Written by Michael Oshust
The 80s had MTV, historical events, multicultural music, clothing trends, movies and more. Why is it still so popular?
The 1980s film industry peaked as there was a lot of firsts. The period was when "high concept" films gained popularity, where movies were to be readily 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 format from the 1980s. From Ghostbusters, adventurous archaeologists, DeLoreans and aliens the decade covered many genres, with hybrids crossing between multiple types.
The decade also saw an increased amount of nudity in film and the increasing emphasis on the American industry on film franchises, especially in the science fiction, horror and action genres. In the US, the PG-13 rating was introduced in 1984 to accommodate films that straddled the line between PG and R, which was mainly due to the controversies surrounding the violent content of the PG films.
The 1980s introduced everyone to Dance, Pop and New Wave music with an increase in the use of digital recording, associated with the usage of synthesizers, with synth-pop music and other electronic genres featuring non-traditional instruments increasing in popularity. Everyone from Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Prince and Madonna to Wham, A-ha, R.E.M, and New Order - all are some of the highlights of the 1980s. MTV (Music Television) was born in 1981, and everyone loved it as it played artist videos 24 hours a day. Thanks to the MTV arrival the "Second British Invasion" arrived with new wave artists Depeche Mode, U2, Howard Jones, Wham, Bananarama, Duran Duran, The Police, A Flock of Seagulls, Culture Club and Dire Straits whom all had great success in the United States partly because of MTV.
The 1980s also introduced a new Rock format referred to as "Hair Metal." Beginning in 1983 the decade saw the resurgence of hard rock music and the emergence of its glam metal subgenre. Bands such as AC/DC, Queen, Def Leppard, Kiss, Mötley Crüe, Bon Jovi, Quiet Riot, Scorpions, Europe, Ratt, Twisted Sister, Poison, Dokken and Whitesnake were in heavy rotation on television and radio. Hardcore punk flourished throughout the early to mid-1980s, with bands leading the genre such as Black Flag, Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Suicidal Tendencies, D.O.A., and Dead Kennedys amongst others.
The top mainstream R&B artists of 1980s included Michael Jackson, Prince, Whitney Houston, Jermaine Jackson, James Ingram, Stevie Wonder, Kool & the Gang, Smokey Robinson, Rick James, Diana Ross, Lionel Richie, Earth, Wind & Fire, New Edition, Janet Jackson and DeBarge. The most significant introduction to everyone was Hip-Hop Music. Encompassing graffiti art, break dancing, rap music, and fashion, hip-hop became the dominant cultural movement of the African American communities in the 1980s. The Hip hop musical genre had a strong influence on pop music in the late 1980s which still continues. Favourite hip hop artists of the 1980s include Run D.M.C., Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Eric B. & Rakim, Salt N Pepa, MC Hammer, and Ice-T among others.
Live Aid and the US Festival introduced North Americans to televised concerts.
NBC introduced everyone to the Huxtable family, an affluent African-American family living in Brooklyn, New York. NBC had several successful series including St. Elsewhere (a medical drama series that ran from 1982 set at a decaying urban teaching hospital in Boston's South End neighbourhood) and Hill Street Blues (which aired from 1981 which chronicled the lives of the staff of a single police precinct in an American city). The Golden Girls aired on NBC from 1985 until 1992 that centred on four older women sharing a home in Miami, Florida that starred Bea Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty.
ABC debuted Full House, which centred around a widowed father, his three children, and his two best friends in San Francisco. ABC also introduced Rosanne, a comedy sitcom that revolved around the Conners, an Illinois working-class family.
CBS debuted Growing Pains, which was about an upper-middle-class family, residing in Huntington, New York, with a working mother and a stay-at-home psychiatrist father raising three children together.
The 1980s also saw several sitcoms come to an end with high ratings - Who shot J.R. in Dallas, which revolved around the Ewings, a wealthy Texas family in the oil and cattle-ranching industries. M*A*S*H came to an end in 1983, and the final episode had 125 million viewers. Mork & Mindy ended in 1982 which starred Robin Williams as Mork, an alien who comes to Earth from the planet Ork in a small, one-man egg-shaped spaceship. Three's Company ended in 1984, a show that revolved around three single roommates.
Today you turn on the television and shows like The Goldbergs or Black'ish are heavily referencing the 1980s. Dedicated radio stations are playing 80s artists exclusively. Online services like Spotify and iTunes Music have 80s playlists and channels.
Fact is we love the era that introduced us to CNN, MTV, Air Jordans, Pac-Man & Ms Pac-Man, Atari, Flashdance, Crockett & Tubbs from Miami Vice, Tom Cruise sliding across the floor in Risky Business, Ferris Bueller, Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Alf, Rambo, E.T., Seinfeld, Full House, Dynasty, Cheers, Perms, Neon Shirts, Leg Warmers, Mullets & more.
The 80s also let us watch the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and it made us aware of AIDS, watched a president get shot, a space shuttle exploded on television and the '80s introduced us to the first Apple computer.