The Worst Part About 13 Going on 30

The worst part of the movie 13 Going on 30, which I only attended because I love my beautiful wife very much and she’s a great Jennifer Garner fan, is that they got 1987 so very wrong.

For those of you who don’t know, which I pray is most of you, the main character is 13 in 1987 who wishes she were 30. The plot is bang! She is 30, and it’s 2004, and she doesn’t remember anything between now and then. Now that we have that pesky plot out of the way, I can lay into what was really wrong.

Take, for example, the three musical touchstones from the 1980s that reappear throughout the movie:

  • “Love is a Battlefield” by Pat Benatar. The 13 year old in 1987 knows this song by heart. This song was released in 1983 on Live From Earth. It was a very big deal back then, but by 1987, it wasn’t popular.
  • “Thriller” by Michael Jackson. Again, since this album was released in 1982, when the main character would have been 8 years old. By 1987, Bad had been released, redefining Michael Jackson as “tougher” or something. Regardless, the youth of 1987 thought Michael Jackson was gay, werd, and no one would have thought to imitate the dance from the video, which was not getting that much airplay on MTV in 1987.
  • Worst of all, the main character has a crush on Rick Springfield, and she apparently kisses her middle school love interest to the song “Jessie’s Girl”, which came from 1981’s Working Class Dog and didn’t get airplay that a person born in 1974 would have remembered until the 1980s stations started cropping up around the turn of the century.

Those are just the musical misfires in the movie. In 1987, at her thirteenth birthday party, her best friend builds her a dollhouse which contains a stereo and all the record albums she could ever want. Jeez, Louise, record albums? As a dream of a middle schooler in 1987? Audio cassettes had supplanted records by then. Memo to other inept writers: Betamax was gone by then, but laser discs were still struggling along.

Please, spare me the constant Rick Springfield crush notes. In 1987, a girl would more likely have a crush on Jon Bon Jovi or George Michael or Prince.

Even the subtleties of this faux 1987 grate. The love interest shows up in a Trans Am, with long hair over his ears. Teased long hair, okay; mullet, possible. Short, gelled spikes? That was cool in 1987. But the heartthrob wears hair about five years out of style.

I wouldn’t be so agitated by it if they had not specifically set it, within the first minutes of the movie, in 1987. Sure, as we get older, time periods expand so that what’s hip in a particular year is not as important as whether we like the artist or not. Quick, Matchbox 20 had their first hit….Oh, sometime in the mid-to-late 1990s, wot? But when you’re 13 (or 15, as I was in 1987), each individual year and the particulars of fashion are very important, and their impressed into our psyches.

Which is why the authenticity of this movie really did not impress me. It’s obvious that some older writers reached into the grab-bag of the i980s and came out with a couple handfuls of things they might have remembered. Hey, it’s all good retro stuff, huh? Unfortunately, they risked offending, yes, offending a major set of Generation X who lived those years at that age. Or maybe just me.

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