Thursday, June 17, 2021

Streets of Fire and the 50s-but-80s Setting

On other social media, Paul "GRIDSHOCK 20XX" Vermeren mentioned he had watched Streets of Fire for the first time after hearing that it was influential to Mike Pondsmith. I've seen people call it "proto-cyberpunk" which means, I guess, that they see it as punk without any cyber. While I can see how aspects of it would influence the aesthetics of cyberpunk, I think it's difficult to say it's "proto" anything. It's really more like an evolutionary dead-in; a path that wasn't taken.

I do think, though, that taken on something closer to it's own terms, it would suggest a pretty interesting rpg setting, not by adding cyber or other fantastic elements, but rather doing action or adventure stuff in a world that never was. For lack of a better descriptor, a world where the 80s was more like the 50s. Or maybe the 50s was more like the 80s would work, but I think the former is better.

The styles of cars and clothes resemble the 60s, but the urban sprawl is more like the urban decay of the 70s into the early 80s--where it isn't exaggerated for fanciful effect. There was a long war, which was aesthetically perhaps more like Korea, but the public perception of its pointlessness and the difficulties its soldiers had upon return resemble more the popular conception of Vietnam. The gangs that are sometimes the bogeymen of 80s films just look more like the gangs in The Wild One than the gangs in Fort Apache the Bronx. I feel like the media presence Chaykin pushes in American Flagg! (which is, of course, set in the future but like most sci-fi speaks to the fears/concerns of its era, the 80s) or The Dark Knight Returns, could be interesting translated to 50s television without loosing much.

So what would the characters do other than what we see the characters do in the film? Well, just pick any present-day set 80s action movie and give it a bit of a 50s veneer.


JB said...

Huh. I was completely unfamiliar with this film. I'll have to check it out some time. I could never get Cyberpunk (the RPG) to work for me, and perhaps I need to dig more into Pondsmith's mind. What you describe here (especially your gang description) is intriguing.

Random Randomness said...

Funny you should mention Streets of Fire because when talking about my very basic The Warriors/Escape from New York fan theory someone mentioned Streets of Fire would work in the same world. Just some food for thought.