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Some possibly useful notes on The Eighties, by tropers who remember them and others who don't.

Daily Life:

  • Society was ambivalent about yuppies even at the time. It's true that the "self-made man" (read: greedy, rapacious bastard) was idolized, but yuppies were viewed in roughly the same way that the dot com millionaires of the '90s were: a class of smart, driven young men who made vast fortunes nearly instantly by trading on mumbo-jumbo that nobody else understood. They came in for plenty of ribbing as self-interested, too, much as hipsters are today.
  • The screws really got turned on smoking as the threat of second-hand smoke became fully accepted and gave the tobacco companies the ultimate PR nightmare: it's one thing to manipulate their addicts to rationalize what they are doing to their own bodies, it's quite another to deal with non-smokers who are being threatened by smoking as innocent bystanders.
  • For the most part, the middle class still existed during The Eighties.

Entertainment:

  • Television was going through a rough patch. While many shows were holdovers from The Seventies, the networks had a very hard time keeping new shows on. What shows did survive were massive hits: Cosby, Cheers, Miami Vice, etc.
  • TV shows also started experimenting with settings, no longer were the standard dramas and comedies confined to the three biggest cities. Eight Is Enough was set in Sacramento, for example, while Dueling Show Family was set in Pasadena. Later on, Washington DC and San Francisco became very popular in this respect.
  • This is the decade where Telenovelas began to be known beyond their secluded local markets, with several countries actually knowing for the fisrt time what soaps where being done in other countries of the region (Mexico, the biggest producer of the region, being the exception). Also, productions from Mexico and Venezuela were imported heavily to Spain and other European countries. Spain got such a fever with Crystal, a Venezuelan soap, that their protagonist actors eventually moved and had a quite long career across the pond. Brazilians soaps algo got an small boom, and began to experiment with newer themes and more socially relevant plots, albeit most of these productions began to be more known on other countries on the next decade.
  • In North America, the first really successful fourth TV network since the Dumont Netwok folded began with the Fox Television Network, which began with their first hit, 21 Jump Street, that made Johnny Depp a star (if one really uncomfortable as a Teen Idol.)

Fashion:

  • Eighties Hair tended towards the big and foofy. This was true for men, too -- though never as big as women's hair, men's hair was longish by today's standards, and buzz cuts were extremely rare. Especially in the early '80s, 'fros (afros) hung on from the '70s. Side ponytails and big neon scrunchies were popular among little girls and teenagers. Crimping irons with swappable plates were a must-have, including some that did not work at all as intended, unless you turned your hair into a sheet of hairspray and then didn't move.
  • Jeans weren't baggy -- they were worn as tight as possible.
  • "Preppie style" was big in the early '80s. Mostly this manifested itself as polo shirts, often striped, ideally of the "Izod" brand, whose logo was a little embroidered crocodile (They are NOT "gator shirts"; Izod Lacoste shirts got their name from French tennis player René Lacoste, whose nose gave him the nickname "Le Crocodile". He put a crocodile on his shirts, and it took off from there).
  • Women often wore multiple pairs of socks, one over the other, of contrasting colors. You'd buy your shoes a size or so large for this purpose.
  • Tights could be worn as casual wear instead of trousers. You pulled up your (multiple pairs of) socks right over the bottom of the tights. Legwarmers were optional but popular. They would often be paired with an oversized T-shirt or sweatshirt. T-shirt clips were big in the latter half of the decade through the early 1990's, particularly in neon.
  • Flashdance in 1983 popularized off-the-shoulder sweatshirts, usually with the collar ripped off.
  • For a brief period of time, women, mostly teenage girls, could be seen wearing cut-off denim shorts over sheer tights with sneakers. Unsurprisingly, this look didn't last long, being considered completely terrible even by '80s standards.
  • Given that skintight jeans could be very hard to get on or off over one's feet, some styles had zippers at the back of the ankle. While not terribly widespread, this hung on into the early nineties, until such tight jeans fell out of style.
  • Shoulder pads among women's business suits were also an Acceptable Target with their ridiculously masculine style.
  • Neckties got skinny again around 1979 thanks to Punk Rock. Not everybody wore them, but by '83 or so most people did. They went back out of style later in the decade, but people on the west coast were still wearing them in 1989.

Education/School:

  • Personal computers (particularly the Apple II) made their grand entrance into education during this decade, especially around the midpoint and after. Schools built dedicated computer labs to teach students typing, a skill that they (correctly) guessed would become very important in the coming years for more than just secretaries. These school computers also had games like Oregon Trail, loved by teachers for its ability to teach students history, and loved by students for granting them the opportunity to shoot everything between the Mississippi River and the Willamette Valley.

Food and Drink:

  • Coca-Cola and Pepsi were at each other's throats during the "Cola Wars", pulling out all the stops with their advertising. In 1985, Coke garnered quite a bit of controversy by reformulating their classic recipe, causing sales to plummet. They had quickly switched back to the old, marketing it as "Coca-Cola Classic", thus saving sales.
  • Similarly, McDonald's and Burger King were undergoing a "Fast Food War" similar to this.
  • A dog by the name of Spuds Mckinzey was the mascot for Budweiser Beer.

Headlines:

  • There was, frankly, a lot to fear in the '80s. The US was still at war, and getting nuked was a frighteningly plausible possibility. A string of post-apocalyptic movies, like The Day After, Testament and Threads, helped keep the fear bubbling. The Chernobyl meltdown made people queasy about even peaceful applications of nuclear technology.
    • The corollary to all the Cold War fear was that, when the Soviet Union collapsed like a pricked soap bubble at the end of the decade, there was a huge sense of relief and hope for the future.
  • A man by the name of John Hinckley Jr., in an attempt to impress his love Jodie Foster, tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981 after addressing an AFL-CIO conference. All of the shooting victims have survived.

