We Generation Xers have a strong attachment to the pop cultural artifacts of our youth. Perhaps that’s why executives at movie studios think that making films about our cherished ’70s- and ’80s-era playthings — from Transformers to the board game Battleship — is a great idea.
It’s certainly why writers Gael Fashingbauer Cooper and Brian Bellmont wrote their new book, “Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops?” (Perigree Trade Paperback, $12.95), a reference guide to the TV shows, snack foods, toys and trends from the time of Sea-Monkeys and “Schoolhouse Rock!”
Naturally some of the items highlighted in the book are still with us (the Harlem Globetrotters, Weebles) or have been updated for a more modern era (see the remodeled versions of Strawberry Shortcake and “The Electric Company”). Still others have gone the way of Sassy magazine: permanently out of print.
But I think a few more of the extinct favorites mentioned in “Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops?”could become culturally revelant again, if given the proper revamp. I consulted with Cooper and Bellmont — who also co-author the blog genxtinct — to get their thoughts about a few more Atari-era items that have a shot at a comeback.
Fashion Plates, the toy for the budding designer, consisted of interchangeable plastic stencils that allowed kids to trace various models’ faces, skirts, pants, tops and shoes, creating an endless number of models wearing a vast variety of chic ensembles.
Suggested 2011 version: Fashion Plates based on Kate Middleton.
Cooper: “With shows like ‘Project Runway,’ kids are learning that clothing designing is something they can actually get into. . . .They have [Middleton] paper dolls, so why not?”
Bellmont: “Technology is kind of driving how a lot of these things could come back. My 4-year-old daughter has a princess app that works a lot like Fashion Plates.”
Verdict: Could make a comeback, at least as an app.
TV theme songs
Once upon a time, TV theme songs made sure we understood the premise of the show (“Here’s the story of a lovely lady...”) or were so catchy that they became pop hits in their own right. These days, they either borrow from existing tunes or fail to be hummable. (Go ahead, hum the theme from “Mad Men.” I’ll wait.)
Suggested 2011 version: No major revamp here. Just start giving us more “Jeffersons”-style gems, please!
Bellmont: “They wanted to shorten them up so they could have more time to sell ads in ... This is a little facetious, but it might end up being a sponsored part of the show.”
Cooper: “I wish they would come back. I think they’re awesome. The [current] one we cited in the book — and we did really have to look for one that did that, where it told a story — was ‘Family Guy.’”
Verdict: With a few Seth MacFarlane-related exceptions, original theme songs seem unlikely to make a universal return, even with corporate sponsorships.
The Scholastic Press publication, which existed from 1974 to 1992 , delivered kid-friendly pop culture features to the elementary school-aged masses, along with the regular complaint column, “Bummers.”
Cooper: “There are magazines for kids. There’s still Highlights, of course, then they have High 5, which is for the slightly younger [readers] ... What’s kind of sad to me is it seems like if they had a magazine and they aimed it at kids these days, it would be so much more like Tiger Beat. It would be, here’s Justin Bieber, every single week.”
Bellmont: “It was very pop culture-focused for us, even then. I remember the first time I picked up Entertainment Weekly, that was the first thought that went through my head. ‘Wow, this is just like Dynamite.’ And it kind of is. It’s all the stuff we’re interested in, for older people.”
Verdict: Again, probably not coming back. Adults who crave Bummers will have to go with the more potty-mouthed (and funnier) FML, at least until some enterprising individual starts a Bummers tumblr.
The underwear that “was fun to wear” — because it looked like a superhero costume. As the book notes, Fruit of the Loom still manufactures sets for kids, but they aren’t the craze they once were.
Suggested 2011 version: Underoos for adults that look exactly like the ones we wore back in the day.
Cooper: “It’s such a fun word, and the jingle was fun ... Everything about that hit on so many levels.”
Bellmont: “I would love to see those. And who knows? I might have some on as we speak.”
Verdict: Yes, adults would happily wear Superman and Wonder Woman underoos ... if they aren’t already.