Remember the Reagan Years?

I’m going to start out by disclaiming I was young then so my experience comes by what I saw personally. My parents were no Reagan fans but many of their friends were. Most if their friends owned businesses and claim he helped keep taxes low and business sales up. However I saw other things that correspond to what we see today. For example, this is the era of the superwoman who worked a lot and came home to do housework. This was partly because that generation of men were brought up with housewife moms. There were also lots of career women. You saw a lot of this on television shows, even sitcoms with families. This was common, and I don’t remember a lot of sitcoms with stay at home moms. This is actually contrary to what I saw a lot because while it was common for mom to work, most moms in my neighborhood seemed to have part time jobs unless they were single. Also important to bring up this seemed to be the decade of workaholics. It seemed to me that it was more and more expected to work over 40 hours. I had friends with parents who were never around due to working. Of course it seemed there were lots of office jobs. Automation and outsourcing eliminated many jobs.

Then there was the threat of war. It was often talked about at school that we may have a nuclear attack. There were movies about this and many were creepy. There was also the space race and how it seemed things got more advanced. We finally got our first female astronaut and of course dealt with tragedy when Challenger exploded. There was definitely a cold war both in fear and trying to beat the Russians in everything.

Pop culture was another thing and it was spurred by materialism. This was the decade where it seemed it was all spend. There was new technology to buy like computers and VCR and who can forget the  Cabbage Patch Kid craze? I wanted one that Christmas and my mom said I’d have to wait until it died down. Eventually I would get two and inherit a third from my Grandma and they sit on my bed. Malls were the hangout and we’d shop and browse. I’d buy the latest album by a New Wave band and play it nonstop.

The 80’s doesn’t have the nostalgic look like earlier decades and I think it’s because it was the beggining of the end. This is when many jobs were leaving or not a sure thing. Interesting to note that unlike earlier decades there haven’t been as many popular shows set in the 80’s. About ten years ago several 80’s based shows aired and immediately cancelled. Only recently have there been successful shows set in the 80’s. I am a fan of one of these and go to a message board to talk about the show and it makes people question why people don’t want to remember the 80’s. Was it because our problems stem from this decade?

6 thoughts on “Remember the Reagan Years?”

  1. I remember the ’80s very fondly:

    …things worked!
    …I had money in my pocket!
    …I had free time after work!
    …work was an adventure, more than a chore!
    …(perhaps most important) there was Duran Duran on the radio!

    President Reagan led us to feel good about ourselves as Americans. It sounds kind of silly, but it worked. In 1984, I voted for Reagan and lied about it to my dyed-in-the-wool-Democrat parents. Now we have the counterexample of a President who is ashamed for his country.

    To be sure, there were downsides. It was the beginning of the notion of ‘unlocking shareholder value’ from corporations, rather like the arsonist proposes to unlock the thermal value in the timbers of your house. But that was still an abstraction for most of us: the rot had not yet set in.

    I grew up with the notion that the Russians could destroy us all in an instant. But we got on with our lives, and we didn’t turn our country into a police state. And yes, we beat the Russians, but Soviet Communism carried the seeds of its own destruction when it insisted on educating the population: after a few generations, they wouldn’t want to be communists anymore.

    Pop culture since World War II, except possibly for a brief respite around 1970, has always been materialistic. The objects of the materialistic obsession change with time, but the mania remains the same. (Now we obsess over the latest iPhone.)

    So there’s plenty to be nostalgic about for the 1980s, but you’re right that 1980s nostalgia hasn’t caught on in the same way that 1950s nostalgia did in the 1970s. Perhaps you’re right that people now recognize the 1980s as the beginning of the end. I’m skeptical: I don’t think pop culture is that wise.

    Some other thoughts:
    –Too much about the 1980s is still with us.
    —-Automobile styling hasn’t changed much over the last 30 years.
    —-Desktop and laptop computers have gotten faster and more powerful, but their basic appearance, and most of what one uses them for, haven’t changed.
    —-There are radio stations that broadcast almost exclusively 1980s music. (When I had work in Chile a few years ago, I discovered Radio Concierto, available on the Internet at Worth a listen.)
    –Nostalgia is a luxury: the province of older people who are doing OK in the world, remembering fondly the circumstances of their youth. But we’re not doing OK: we’re having to work harder and harder, with less and less to show for it.
    –Nostalgia is politically incorrect: a pining for an evil past when we had racism and sexism and pride in building nuclear weapons.
    –And if it isn’t politically incorrect, we could make it so. Better not to remember that there was a time when the average American family owned their own home, the father had a steady job that covered the essentials, and the mother had a choice whether to work or not. (And men were men and women were women, and the difference was to be respected, enjoyed, and loved.)

  2. Yes Duran Duran! I love them and have seen them 10 times or so in concert. They are still fantastic and their last CD is amazing. Now we have trashy music more about being sleazy than talent. Sure their videos could get raunchy but they had talent.

    I graduated high school in 1989 so I look differently than if I had been older. I do know I miss the opportunities then to work decent jobs without degrees.

    Strangely, the oldies station here mostly plays 80’s music which was nice because it is good 80’s music, not horrible music. Now there seems to be this 80’s trend but why did it take so long? We now have the first successful show set in the 80’s but why did this take so long, were people not ready? Why are oldies playing 80’s music? Speaking of Reagan, I’m seeing a lot of Reagan videos online. I think people are turned off by Obama and his antics, to say nothing about Michelle Obama who is a disgrace. Like her or not, Nancy Reagan wouldn’t go on a talk show and dance.

  3. By 1988 or so, you stated having books like “The Second Shift” by Arlie Hochshild, which discusses women’s entrance into the workforce without an accompanying reduction in the amount of housework expected from them.

    I do have to agree that nostalgia is reserved for those who are doing all right. I’m not particularly nostalgic about the 1980s because I spent most of those years paying off student loans.

  4. Not long ago I read the Second Shift and remember all the women I know doing more. I wish I could say it’s different now and in some respects it is but I also see a shift back into traditional roles. I see more of my classmates have become housewives and there have been more trends like breastfeeding and kid centric attitudes. Granted breastfeeding has been around since the beginning of time but it wasn’t as common during the 50-70s. I wasn’t breastfed, neither were most if my friends but most of my friends breastfed. There’s also things like helicopter parenting which didn’t happen as much when I was a kid. Women are judged so much about kids, much more than years past.

  5. If I was married back in the early 1980s, I’d have worked for about a year post-wedding and then resigned — and stayed home to engineer a house and its operations…and to have a family.


    The laboratory job I had was simply not worth trying to “have it all.”

    We were paid nothing much for our efforts — in mid-1982, I was earning $7.50 an hour — who is going to come in all smiley smiley for some crap evening shift job where we got no thanks and no recognition and treated rottenly by the boss?

    I would not have risked that in lieu of raising a family. The stakes were simply not worth it.

    Nor can you have BOTH — a job and a family raised “the right way”.

    Who is home for the kids if they are ill? What happens to your kiddoes when summer vaction comes around? Who gets to do the “little things” for the kids with enough time to do it? Who was home for the kids when it was lunchtime at school?

    Not worth it at all.

    1. I see mixed opinions on that. On one hand, if it costs more than the less paid is making, then why work? On the other hand it might be so important to the person. I’ve mentioned this before but many classmates from school before college stayed at home or worked part time after kids and one of the reasons was financial. Yes they were mostly highly paid but still discriminated against or ended up doing most or all of the work.

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