Kerry Stewart 5.11.14 3rd hour AP English/AP U.S. History The 80s

Kerry Stewart
3rd hour
AP English/AP U.S. History
The 80s
The eighties was a decade dedicated to materialism and being the “all about me” era. The
technological advances, fashion, pop culture and the abuse of drugs demonstrated a central
theme of greed, excess and flaunting your self-worth while only caring about yourself. The
music, movies and new technologies marked an almost universal idea of success and appearing
Technology was booming in the 1980s with the rise of personal computers, cellular
phone and internet. The eighties was a time of technological progression for the everyday
individual unlike any other before it. The IBM PC brought about the start of the personal
computer in the everyday home and the invention of the World Wide Web by English physicist,
Tim Berners. (198s News, Events, Popular Culture and Prices) The demand for a cheaper, more
accessible computer brought about competition between companies like Apple and IBM driving
the technology forward. The computer was even named “Machine of the Year” in 1892 by Time
magazine. The computer revolution was in full force by the mid-1980s. “2.8 million computers
were sold in the U.S. in 1982, up from 1.4 million in 1981, which was in turn double the number
sold in 1980.” (President Reagan Seeks Second Term) Millions of people now had access to
personal computers not only in the work place, but in the everyday household to allow for better
management of personal finances, desktop publishing and word-processing than was available in
the past. (Life in the 1980s) While the personal computer may have been the most important
technological advancement of the decade, it was not the only progression. The cell phone was
starting up during the decade. The signal strength wasn’t great, but those who had a cellular
mobile phone or even a car phone were a luxury item for anyone with money. (1970s and ‘80s
Were a Period of Change in American Society)
Fashion in the 80s was all about being big, bright and expensive. Some trends of the
decade included huge earrings, shoulder pads, animal print clothing. All of these styles were
about making a statement, and being noticed. Large earrings were worn to show style and
sophistication. You could find celebrities, teenagers, and even some men rocking the big earring
trend in order to stand out amongst the crowd and look stylish and high-class. (80s Fashion)
Shoulder pads were a big trend in the eighties. They demonstrated a look of power for women in
the decade. The women of the decade dressed to impress, and dressed to gain respect. Women of
this time were increasingly influential in the workplace so the shoulder pad trend correlated with
this. Animal print clothing was a must in the eighties. Anyone who was anyone wore animal
print. It was a very different style compared to other trends of the decade. The print was not real,
but instead of making the clothing look cheap, it made it even more desirable. You could find
people on the streets to high end models on the runway wearing the trend. People wore this to
show that they meant business. Successful people, or those who wished to be successful used the
print to create the illusion of wealth and status. (80s Fashion) Clothing was used as a way of
projecting a sense of power, status and sophistication. People of any class, whether they’re
celebrities or everyday citizens could be seen wearing these trends, and more to demonstrate a
look of power and wealth.
Pop culture in the eighties may be the best example to show the people’s attitudes during
the decade. In Madonna’s song “Material Girl” she illuminates how the 80s have become the
“Me” era, all about material items to demonstrate self-worth. “You know that we are living in a
material world” The movies, television shows and music were all about standing out, making
money and material items to achieve happiness. In the movie ‘Wall Street,’ they perfectly sum
up the decade with his “greed is good” speech.” Gordon Gekko (played by Michael Douglas) and
he states,
“Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of
the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms –greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge
– has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed – you mark my words – will not only
save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.”
This line embodies the thoughts and feelings going on in the eighties. The people wanted
to get rich and be successful. Although cable became available in the 70s, in the 80s, it became
customary for almost every American household. People of all ages had something to watch,
whether it be ESPN for the stereotypical adult male, Nickelodeon for the kids and the parents of
those kids, CNN for adults that plays 24/7 and MTV for teenagers and young adults. People in
the eighties had the luxuries of television at their disposal like no other decade. MTV may have
been the most influential station, because of the impact of the music industry. The songs of the
eighties were immortalized with videos that greatly exemplified the materialistic values of the
eighties. It became more about the image than about the music itself when videos started by
emphasizing drugs, wealth, bling and fast cars. (Life in the 1980s)
Drugs played a huge role in the eighties. Cocaine was the most widely used recreational
drug of the decade. The highly addictive and cheap drug was being used by celebrities and
regular people alike. Seeing high profile celebrities under the influence of illegal drugs made it
look more glamorous than it really was. “Cocaine and crack were so rampant in the 80s that in a
1986 poll, crack and cocaine won out over alcohol for most abused drug.” This statistic seems
crazy in comparison to today’s drug use. The drug “scare” was becoming an epidemic building
up to the mid-1980s and people called it the “social problem of the decade” People did not care
about what the harmful side effects could be from abusing cocaine. No other decade had one
drug predominately take center stage like in the eighties with cocaine. The materialistic decade
was filled with people obsessed with greed, and themselves. (History of Drug Abuse)
The eighties was time dedicated to materialism and people being all about “Me Me Me.”
The people of the decade used material items and drugs to convey a sense of power, wealth and
status. The technological advances, fashion, popular culture like music and movies and drug
abuse all contributed to the decade’s obsession with getting rich and looking successful.
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