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File:80s pop culture nutshell 7983.jpg
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"Legend has it that man once washed his jeans in pure acid!"
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The Eighties: a time where you go-go when you want to walk like an Egyptian, hear doves cry or feel the Punky power.

All the men were preppies who wore pastel suits with narrow ties, drove sports cars that Lee Iacocca personally stood behind and traded stocks on Wall Street - after all, as Oscar Wilde said, nothing says success like excess. (Unless they happened to be teenagers, in which case they were Totally Radical or studied karate and learnt the meaning of "Wax On, Wax Off".) Everyone had huge hairdos, enough make-up to sink a ship and power suits with shoulderpads big enough to knock the giant mirrored sunglasses off anyone who walked within a three foot radius of them. And those without them had flat-tops and wore gym clothes and break-danced on top of cardboard. Generation Y started being born, one day to become, despite their best efforts, the young adults of The Turn of the Millennium.

Computing technology first became a true cultural force in this decade, starting a trend that would keep on snowballing to this very day. The Eighties was the decade of cell phones literally sized and shaped like bricks, jokes about being unable to program VCRs, the death of Betamax, and the beginnings of personal computers and gaming consoles beginning to proliferate inside homes, perhaps one of the trends from this decade with the largest of cultural implications. Cable television also took off big time, with MTV, TBS, HBO, and CNN becoming household acronyms.

In the US, it was also the first wave of the Japanese Invasion, the inklings of which started in '78 with the dub of Battle of the Planets, continuing on with Star Blazers ('79), Voltron ('84), getting even more hardcore with Robotech in '85, and hitting its apex by cranking the quality Up to Eleven with the nationwide release of Akira ('88).

On the homefront, the 1980s produced a rash of pop-cultural icons that today are looked upon, at worst, with Affectionate Parody, and at best, as the national ideal. The conservative political culture of the era meant two rather contradictory things for the production of pop-culture; on the one hand, the surge of private enterprise together with new media technologies allowed corporations such as Hasbro an unprecedented ability to build massive franchises around their products, typically with a TV show and accompanying toys, but on the other Moral Guardian complaints would challenge the ethics of making a show that was "essentially one large commercial." The result was the rather spoof-worthy And Knowing Is Half the Battle segment common to many mass franchise shows, shoving an Anvilicious moral into the action. Fortunately, these were conveniently located after the actual plot, so kids could just turn it off at that point and run down to buy the toys. Besides, the segments make great joke fodder.

Politically, the first part of the decade, Cold War tensions continued to escalate. Some accuse this of being an intentional move by the West to render the economically inept Soviet Union infeasible by drawing its resources away from things like infrastructure and feeding its people, which market economies could accomplish easily. While this is, essentially, what ended up happening (though more complicated than that in real life; in Eastern Europe the decade's real deathblow to communism was considered to have been all the new media technology), the fact that the other possible outcome of such a strategy was global thermonuclear annihilation had a profound impact on Western media tropes. Most obviously, dystopian Speculative Fiction, particularly set After the End Twenty Minutes Into the Future, enjoyed a surge.

The second part of the decade, however, couldn't be more different. Gorbachev, spry for a CPSU leader at age 54 (this was the only time in the Cold War that the Soviet leader was substantially younger than the American), shook up the by-then sclerotic Soviet leadership upon taking power in 1985. Gorbachev restructured the economy (perestroika) for "accelerated" development (uskoreniye), encouraged openness (glasnost), made tentative moves towards democracy (demokratizatsiya), and went Karting with Reagan. For a hot second in 1988-89, it seemed like the USSR had reached a final rapprochement with the West. And then came The Great Politics Mess-Up.

Throughout this era, there came new problems like the spread of AIDS which created a public health panic that dealt first a body blow to the gay community as homophobes treating them as modern lepers (even though that community took the danger seriously far sooner than others). However, the epidemic paradoxically later proved a partial blessing in disguise for gay rights as stricken people like Rock Hudson were shoved out of the closet, forcing the public to realize that LGBTI people were all around them, much like themselves.

The Eighties also had the highest murder rate in U.S. history, almost twice what it is today.

Politically covers the period from the inauguration of Ronald Reagan and the end of the Iran hostage crisis on January 20, 1981 to the collapse of the Soviet Union on December 25, 1991, so almost 11 years.

Pop-culturally covers the period of Disco Demolition Night on July 12, 1979 to the release of Nirvana's Nevermind album on September 10, 1991, so about 12 years.

Thanks to a common twenty- or thirty-year lag, it's still The Eighties in much of Fictionland. Although The Seventies and The Nineties are gradually returning.

See Also: The Forties, The Fifties, The Sixties, The Seventies, The Nineties, Turn of the Millennium and The New Tens.


Popular tropes from this time period include:


Works that are set/were made in this time period include:\\

(Note: many were also a part of the Nineties; usually those made in the later part of the decade, and are marked with a '*').

Anime


Asian Animation


Comic Books


Comic Strips


Eastern European Animation


Film

For films released in this time period, see Films of the 1980s


Han-guk Manhwa Aenimeisyeon


Literature


Live Action TV

Music

Genres:

Musicians:


Professional Wrestling


Tabletop Games


Video Games

Western Animation


Other



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