The Home:

Music:

  • New Wave became one of the signature sounds of the '80s, starting in the Britain in the '70s but really garnering popularity in the United States around this decade. Artists such as A Flock of Seagulls, Duran Duran, Talking Heads, The Buggles, and Depeche Mode garnered big hits.
  • MTV was born August 1, 1981, playing music videos all day, everyday.
  • Michael Jackson immortalized himself as the King of Pop during this time, scoring hits such as "Billie Jean", "Thriller", and "Beat It".
  • Those bored with pop radio tuned their radios to the left side of the dial and listened to College Radio. The artists who played on these stations were Post Punk guitar bands who performed what would later be called "Alternative Rock", were often signed to small labels and usually toured the United States in a beat-up van. The "modern rock" radio format sprung up near the end of the decade just as college favorites like REM and Midnight Oil began receiving mainstream attention and these early pop successes paved the way for alternative rock becoming a major music genre in the 1990's.
  • Metal was in, especially towards the end of the decade. As well as the mainstream scene which was focused on Glam Metal, there was a massive underground, especially in the United States and Germany. There were no My Space, YouTube, or Metal-Archives at the time. Underground music circulated through fanzines (Kerrang! started in 1981 as an underground fanzine), compilation albums issued by record labels, and tape trading (how Metallica first got big). Tape trading was surrounded by a lot of rules and rituals that would seem completely alien to someone used to peer-to-peer downloading. Part of this was due to the limits of tapes--every copy ("generation") of a bootleg was inferior to the source it was copied from. Although subgenres started to coalesce towards the late 1980s, the sort of obsessive subgenre hair-splitting common among today's metal fans did not exist. Most of the underground bands made fun of glam (Dave Mustaine called it "Gay L.A. Metal") but that was about it.

Local Issues:

Social Concerns:

  • With new drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine coming into play, The War on Drugs was at its most prevalent and Anvilicious; with school programs such as D.A.R.E. and former first lady Nancy Reagan telling kids to "Just Say No", these had, well, varying degrees of success.
  • There was also a new and terrifying plague: AIDS, whose etiology and pathology was unknown at the time. People were basically dropping dead, and no one knew why. No one even knew how it spread. At first the public lashed back at the groups hardest hit -- gay men and intravenous drug users -- as causing or deserving the disease. That eventually began to fade as the disease forced many people out of the closet like Rock Hudson and suddenly the public finally had to face the fact that gay people were everywhere and were hiding because of the social bullying they were suffering from the public.
  • "Stranger danger" first began to appear in this decade, with parents concerned that their children could be abducted off the street by predatory pedophiles. However, the fact that more sexual abusers are known to their victims, like their own parents, was also exposed to the public's horror as well.
  • The "Satanic Panic" took off and reached its peak in this decade. Spurred on by alleged "true stories" like Michelle Remembers and The Satan Seller (both of which are now widely believed to be fraudulent accounts), there was widespread fear among communities, churches, and even law enforcement and social services that there existed an underground network of devil-worshippers who kidnapped, abused, and sacrificed children and other "innocents" in order to gain power from the Dark Lord. Your next-door neighbors could be conducting virgin sacrifices in their basement and you wouldn't know about it -- until they came for you and your loved ones! Some of the wackier theories even alleged that the Satanists had infiltrated the government, business and the military, and were using their resources to not only cover up their evil, but facilitate it. Hundreds of people saw their lives destroyed by allegations that they were Satanists, with one of the most notable (and sensationalized) incidents being the McMartin preschool case. It got to the point where even Procter & Gamble was accused of being Satanic due to their logo, which they had to change -- they later wound up suing the people who spread the rumors (which caused their stock to plummet) for $19 million.
    • A woman in the U.K. claimed that 1 in 4 British adults was a member of the satanist underground.

Technology:

  • Atari and its 2600 system were leading the way during The Golden Age of Video Games in America, along with dingy arcades as everyone got Pac-Man Fever. Unfortunately, it was Too Good to Last in 1983 with The Crash. All it took was a Japanese company by the name of Nintendo and its little gray toaster (And a Robotic Operating Buddy!) to change it all back in '85. Mario and Luigi went on to become household names with Super Mario Bros., and was the best-selling video game of all time until Wii Sports (also made by Nintendo) stole its thunder in '09. Most parents and Moral Guardians weren't too concerned about home computer games at the time, instead focusing their worries on arcades, which were viewed as hangouts for juvenile delinquents and gangs.
  • Home computing was taking its first baby steps towards becoming a fixture of daily life. Computers like the Apple II, the IBM PC and the Commodore 64 emerged, creating the first generation to know computers as something other than room-sized boxes used only for scientific purposes. Businesses started switching over from typewriters, schools started to build dedicated computer labs (see above), Apple made its famous 1984 ad, and the area around San Jose, California began to become known as "Silicon Valley". The first computer games were also developed during this era, and enjoyed great success in Europe, a market that was never as receptive to home consoles as North America was (during both the Atari and Nintendo eras).
  • The VCR hits the big time, albeit initially impeded by the uncertainties of the VHS/Beta format war, which would redefine the business model of the film industry and the nature of going to the movies itself.
    • They were also, at first, incredibly expensive: in the early part of the decade, they could cost upwards of $500.00. VHS tapes were also initially very expensive, especially early in the decade, when they sold for seventy bucks a pop. By the end of the decade it had dropped to about forty, still exorbitantly expensive by today's standards for movies.
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