This APA paper explores the unique ideas of Saturn and its effects on social culture. The author argues when Saturn returns approximately every 30 years, culture takes a nostalgic return to the last time the planet repeated this alignment. This sociology essay was written at the undergraduate level as a sample for the Ultius blog.
Video Killed the Radio Star: The Resurgence of Retro
Love and dedication to retro styles and behaviors is not just a reverse social commentary on relentless progress, or a treasuring of the mythologized beloved past, but a fulfillment of a deep psychological need to reverence the completion of cycles in life (even Ultius orders have a lifecycle). The necessity of ritual has been divorce from contemporary culture in the hopes of materializing the psyche into the matrix of unlimited expansion capitalism. However, even within the constraints of this ever-tightening matrix, people around the world have created their own cycles of ritual to preserve their inner peace, affirm their divergent values, and resist the fixation on the future to the annihilation of all things past and present.
Return of Saturn
The current decade’s return of Saturn in celebration of all those who were born during the decade of the 1980s, thirty years ago. As such, the 80s have become idyllic times, which the fashion, music, and culture of today seeks to emblemize. This can be seen, heard, and enjoyed through the enjoyment of New Retro Wave music which (often called Synthwave) is music created today with the tools and styles of the 80s. This music is available for purchase at Bandcamp.com, and Newretrowave.com, and some of the hottest representatives of this style are: Le Cassette, Foret de Vin, Freeweights, Love on Laserdisc, Compilerbau, Electric Youth, Mitch Murder, 20Six Hundred, and Meteor. The artistic styles of artists from this period, and the limitations of the technology (VHS, tracking issues, skipping, fading, etc.) are celebrated in the New Retro Wave genre.
One strong example of this is the short Swedish film Kung Fury. The love child of 30s something return of Saturn celebrating Andy Sandberg (who wrote, directed, and starred in the film), this English-language film pays devastating homage to the action adventure films of the 1980s (Kung Fury). 80s icon, David Hasselhoff, performs the theme song of the film “True Survivor” which features the verve, manly heart, and strong kicking bass which defines this period. Kung Fury features the hilarious and violent exploits of a demonic video game gone on a crazed killing spree, Hackerman, lazer raptors, Thor, and Fury’s partner Tricericop all taking on time traveling Hitler (Kung Fury). While the film is sure to surprise anyone, the amazing 80s riffs will bring anyone alive during the decade into spirals of reminiscence.
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This is all based on the strong psychological and spiritual urge to celebrate the culmination of the cycle of the Return of Saturn. This astrological process is described as,
This is when the planet Saturn comes back to meet your natal Saturn. It takes about 29.5 years for this slow-mover to return to where it was when you were born. The Saturn return hits in the late twenties, and its impact is felt into the early thirties. (Hall)
Thus, the return of Saturn is predominated by a strong feeling of coming again to where one was at their beginning. For many people this is experienced as an extreme sense of nostalgia, and every thirty years culture collectively comes to celebrate and reboot the decade that was three before it.
Astronomically, the return of Saturn is known as a “wake-up call” for those people who may have been coasting unconsciously through their lives on autopilot. While there are dark and light aspects to every major ritual change period, the return of Saturn is often a call to embrace adulthood, and to grow up. Those who can balance the role of adulthood while still playfully including their eternal child self are the people like Andy Sandberg, who was able to channel this yearning for the 80s into a creative expression which many people can resonate with. Those who cannot embrace the message of the cycle’s turn over may have a bit of a crisis, and “The U.S. Census reports a peak of divorces around age 30” (Hall). This period is a time of reassessment of how one’s values and habits are aligned with one’s heart, and depending on the person it is a time of celebration or a time of fear.
At this time the return of Saturn is expressing itself as a resurgent love of all things retro. In the celebration of the 1970s return, “Vinyl sales topped 1.9 million units nationwide in 2008, the most in any year since 1998, and rose another 33 percent in 2009 according to Nielsen SoundScan, the official source of sales records used by the music industry” (Graves). This return has seen the demand for cassette tapes to be created. One of the desires for the cassette represents the desire for limitation and challenge which has been removed with the current ease of technology.
With the cassette, one must wait for the songs to progress, and physically turn the tape over the continue music. The act of rewinding or fast-forwarding appears ridiculously long to those who have used CDs, and is off the charts when comparing to MP3 action. However, this limitation is what so many people are yearning for. With limitation comes a slower pace, forced relaxation, and a sense of being taken care of by things that are out of one’s control. The nearly infinite expanse of choice and opportunity for experience with contemporary MP3 digital music systems offer today can often lead to a ceaseless desire for something else, something more, what’s next, and can pull one out of the present moment experience of listening to the music because of how easy it is to change it. Relating to records,
Plus, the very idea that records will have to be changed or flipped frequently leads to listening experiences that are more purposeful—more of something that’s experienced, and appreciated on a higher level, and not as something simply relegated to the background. (Graves)
While there is much to be logically said for why records have resurged (sound quality, album art, etc.) there is less of a logical pull for cassettes. Unlike the quality of records, which surpass MP3 and CD, “’With cassettes, you have all these sounds compressed onto a piece of 1/8-inch magnetic tape’, says Teenage Cool Kids guitarist Andrew Savage. ‘The more sound you try to jam on there, the more you have to compete with tape hiss’” (Graves). This is an example of pure nostalgia filling in the gaps of actual quality, and represents the desire that the current return of Saturn individuals have for “touching” their past.
