From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The 1980s refers to the period of and between 1980 and 1989. In the United Kingdom particularly, this decade is often referred to as "the Me decade" and "the Greed decade", reflecting the economic and social climate. In the United States and UK, "yuppie" entered the lexicon, referring to the well-publicized rise of a new middle class within the upper economic strata. College graduates in their late 20s/30s were entering the workplace in prestigious office professions, holding more purchasing power in trendy, luxurious goods.
It was also known as "the purple passage of the late 1980s". The Autumn of Nations led towards the withdrawal of Soviet troops at the conclusion of the Soviet-Afghan War, fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of Cold War. The era was characterized by the blend of conservative family values alongside a period of increased telecommunications, shift towards liberal market economies and the new openness of perestroika and glasnost. This transitional passage also saw massive democratic revolutions such as the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 in China, the Czechoslovak velvet revolution, and the overthrow of the dictatorial regime in Romania and other communist Warsaw Pact states in Central and Eastern Europe. These changes continued to be felt in the 1990s and on into the 21st century.
The 1980s was also an era of tremendous population growth around the world, comparable only to the 1970s or 1990s to being among the largest in human history. This growth occurred not only in developing regions but also developed western nations, where many newborns were the offspring of the largely populated Baby Boomers.
The most prominent events and trends in popular culture of the decade include:
- On the night of 8 December 1980, John Lennon was shot in the back four times outside of Lennon's home in New York City and died.
- On May 11, 1981 Bob Marley died from a lentiginous skin melanoma.
- The decade began with an anti-disco backlash in the US, and '80s music would be characterized by the widespread use of synthesizers and keyboards.
- In the United States, MTV was launched and music videos began to have a huge effect on the record industry. Pop artists such as Michael Jackson, Duran Duran, Prince, Japan Madonna, and Queen mastered the format and helped turned this new product into a profitable business.
- New Wave and Synthpop were developed by many British and American artists, and became popular phenomena throughout the decade, especially in the early and mid eighties.
- Hard rock, heavy metal, and glam metal experienced extreme popularity in 1980s, becoming one of the most dominant music genres of the decade, peaking with the arrival of such bands as Guns N' Roses and Bon Jovi.
- Continuing on from the 1970s, Joan Jett and (in a somewhat lesser extent) Lita Ford continued to challenge gender bias in the hard rock genre following the break up of their former band, The Runaways.
- 1985's Live Aid concert, featuring many artists, promoted attention and action to send food aid to Ethiopia whose people were suffering from a major famine.
- The hip hop scene continued to evolve, gaining recognition and exhibiting a stronger influence on the music industry.
- Punk rock continued to make strides in the musical community; it gave birth to many sub-genres like hardcore, which has continued to be moderately successful, giving birth in turn to a few counterculture movements, most notably the Straight Edge movement which began in the early era of this decade.
- Techno is a form of electronic dance music that emerged in Detroit, Michigan, USA during the mid to late 1980s.
- House music is a style of electronic dance music that originated in Chicago, Illinois, USA in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It was initially popularized in mid-1980s discothèques catering to the African-American, Latino and gay communities, first in Chicago, then in New York City and Detroit. It eventually reached Europe before becoming infused in mainstream pop & dance music worldwide.
- College Rock caught on in the underground scene of the 1980s in a nationwide movement with a distinct D.I.Y approach. Bands like the Pixies, R.E.M., The Replacements, Sonic Youth, etc. experienced success in this genre.
- The keyboard synthesizer and drum machine, introduced in the 1970s, were among the most popular in music in the 1980s, especially in New Wave music. After the 1980s, electronic instruments were no longer popular in rock but continued to be the main component of mainstream pop.
- Michael Jackson was a popular entertainer of the 1980s and his leather jacket, glove and Moonwalk dance were often imitated.
- Madonna was regarded as the most ground breaking female artist of the decade, she was noted for her many fashion incarnations.
- Oscar winners: Ordinary People (1980), Chariots of Fire (1981), Gandhi (1982), Terms of Endearment (1983), Amadeus (1984), Out of Africa (1985), Platoon (1986), The Last Emperor (1987), Rain Man (1988), Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
- The 15 highest-grossing films of the decade are (in order from highest to lowest grossing): E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Batman, Rain Man, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Top Gun, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Back to the Future Part II, Crocodile Dundee, Fatal Attraction and Beverly Hills Cop.
The majority of Hollywood movies in this decade were made for mass audiences. The 1980s tended to consolidate the gains made in the seventies rather than to initiate any new trends equal to the large number of disaster and buddy films that characterized the previous decade.
This was the period when the 'high concept' films were introduced. The movies were supposed to be easily marketable and understandable, and, therefore, they had short cinematic plots that could be summarized in one or two sentences. The modern Hollywood blockbuster is the most popular film from the 1980s. The one who was credited with the creation of the high-concept picture of the modern Hollywood blockbuster was the producer Don Simpson.
- MTV was launched in the United States in 1981.
- Teletext was initially introduced.
- The most prominent TV series of the 1980s include: Alf, The A-Team, Dallas, Knight Rider, MacGyver, Magnum, P.I., Miami Vice, Diff'rent Strokes, The Facts of Life, The Cosby Show, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Night Court, Who's the Boss?, Family Matters, Quantum Leap, Saved by the Bell, Roseanne, Full House, The Golden Girls, Cheers and Family Ties
The very popular British Soap Opera Eastenders aired for the first time on BBC1 on 19 February 1985.
The 1980s was the decade of transformation in television. Cable television became more accessible and therefore, more popular. By the middle of the decade, almost 70% of the American population had cable television and over 85% were paying for cable services such as HBO or Showtime.
The popular animated sitcom The Simpsons debuted in 1989. There were also the TV talk shows that were increasing in popularity and some of the most viewed were the ones hosted by Geraldo Rivera or David Letterman.
- Popular video games include: Pac-Man, Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong, Frogger, Digger, Tetris and Golden Axe.
- Handheld electronic LCD games introduced into the youth market segment.
- North American video game crash of 1983
- The Game Boy is released in 1989 by Nintendo.
- The kitsch of the 1970s, while itself rejected, influenced the fashion of the 1980s – in the beginning of the decade marked by the New Romantic movement and later by fashion inspired by heavy metal bands, including teased hair, ripped jeans and neon clothing.
Significant fashion trends of the 1980s include:
- Perm, Mullet and Hair gel
- Leggings, Leg warmers
- Shoulder Pads
- Pastel colors
- Ray-Ban sunglasses
- Jean jackets
- BMX bicycles gained popularity amongst the youth in the early 1980s.
- The Yo-yo gained popularity amongst the youth in the beginning of the decade as well.
- Fast food chain restaurants such as McDonald's and Burger King experienced a strong increase circulation.
- Rubik's cube became a popular fad throughout the decade.