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#225: Life in the 1970s and '80s

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Cast members of "Dallas" accept the pop culture award at the TV Land awards show in 2006 in Santa Monica, California. The awards honor classic shows and performers. From left: Charlene Tilton, Linda Gray, Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy, Sheree Wilson, Mary C
Cast members of "Dallas" accept the pop culture award at the TV Land awards show in 2006 in Santa Monica, California. The awards honor classic shows and performers. From left: Charlene Tilton, Linda Gray, Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy, Sheree Wilson, Mary C

STEVE EMBER: Welcome to THE MAKING OF A NATION -- American history in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember.

This week in our series, we look back at some of the social issues and cultural changes in America in the nineteen seventies and eighties.

(MUSIC)

In some ways, the nineteen eighties seemed like the opposite of the nineteen sixties. The sixties were years of protest for social justice and change. Many Americans demonstrated against the Vietnam War. Blacks demonstrated for civil rights. Women demonstrated for equality. Many people welcomed new social programs created by the government.

By the nineteen eighties, however, many people seemed more concerned with themselves than with helping society. To them, success was measured mainly by how much money a person made. People wanted to live the good life, and that took money.

The changes started to become evident during the nineteen seventies. For a while, these years brought a continuation of the social experiments and struggles of the sixties.

But then people began to see signs of what society would be like in the eighties. There were a number of reasons for this change.

One reason was the end to America's military involvement in Vietnam after years of war. Another was the progress of civil rights activists and the women's movement toward many of their goals.

A third reason was the economy. During the nineteen seventies, the United States suffered a recession. Interest rates and inflation were high. A shortage of imported oil as a result of tensions in the Middle East only added to the problems.

As the nineteen seventies went on, many Americans became tired of economic struggle. They also became tired of social struggle. They had been working together for common interests. Now, many wanted to spend more time on their own interests.

This change appeared in many parts of society. It affected popular culture, education and politics.

ARCHIE BUNKER (CARROLL O'CONNOR): "Let me hear your idea again."

MICHAEL (ROB REINER): "OK, I want us to watch Jack Lemmon and a group of famous scientists discuss pollution and ecology on channel thirteen."

ARCHIE: "Good. And I wanna watch football highlights on channel two. Now guess what's gonna happen."

(MUSIC)

"All in the Family" cast
"All in the Family" cast
One of the most popular television programs of that time was a comedy series that often dealt with politics and serious social issues. The show was called "All in the Family." The family was led by a factory worker named Archie Bunker. Carroll O'Connor played Archie, and Jean Stapleton played his wife, Edith. The Bunkers lived in a working-class neighborhood in the Queens borough of New York City.

Archie represented the struggles of the blue-collar working man against the social changes in America. He loved his country and was socially conservative -- in the extreme.

ARCHIE: "What about John Wayne? And before you say anything, lemme warn you -- when you're talking about the Duke, you ain't just talking about an actor; you're talking about the spirit that made America great."

MICHAEL: "Are you kidding?"

His opinions on subjects like race and women's equality were always good for an argument with his liberal daughter and even more liberal son-in-law.

MICHAEL: "Good. I can mail my letter today and it'll get to Washington by Monday."

EDITH (JEAN STAPLETON): "Washington -- are you writing to Washington?

GLORIA (SALLY STRUTHERS): "That's right. Michael wrote the president."

ARCHIE: "Write to the president, about what?"

GLORIA: "All the things we've been talking about - the pollution of our air, the pollution of our water, the way us housewives have no protection from foods without nutrition, how they make products with harmful things in them. Like you saw what happened to Michael from that shirt."

ARCHIE: "You, Michael Stivic, Meathead, you have the nerve to write to the president of the United States about your rash?"

Edith would always try to make peace.

EDITH: "Maybe he knows a good skin man [dermatologist]."

(MUSIC: "Happy Days" theme)

Another popular program, "Happy Days," about family life in the nineteen fifties, offered an escape from the social issues of the day.

(MUSIC)

Music also changed. In the nineteen sixties, folk music was popular. Many of those folk songs were about social problems. But in the nineteen seventies, there was hard rock and punk.

TV HOST: "Here is Wonder Mike, Hank and Master G -- the Sugarhill Gang."

And in nineteen seventy-nine a group called the Sugarhill Gang brought rap music to national attention with a hit called "Rapper's Delight."

(MUSIC: "Rappers Delight")

In bookstores, the growing number of self-help books offered another sign of social change. These books advised people about ways to make themselves happier. One of the most popular self-help books was "I'm OK -- You're OK" by Wayne Dyer. It was published in nineteen sixty-nine and led the way for many other popular psychology books throughout the seventies.

(MUSIC)

Politically, the United States went through several changes during the nineteen seventies. For most of the sixties the nation was governed by liberal Democratic administrations. Then in nineteen sixty-eight a conservative Republican, Richard Nixon, was elected president.