Cassettes have a unique feel and shape. They are packed into a little plastic box which holds all these secrets of sound associated with the first music 30 somethings bought on their own. Also, harkening back to limitation, if a kid was going out on their bike, or going to school with their cassette player (invariably Sony) and headphones (one thing no one wants to go back to the quality of the 80s thanks to Dr. Dre’s Beats) they would be faced with the limitation of how many tapes they could bring with them. The limitation of space would require a commitment of what music one would listen to for the entire day, which would often create somewhat of a soundtrack of the day. The multiplicity of choices today somewhat inhibit this feature through the sheer complexity of choices available at the touch of a screen. Critics also point out;
On a more social level, however, cassette’s revitalization is based on cultural implications that, in some circles, are more important than how the end product looks or sounds. Tapes are the modern-day embodiment of the underground DIY ethic that was so prevalent in the 1980s and early 1990s, and led to the success of bands like Sonic Youth. (Graves)
The DIY movement has never gone away, but found a sharp resurgence in the 21st century due in part to the great cheapening and homogenizing of all things under the banner of unlimited expansion capitalism. While those who support the methodology claim the process offers greater choices, the reality appears to be the opposite, as the same crap products are beginning to be found in many corporate chains. People are frustrated that everything costs more and more while being less and less quality and reliable. This was not the case in the 80s, and the DIY movement harkens back to when real investments could be made (Sokol).
Those who choose to hunt for retro/vintage items, or make it themselves are rejecting the easy/cheap commodification of culture (Kasprzak). As psychologist Jennifer Baumgartner illustrates;
The psychology of the vintage purchase is multilayered. Often the impetus is fueled by the excitement of the hunt. It is easy to find current pieces in your local mall or online site, but shopping for vintage is an unparalleled treasure hunt. And the beauty of the process is that you will never know what you will find or learn. (Baumgartner)
This is what retro-minded people are fighting against-the loss of mystery and the many opportunities which come from the unknown. This is a reaction against the current obsession with technology which is seeking to know everything. While there is undoubtable value in the mapping of the entire human genome, there is also unparalleled risk in the power that knowledge enables-such as super, world killing viruses. The retro aesthetic is also a moral aesthetic which does not fear a lack of headlong progress, but is content with the slower pace of life which enables the enjoyment of discoveries, and hopefully the growth of wisdom which will make them less dangerous.
The difficulty of appreciating different styles and approaches of retro stem entirely back from the place Saturn was when a person was born. The ineffable and all-encompassing vibe of that particular time and place, and the peers who are the only ones capable of understanding it is like a psychological time capsule. This disassociation has been seen lately as J.J. Abrams and George Lucas disagree utterly on the direction of the newest Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Anyone familiar with Abrams style was not surprised by the very retro style of the new adaption, but Lucas found it distasteful (Telegraph Film). However, Lucas created the film franchise with an adoring eye to the future, and Abrams comes at it with an eye to celebrate the past. It is unfortunate that these two creative geniuses could not find agreement in their mutual love of the story, but between people today it is hard to find agreement on much.
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This return of Saturn has been a joyous smorgasbord of music, entertainment, and fashion for those who have never really grown out of the circus-like-riot of the 80s. A yearning for culture to slow down is celebrated by those who engage in the DIY of their desires, and the next iteration of the 1990s’ return will definitely have some surprises.
Baumgartner, Jennifer. “The Psychology of Vintage.” Psychology Today, 27 Mar. 2012. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-psychology-dress/201203/the-psychology-vintage
Graves, Cory. “Vinyl Isn’t The Only Retro Format Getting Love These Days.” The Observer, 5 Oct. 2010. Retrieved from: http://www.dallasobserver.com/music/vinyl-isnt-the-only-retro-format-getting-love-these-days-6407143
Hall, Molly. “Saturn Return.” About Religion, 2016. Retrieved from: http://astrology.about.com/od/advancedastrology/p/SaturnReturn.htm
Kasprzak, Emma. “Vintage style: The rise of retro fashion.” BBC, 17 Apr. 2012. Retrieved from: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-17667524
Kung Fury. Dir. Andy Sandberg. Per. Andy Sandberg, Jorma Taccone, and Eleni Young. Lampray, Laser Unicorns, 2015. Retrieved from: http://www.kungfury.com
Sokol, Zach. “Cassette Tapes are almost cool again.” Noisey, 2016. Retrieved from: http://noisey.vice.com/blog/cassette-tapes-are-almost-cool-again
Telegraph Film. “George Lucas thinks The Force Awakens is too ‘retro’, calls Disney ‘white slavers’.” The Telegraph, 31 Dec. 2015. Retrieved from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/film/star-wars-the-force-awakens/george-lucas-disney-criticism/