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Looking Back at SFU’s Groovy 1988 Promo Video

ARTIFACT: It’s cringy and dated, sure. But the kids. They were just like us.

Olamide Olaniyan 29 Nov 2019 | TheTyee.ca

Olamide Olaniyan is The Tyee’s editorial assistant.

It’s the summer of ’88. The horror of Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” has just been unleashed on an unsuspecting world, while the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles rampage on TV. NASA’s James Hansen warns the U.S. Congress about climate change.

And high school grads were preparing to leave friends and family and enter a wonderful new and scary world, rich with possibilities.

Simon Fraser University decided to woo the students with a promotional video. And a generation later, it highlights how much has — and hasn’t — changed.

Gaze into the faces of the young students in the video, and you’ll see how much they have in common with today’s youth. The light in their eyes. Their shaky and uncertain manner. They seem both eager to take on the world, and hesitant, maybe even frightened, about what might come next.

SFU: The Next Step, produced by Michael Collier’s Yaletown Productions Inc., is a delicious slice of the past that kept me fascinated from start to end. (I watched Mad Men, after all.)

As the resident young person at The Tyee, a millennial rising on the cusp of Gen Z, I am obliged to tell you much has changed. This colourful, earnest and kitschy production is an artifact (like most pre-1990 productions).

For people entering university today, the video, with its 3D graphics and cheesy soundtrack, is either cringy or bloodcurdling. The voiceover — with phrases like “interactive videodisc” and promises that “Teleconferencing links you with the world” — sent me into an existential spiral. And the hairstyles, clothes and glasses were haunting. Especially the glasses.

582px version of GlassesLaughing.jpg
These goggle glasses must be witnessed by all (sorry to this man).

It all seems so far away, even though it was only a generation. Though SFU looks as brutalist and beautiful as it always has. (As a UBC alum, I am obligated to say this.)

I wonder if future generations will look back on videos from today and laugh as I did when I saw this one. Or if they will be living in a Mad Max hellscape, with no time or technology to let them look wistfully at the past.

Still, it’s refreshing to see that some things are the same, that the present generation of youth are not vastly different from those that came before.

The somewhat boring truth, as this video largely illustrates, is that young people have always been worried about the same things (at least for much of modern history). They face fears about “finding a job and keeping a job” and their place in the world. They share the worry of a student in the video: “You’re always scared you’re not going to be good enough.”

The big question — “What are your plans?” — hangs over young people today just as it did three decades ago.

And the big fear — “Will we screw things up?” — still haunts them, just as it has haunted other youth throughout history.

And really, isn’t that the fear that we all have?  [Tyee]

Read more: Video, Education, Media

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