The 1980s – A Cultural Wasteland or A Rich Part of History?

Thanks for joining me for another installment of ‘That’s So Last Century!’

The 1980s was a decade of conflict, little progress, and impossible fashion.

In the news:

*Assassination attempts on the Pope and President ReaganRonald Reagan, TIME magazine

*US Embassy in Beirut bombed

*Prime Minister of India, Indira Ghandi murdered by two bodyguards

*Chernobl Nuclear Accident

*US bombs Libya

*PanAm flight 103 bombed over Lockerbie

*Students massacred in China’s Tienanmen Square

*Exxon Valdez spills upwards of 30 million gallons of oil in Prince William Sound, Alaska

*AIDS is first discovered

* NY Stock Exchange suffers 22.6% drop in value, known as Black Monday

So far, the 1980s were devastating in suffering and sadness.

In good news:

*Sandra Day O’Connor, 1st woman appointed to US Supreme CourtSandra Day O'Connor

*Royal wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana of Wales

*First PC (personal computer) introduced by IBM

*Vietnam War Memorial opens in Washington, DC

*Berlin Wall falls

*Sally Ride, 1st American woman in Space

*DNA first  used to convict criminals

Aaah, this helps lessen the bleakness, but there’s more.

In fashion and pop culture:

*President Bush announces he hates broccoli

*Michael Jackson’s thriller is released

*PG-13 movie rating is announced

*Over-sized shoulder pads make a fashion statement thanks to Dallas and Dynasty

*Cabbage Patch Kids are the must-have of the younger setMadonna

*’Street-urchin’ style becomes popular after Like a Virgin is released

*Fashion style is indiscriminate–Preppy, Metalhead, Rap, Punk

*ET: The Movie is released to become a cult classic

*Flashdance influences ripped sweatshirt popularity; Rap music creates a trend with over-sized gold jewelry, track suits and Kangol hats

*Power suits are what businessmen with money wear, along with narrow lapels and skinny ties

*The Rubix cube baffled most Americans

*Doc Martens were popular with every fashion style

*Urban Cowboy popularized pointy toe cowboy boots and broad-brimmed hats

*John Lennon mused about singing another 40 years a month before he was killed in New York City.

*Miami Vice (t-shirt under expensive pastel jacket), Magnum P.I. (Hawaiian shirts and mustaches), and Valley Girls (headbands, leg warmers and mini skirts) all lent their influence.   

*Some of the top-rated TV shows: Family Ties, The Cosby Show, Hill StreetMarried With Children Blues, MacGyver, The A-Team, Growing Pains, The Golden Girls, The Dukes of Hazard, 60 Minutes, and Married with Children

We worried about the solvency of Social Security and the staggering costs  of healthcare. Gasoline jumped over $1 mark to $1.22 per gallon. We breathed a sigh of relief when home loan rates dropped from 16% to 11%.

 Robert Redford went from acting to directing and immediately won an Oscar for “Ordinary People.” Fans made “The Empire Strikes Back” the top grossing film for the year, and People magazine named it one of the 100 best films of all time. Tom Wolfe’s “The Right Stuff” won the National Book Award for hardcover nonfiction. “The Executioner’s Song” by Norman Mailer earned the Pulitzer for fiction.

A working-class Pole named Lech Walesa became an inspiring world leader. Billy Carter continued as a brotherly embarrassment for the outgoing U.S. president when the U.S. Senate started probing Billy’s trip to Libya. As if Billy Beer wasn’t embarrassing enough.

And Mount St. Helens erupted killing thousands and covering 200 squareMount St. Helens miles of land in pumice and ash.

What a decade! I could go on and on listing all the movies, music and events of the 1980s, but I’d prefer not to see your eyes glaze over. One can only handle just so much glitter.

I suppose to answer the question, ‘Was the decade of the 1980s a Cultural Wasteland or a Rich Part of our history?’ lies in your own perception.  Both of my children were born in that period, and I had the luxury of being a stay-at-home mom, so it had its wonderful moments in my life. I, also, remember it as a time when ‘brand names’ and ‘bigger and better’ were the way of life. New cars, designer jeans, celebrity- influenced hairstyles…a “Look at me” attitude was prevalent.

