ghostbusters is returning to theaters, both the original and a new version this summer. M83 just released a new album that takes graphic design cues from Punky Brewster. And on and on and on. Try though you may, there is no escaping the 1980s or the 90s or whatever decade you just can't get over. The future has arrived and it's a reboot.