Back To CourseHistory 104: US History II
14 chapters | 111 lessons | 10 flashcard sets
As a member, you'll also get unlimited access to over 75,000 lessons in math, English, science, history, and more. Plus, get practice tests, quizzes, and personalized coaching to help you succeed.Free 5-day trial
Adam has a master's degree in history.
When President Ronald Reagan entered office in 1981, he promised a new 'morning in America.' His promise reassured Americans that the United States would move on from the general economic, cultural and political malaise that developed during the 1970s. The generation of Americans who followed the 'Baby Boom' generation, also known as 'Generation X,' took full advantage of the new opportunities presented to them by the revamped economy under Reagan. As a result, the spirit of the 1980s was associated with extravagance and transformation; money, consumer goods, programming and music exemplified the ever-changing period. Let's take a look at American society and culture during the 1980s.
'Generation X' Americans were quickly stigmatized as the 'me' or 'yuppie' generation. During the 1980s, many young Americans earned college degrees, made a respectable income and consumed goods at an alarming rate. Without hesitation, Americans invested heavily into the stock market. They also purchased automobiles, paintings, trendy apparel, Nintendo, the Walkman and personal computers - thanks to the Apple Corporation. Credit card usage skyrocketed during the period as Americans attempted to compete with one another to showcase their wealth. Slogans such as 'Shop 'Til You Drop' and television shows like Life Styles of the Rich and Famous stimulated the American desire to spend. Sounds similar to the 1920s, doesn't it?
The 1980s saw Americans tune into pop, hip-hop, new wave and various forms of rock-n-roll. Madonna and Michael Jackson became the respective queen and king of pop music during the decade. Yet, artists such as Cyndi Lauper and Prince were all mainstays on the pop music charts. Hip-hop artists, such as Public Enemy, Run D.M.C. and Digital Underground, attempted to shed light on racial issues, violence and urban life. New wave music was unlike anything heard in prior decades. This genre of music synthesized pop and rock music into a melodic blend of sound. Introduced largely by British artists, new wave grew to heightened popularity in the United States by mid-decade. Groups within the new wave category included Duran Duran, Tears for Fears and Dire Straits.
Rock-n-roll received a heavy makeover during the decade. Many sub-genres of rock-n-roll formed throughout the 1980s, including soft rock, heavy metal and alternative (later dubbed 'grunge'). Soft rock was comprised of artists such as Bruce Springsteen, whose track Born in the U.S.A. oddly became the re-election theme for President Reagan, and U2, who enjoyed a meteoric rise up the music charts. Metallica, Exodus and Guns N' Roses thrashed their way into the heavy metal scene. Veteran groups, such as Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, also enjoyed significant success thanks to the rejuvenated metal genre. Younger Americans who found themselves between soft rock and metal developed alternative rock. Famous bands such as Sonic Youth, R.E.M. and the Violent Femmes brought a unique musical aggression to disillusioned youths.
The film industry exploded during the 1980s. The decade became known as the era of the blockbuster film. Digitally enhanced and visually stimulating, movies such as Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, Ghostbusters, Back to the Future and Top Gun generated impressive revenues at the box office. Directors began shedding light on the Vietnam War with movies such as Born on the Fourth of July, Platoon and Full Metal Jacket. Simultaneously, films that parodied the decade surfaced with greater regularity. Wall Street, The Breakfast Club, Monty Python's The Meaning of Life and Heathers all found a way to highlight various societal ills. Additionally, the rise of the film industry mirrored the advent of the videocassette recorder, or VCR. Americans could enjoy watching videos at home instead of traveling to movie theaters.
Like films, television programming and sitcoms boomed during the 1980s thanks to the widespread availability of cable. Americans enjoyed programs that focused on everyday life such as Cheers, Roseanne, Family Ties, Golden Girls and the Cosby Show. Genre-specific enthusiasts relished in the around-the-clock programming of ESPN, CNN, and the newly created Music Television Network, or MTV.
While African Americans struggled to maintain an equal socioeconomic status with white Americans, the 1980s witnessed the cultural expansion of African traits and values. Many African Americans moved away from the Afrocentric approach (that is, only supporting African values of the 1960s and 1970s), and adopted influences from other cultures and races. Native Americans found ways to profit from white Americans by legally opening bingo halls and casinos on their reservations. The Mexican and Latino American population significantly grew within the United States, and Asian Americans entered and expanded the technological and political arenas.
Women also branched out during the 1980s. After years of successful campaigning by feminists, women slowly became recognized as equals within society. Women pursued college educations and positions of authority in the workplace. They remained single longer and, in other cases, divorced without the fear of repercussions. Women opened businesses, joined unions, wrote in feminine journals and organized crisis centers. Women drew national attention to issues such as gender discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace. They even managed to garner the support of the Supreme Court when, in 1986, the Court ruled that sexual harassment was a form of discrimination and banned by law. Speaking of the Supreme Court, in 1981, Sandra Day O'Connor became the first female justice to serve on the Court after being appointed by President Reagan.
Of course, not all aspects of the 1980s benefited the country. Rampant drug use plagued the United States during the 1980s. The drug of choice for the decade was cocaine and its cheaper alternative, crack cocaine, or 'crack.' Dismayed with the overuse of the popular drug, as well as with the high consumption of alcohol, President Reagan pledged a 'War on Drugs' in 1982. Reagan's goal was to rid schools and places of employment of dangerous narcotics and alcohol. Millions of federal dollars were appropriated to combat illegal drugs and educate Americans on the peril of addiction. Additionally, Nancy Reagan, wife of President Reagan, orchestrated the 'Just Say No' campaign aimed at children and teenagers.
Simultaneously, the Autoimmune Deficiency Syndrome, or AIDS, severely impacted the United States. Many Americans contracted the incurable disease from the sharing of needles from drug use and unprotected sex. The gay community, especially gay males, was ravaged by the disease, which led to many Americans unjustly developing homophobia and ostracizing these individuals from society. While many Americans attempted to curb their drug use and practice safe sex, the deadly disease claimed the lives of thousands.
The 1980s were known as the 'me' generation. The children of the 'Baby Boom' generation pursued college educations, high paying jobs and guaranteed investments. They spent lavishly on new consumer products such as the personal computer and the VCR. Notwithstanding, the decade witnessed the explosion of film, television programming and music. Minorities began to establish roots within American culture and women achieved bigger strides toward equality. The 1980s were not without its challenges as the decade experienced a boom in drug use as well as the deadly outbreak of AIDS.
After this lesson, you should be able to:
To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account
Already a member? Log InBack
Did you know… We have over 160 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.
To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page
Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.
Back To CourseHistory 104: US History II
14 chapters | 111 lessons | 10 flashcard sets