So, tell me, how do you feel about the 1980s? Were you an adult or a child and what were your perceptions of the time?

You know I love hearing from you and anxiously await your comments!

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20 thoughts on “The 1980s – A Cultural Wasteland or A Rich Part of History?

  1. Great post, Marcia. The 80’s seemed like kind of a blur to me, at the beginning of the decade I was graduating high school, by the end I had a hubby and three kids. When I read your news highlights of the 80’s, I thought it was from last week. Funny how things change but still stay the same. 🙂

    • Funny you said that…things change but still stay the same. I was thinking the same thing as I wrote it…’wow, I thought this decade had a lot of negative stuff going on and the ’80s weren’t much different’. One good thing about having kids young is that you’re still young when they move out on their own…young enough to have time to play with your husband! Thanks for stopping in, Kristin.

  2. What an interesting post. My kids were born in the 80’s so it was a busy time but I loved being able to stay home for a few years to watch them grow. Great memories. I had a curly perm and my husband had natural curls so when I look back at pictures it looks as though we’re sportin’ similiar hairstyles. He shaves his head now…
    Love your blog Marcia!

    • Aww, Kate, you’re a sweetheart, thanks! For a very short time I had a short curly perm too. It was 1985…don’t know what I was thinking! How fun that must be for you and your husband to look back on that pic!

  3. In the 1980’s I met my husband and was working at Price Waterhouse in San Francisco. I recall exactly where I was when the earthquake hit the San Francisco Bay Area in 1989. I remember having BIG permed hair and jogging in leg-warmers and listening to very loud screaming music on my headphones. And falling in love.

  4. Ahhh, the 80’s. That was the best period in my life. I was young (late teens, early twenties), cute, and had hair that stood a foot tall. I was mod, punk, new romantic, and full of attitude. I still have most of the clothes I wore and my kids love to pull them out for Halloween costumes. Gives me a smile every time they do, because there are memories associated with every outfit. Good times.

  5. What an interesting blast from the past. The world moves so quickly now, it’s easy to forget what happened 25 years ago. In the eighties, I was working as a graphic designer, sporting big hair, skinny jeans with little bows on the back, and wondering if I’d ever make enough money to qualify as a Yuppie. (I didn’t) It wasn’t my favorite decade, though I do have a ton of good memories. Can’t help but wonder what we’ll be remembering about this decade 20 years from now.

    • So far this decade has held a lot of happy and sad events like most decades do. If I’m around in 20 years (and I expect to be), my grandkids will be ranging in age from 22-30 and it’ll be fun to see how they’ve grown and what they remember of this decade. Glad you enjoyed the post and welcome, Diana!

  6. Wasn’t a fan of the 80’s although I like you had my children during that era. Music was awful!!! That’s what I remember the most. Remember those lightweight cotton pants men wore with outrageous patterns?? They must have had a name, but I don’t recall. Hideous!

    • Were those parachute pants that the guys wore? Yeah a terrible fashion decade and I only got hooked on a couple of songs from that period. Remember Dana, Jen and Collen singing Cocomo all the way to karate lessons? Oy!

  7. So interesting to see it boiled down like this…as a young adult working and still going to school for my Master’s it seemed a good time. Many people loved the 80s as they were working and making good money…they miss the 80s …I think this is true of many decades that are missed yet they were a difficult time.

    • I agree alot of folks were making a lot of money and it was a good time for many. I remember, as a mom, all the parents with spendthrift ways who had to one-up all the other parents in creating elaborate birthday parties for their kids. The worst was one who rented limos for her 9 yr old and 20 friends to take them to Chuck E. Cheese and back. That was a bit over the top…and she never could top it herself.

  8. I have a love/hate relationship with the 80s, They were my teenage years, and I can’t help but cringe when I look back at pictures of myself in those Madonna getups and “Thriller” jackets. And oh, the BIG hair! But there is much I remember about them fondly, too.

I love it when you tell me what you think!

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