The high school movie landscape of today is a much different place than it was in the 1980s. In today’s teen comedies — they still make the occasional teen comedy, right? — everybody’s chill with each other and acceptance and tolerance are core principles. The high school movie universe of the ’80s, though, was a terrifying place where anybody who was slightly different or didn’t have the athleticism of an Olympic athlete was subject to regular humiliation in front of the opposite sex. Hiding inside one’s locker or the school nurse’s office was the only safe haven. The ruthless ruler of high school and college campuses in ’80s movies was of course — the bully.
The ’80s teen bully was a unique creature. He could be a jock that would destroy a nerd if said nerd’s blood happened to splatter on his letterman jacket during a pounding, or a prep hiding behind mirrored sunglasses that engaged in a more psychological sort of torment. There’s even the occasional redneck bully. But is there a perfect ’80s teen bully, one that commands more fear and dispenses more douchery than all other ’80s bullies? If not, why not create one? Oh… those are all good reasons. Nonetheless, we’re going to do it and hope that the end result can be tamed by evolved societal norms, or maybe a taser.
A number of classic ’80s teen movies celebrated their 30th anniversaries this year (Back to the Future, Teen Wolf, Better Off Dead, Weird Science), so in the name of science, let’s strap a bra on our heads and make the perfect ’80s bully.
Ingredient #1: The Look
The right look is essential to the perfect ’80s bully. They must command both fear and admiration. There are a few different choices to go with, but for this combo to reach maximum asshole potential, we’ll mix together the two most prominent ’80s bully styles: the jock and the prep. It’s not essential that the bully come from money — Matt Dillon did a fine job making high school miserable as a lower class thug in My Bodyguard — but he holds even more power over his nerd prey if he comes from money.
Ingredient #2: The Jock
The jock wields his athleticism over his prey at every opportunity possible and the perfect example of this is Roy Stalin from Better Off Dead. Played by Aaron Dozier, Roy looks about 38-years old but is supposed to only be a high school senior. Roy not only screws John Cusack out of a spot on the school’s ski team, but uses his superior athletic skills to steal his girlfriend in the process.
Another classic 80s jock is Stan Gable from Revenge of the Nerds. Unlike Roy, Stan doesn’t even go after a worthy target but instead sets his aim on a freshmen group of intellectual outcasts. He probably has 50 pounds over any of the guys in Lambda Lambda Lambda and spends the majority of his time in the gym working on his biceps so that he can throw people out of dorm windows with ease.
Ingredient #3: The Prep
What the ’80s prep lacks in any sort of physical mass or athleticism, he makes up for with unquestioned wealth and unprecedented snobbishness. He’s the kind of douchebag that would drive past a hungry group of orphans in his Porsche and threaten anybody that dare question his designer clothing labels. Steff McKee played by James Spader in Pretty in Pink and Teddy Beckersted played by Matt Mulhern in One Crazy Summer are two of the quintessential ’80s prep bullies. Both are blonde, stylish, drive nice cars, and probably literally lack an understanding of the definition of “work.” They probably couldn’t do much physical damage, but wield power through their father’s stock portfolio and somehow manage to be intimidating while wearing linen shirts and loafers.
Ingredient #4: The Lunk
Not athletes so much as they’re just big kids with overaggressive fists and under-active minds. If we’re looking to up the testosterone and dim the IQ of our monster, throwing a bit of Biff from Back to the Future and Chet from Weird Science will certainly accomplish that.
Ingredient #5: The Crew
The crew that the ’80s bully surrounds himself with are both essential and completely unimportant at the same time. Think about it, how many flunkies can you name from ’80s movies? Aside from Ogre in Revenge of the Nerds, the crew that hovers around the teen movie bully is primarily made up of a bunch of nameless hanger-ons. They’re mostly there to stand around the bully and utter out lines like “Hey, check out the dweeb” or “He’s getting away!” Pretty much any randos will do as long as their hair isn’t more stylish than the main bully.
Ingredient #6: The Finishing Touches
Just a few miscellaneous finishing touches. The perfect ’80s movie bully should have a dickhead father who pointed him down this road. He should possess a hidden talent that might get him ostracized and tossed from his spot atop the high school food chain (let’s call this our fail-safe should this creation run amok), he needs to own a car (purely for the superiority that that feeds into a person), and he has to know his way around a boat should a regatta break out, as they often did in ’80s movies.
Just what sort of school menace would emerge from a science lab made simply to create the perfect 1980s teen movie bully? Well, pretty much he would be a spitting image of actor William Zabka. No lunchroom or high school hallway was safe when this on-screen prick was around. Zabka had the blonde feathered hair, the stylish clothes, and the physical prowess to rough up any punk kid from New Jersey who made a move on his girl. All of this likely explains why he played a high school dickhead in not one, but three ’80s teen movies: The Karate Kid, Just One of the Guys, and Back to School. There is no better smug smirk of douchery than William Zabka, he IS the quintessential 1980s movie a-hole. And if we imbued him with the powers of all other great and terrible ’80s bullies, he would be a challenging foe were it not for the fact that we have all organically been assembled by the wisdom of Marty McFly and all the other bully-beaters from ’80s films, making Super Zabka a fly to our windshield.