Unit 6: 1980's

Intro 1980's.mp4

The 1980's

Unit Objective

  • You will investigate whether pop culture foreshadows societal shifts or simply reflect current trends

  • You will identify elements within 1980’s pop culture that may indicate future shifts within American Culture

  • You will analyze pop culture trends from the 1940’s through the 1980’s and explain their evolution

The 1980's was an interesting time in American history, while there were many moments of growth and success the United States also experienced a number of setbacks. The decade begins with the United States looking to build the economy and with a growing fascination of television and entertainment it makes perfect sense that Ronald Reagan becomes president of the United States.

Reagan had some big ideas for the economy starting with his Reaganomics policy that stated when you give greater spending power to those with the most money, they will spend that money and stimulate the economy - the idea was known as trickle down economics. This plan cut taxes on the nation's highest earners and decreased government spending on public services and was a huge success for those in the upper percentile, however money did not flow to the middle and working class and ultimately sent the country into a recession. In addition, the national deficit soared and caused major shortfalls in basic government funding.

President Reagan also brought a renewed effort in the War on Drugs. Particular efforts were focused on a new drug gaining popularity in the United States, Crack, along with marijuana and methamphetamines. The first lady Nancy Reagan helps support the D.A.R.E. program with the motto "Just Say No!" and it was implemented in classrooms all across the country. This initiative put thousands of low level offenders in jail but did little to reduce drug use. While the D.A.R.E. program is still touted as an effective anti-drug tool; it was one of least successful initiatives ever enacted to reduce drug use and combat crime.

The free love and drug movements of the 1960's and 1970's also had a secondary effect on the 1980's besides the war on drugs. A new disease HIV/AIDS emerged in the 1980's and caused mass panic and fear throughout the nation and the world. The disease was quickly associated with the male homosexual community and created a dramatic rise in homophobia, discrimination and oppression. HIV/AIDS brought an end to the sexual revolution era of decades past. People were not just afraid of contracting this deadly disease because of the health affects, they were also afraid of being labeled as homosexual because of its negative connotation.

International relations during the 1980's was a complicated time for the United States. America inserted themselves in a number of conflicts in the middle east as American businesses sought to capitalize on huge oil reserves and the United States wanted to ensure communist nations like Russia and China did not get these reserves first. This created a complex and confounding series of events as the United States provided military weapons and funding to rebel forces who at times also attacked the United States. These forces eventually become the Taliban.

But, perhaps the biggest event of the 1980's was the unofficial end of the Cold War with the USSR in 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell and ended the separation between the eastern and the western world. Ending this decades-long conflict opened up the door to new opportunities and allowed the world to move forward. The USSR had also gone broke during this nearly 50 year conflict and this armistice would allow Russia to rebuild and focus on stabilizing their economy. The Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986 also helped bring the the United States and the USSR together as it put the reality of this conflict into perspective and prevented an even bigger catastrophe.

Technology in the 1980’s provided us with greater access to information and to one another. It creates a number of obstacles along with countless opportunities and while America definitely saw its share of obstacles in the 1980s it took advantage of the opportunities that the decade presented.