Nixon won a second term four years later, but had to resign in nineteen seventy-four because of the Watergate scandal. Nixon's vice president, Gerald Ford, took his place. Two years later, Ford was defeated by Jimmy Carter, a Democrat who until then was little known nationally.

The election showed that Americans were angry with the Republican Party because of Watergate. But they soon became unhappy with President Carter. They blamed him for failing to improve the economy and for failing to end a crisis involving American hostages in Iran. He lost his re-election campaign to Ronald Reagan.

RONALD REAGAN: "Are you better off than you were four years ago?"

(MUSIC)

Michael Douglas in "Wall Street"
Michael Douglas in "Wall Street"
Reagan, a Republican, won two terms and led the nation during most of the nineteen eighties. For many people, the Reagan years offered a renewed sense of economic opportunity. Reagan reduced taxes, which increased his popularity. But the national debt grew as he raised military spending to put pressure on the Soviet Union.

(MUSIC)

The self-centeredness of many people in the seventies and eighties gave rise to terms like the "me" generation." And there was the rise of "yuppies" -- young urban professionals remaking older neighborhoods in cities, often displacing poorer people.

Popular entertainment at that time was often about financial success.

ANNOUNCER: "Premiering Sunday, April second, 'Dallas,' where money buys power and passion breeds conflict ... "

(MUSIC: "Dallas" theme)

"Dallas" was a TV drama about a Texas oil family with more money, and more problems, than they knew what to do with. It became a hit not just in the United States but around the world. Actor Larry Hagman played JR.

JR EWING (LARRY HAGMAN): "Your daddy lacked the killer instinct. He forgave those who transgressed against him. People just weren't afraid of him. And he overlooked ol' JR's golden rules.

CASEY (ANDREW STEVENS): "And what might they be?"

JR EWING: "Don't forgive and don't forget. And do unto others, before they do unto you. And, most especially, keep your eye on your friends, 'cause your enemies will take care of themselves. Oh, and one other thing - the oil business is a little bit like a poker game. It's good to get caught bluffing early on, 'cause, after that, somebody's gonna call you when you've got a winning hand."

(MUSIC)

"Dynasty" was another popular series about rich people behaving badly. One of its stars was veteran actor John Forsythe.

BLAKE CARRINGTON (JOHN FORSYTHE): "Those banks are going to find out that they've got more than they can handle. Denver- Carrington [company] is Blake Carrington, and they'll come begging to me to run the company again. I know they will. And I'll make them get down on their knees when they come begging."

There was also "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," a series about real-life wealthy people, hosted by Robin Leach.

ROBIN LEACH: "Our bustling capital city combines the chic with the freak, the 'Oh, God' with the avant garde. So let's go 'upper deck' with a couple of my good friends, and run away with the rich and famous ..."

And at the movie theater, there was the nineteen eighty-seven film "Wall Street."

GORDON GECKO (MICHAEL DOUGLAS): "The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works."

Michael Douglas played a character named Gordon Gecko, who earns his wealth by raiding companies and illegally trading on inside information.

GORDON GECKO (MICHAEL DOUGLAS): "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 U.S.A. Thank you very much. [Applause]"

(MUSIC: "Rambo" theme)

Good triumphed over evil in the "Rambo" action films starring Sylvester Stallone. He played a troubled hero who had fought in Vietnam. The films were violent. But they represented a more positive view than society had shown in the past toward veterans of that unpopular war.

In the nineteen eighties people came to fear a new disease that could be spread by sex or blood. It was the rise of the AIDS epidemic.

At the same time a new drug -- crack cocaine -- started a wave of violence in American cities.

Technology was also on the rise.

ANNOUNCER: "You don't have to be a genius to use a computer. Let Computer Land show you how easy it is to manage your own small business or home finances with the Atari 800. Record keeping, information, communication, and a world of new ideas from Atari."

Personal computers appeared in more and more offices, schools and homes.

Michael Jackson performs with his brothers at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on December 3, 1984
Michael Jackson performs with his brothers at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on December 3, 1984
The nineteen eighties brought stardom to young entertainer Michael Jackson.

(MUSIC: "Beat It"/Michael Jackson)

And no history of the eighties would be complete without noting the rise of Music Television -- better known as MTV.

(MUSIC: "Money for Nothing"/Dire Straits)

You can find our series online with transcripts, MP3s, podcasts and pictures at www.unsv.com. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English. I'm Steve Ember, inviting you to join us again next week for THE MAKING OF A NATION -- American history in VOA Special English.

__

Contributing: Jerilyn Watson

This was program #225.

在某些方面,80年代的美国跟60年代恰好相反。60年代是大家为争取社会公正与变迁而抗争的年代。很多人为反对越战抗议示威;黑人为争取民权走上街头,妇女也为平权而大声疾呼。与此同时,很多人都对政府新推出的社会福利项目表示欢迎。

然而,到了80年代的时候,很多人重新把目光转向自我,不再关心社会。对他们来说,

一个人成功与否的主要衡量标准是他赚钱的能力,大家都渴望过上好日子,改善生活质量,这些自然需要钱。

这种变化70年代时就已经有了苗头。70年代初是60年代社会实验和抗争的延续,但是与此同时,向80年代的转变也在潜移默化中浮现。

促成这种变化的原因有几个,原因之一是美国结束了对越战的军事介入,另一个原因是民权活动和妇女运动都取得了长足进展。第三个原因是美国经济的变化。20世纪70年代,美国经历了经济衰退,利率和通胀高涨,中东局势紧张造成进口石油短缺,更是雪上加霜。

70年代时,美国人饱受经济压力,开始对争取社会权益感到疲惫。他们为共同利益进行了斗争,如今该花更多的时间来关心自身利益了。

这种变化体现在了社会生活的方方面面,对文化、教育和政治都产生了影响。当时最受欢迎的电视系列节目之一是一部经常涉及政治和严肃社会话题的喜剧情景剧,叫"全家福"。一家之主阿奇.邦克尔在工厂上班,他的太太叫艾迪斯。邦克尔一家住在纽约皇后区的一个工薪阶层居民区。

阿奇塑造了一个典型的美国蓝领工人形象,他热爱自己的国家,但是在社会问题上极端保守,反对社会变革。他对种族和妇女平权等问题的看法跟自由派女儿和思想更激进的女婿经常产生激烈碰撞,阿奇的太太艾迪斯则一贯在中间和稀泥。

另外一个深受观众喜爱的节目是"欢乐时光",讲的是20世纪50年代的家庭生活,让观众忘掉眼前的社会问题。

80年代的音乐也发生了变化。60年代流行民谣,很多民谣歌曲都涉及社会问题。但是到了70年代,重摇滚和朋克出现了。1979年,一个名叫"糖山帮"的乐队用单曲"说唱艺人的快乐",让嘻哈音乐走上了美国的音乐舞台。

与此同时,各大书店里励志书籍的增加也是社会变化的一种体现。这些书籍教大家如何让自己变得更快乐,其中最著名的一本励志书籍是托马斯.哈里斯撰写的"我很好--你很好",这本书1969年出版后,引发了70年代大量心理学书籍的出现。

70年代,美国在政治上也经历了一系列变化。60年代大部分时间,美国总统都是自由派民主党人,但是1968年,保守派共和党人尼克松当选总统。四年过后,尼克松当选连任,但是1974年由于水门事件而被迫辞职,由副总统福特继任。两年后,福特输给了一个知名度并不高的民主党人卡特。

这次大选显示,水门事件让美国民众对共和党深恶痛绝,但是没过多久,他们又开始对卡特感到不满。他们责怪卡特没能改善经济,也没能结束伊朗人质事件。卡特在1976年大选中输给了里根。

里根是共和党人,他担任了两届美国总统,带领美国走过了80年代的大部分时光。在很多人看来,里根领导下的美国经济重新有了希望。里根降低税率,并因此广受民众支持,但是里根为了向苏联施加压力而增加军费开支,也积累了美国的国债。

20世纪七、八十年代美国人的自我中心也让这一代人被称为"自我一代"。这段时间里还出现了所谓的雅皮士,他们都是年轻的城市专业人员,他们重新塑造城市里的老社区,让穷人离开那里。

那段时间娱乐节目很多都是关于财富的,其中一个很受欢迎的电视连续剧叫"达拉斯",讲的是一个德克萨斯石油家族的故事,他们有花不完的钱,也有解决不完的问题。这部连续剧不仅在美国,而且在世界上很多国家都有很高的收视率。当时其他一些著名节目还包括电视连续剧"豪门恩怨",和介绍真实人物的节目"富人和名人的生活方式"。

以金融财富为主题的电影包括1987年上映的影片"华尔街"。迈克尔.道格拉斯在电影里饰演的角色戈登.盖柯,非法利用内幕消息炒作股市。

好莱坞著名影星史泰龙出演的兰博系列也很受欢迎,主角是一个参加过越战的英雄,影片充满暴力,但主题是正义最终战胜邪恶,展现了一个比已往更为积极正面的越战老兵的形象。

20世纪80年代,一种通过性交和血液传染的疾病开始成为人们的梦魇,这就是艾滋病。与此同时,一种新的毒品,可卡因也开始进入美国城市。

科学技术在80年代也突飞猛进,个人电脑在办公室、教室和家庭里,如雨后春笋般出现。

80年代的美国乐坛,一颗流行乐巨星冉冉升起,他就是年轻的迈克尔.杰克逊。80年代美国历史,同时还见证了音乐电视MTV的诞生。

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