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The national spirit had turned mistrustful
July 14, 2010 9:45 AM   Subscribe

American Dream, American Nightmare. The 70s looks back at itself.

Narrated by Harry Reasoner.
Part 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

And from the same youtube user -- see how the 70s were perceived in the 80s
1, 2, 3, 4, 5

and in 2000 (in 9 parts starting here).
posted by Potomac Avenue (49 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
the worst thing that could be said about the 70s is that to many people, ronald reagan's election seemed like a relief

the best thing that could be said about the 70s is that it wasn't the last 10 years or the next 10
posted by pyramid termite at 10:06 AM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe the 80s will be... radical.
posted by Babblesort at 10:07 AM on July 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


The 70s held such promise for America. And yet, it was filled with such shit.

This is why I get annoyed when people say America shouldn't be reaching out to other countries and striving for strong, peaceful, economically sound international relations. "We've got enough problems at home," they say.

Well, when the nation's psyche turns inward and stares at its collective navel, you get the 70s.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:13 AM on July 14, 2010


folks, things haven't changed all that much.... don't get all lol70's on us.

disco/"so you think you can dance"
student protests/G20 Protests
Civil rights/immigration legislation in Arizona
inflation/TARP fund

I stopped about there, I was getting terminal rerun syndrome
posted by HuronBob at 10:14 AM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Harry Reasoner = ?????????
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:16 AM on July 14, 2010


Last night I was browsing a copy of the Associated Press yearbook for 1973. Things sucked back then far more than I remembered them sucking.

Back in the day... barefoot to school... uphill both ways... wrapped in barbed wire for traction...

Kids these days, sheesh.
posted by warbaby at 10:20 AM on July 14, 2010


Orange shag carpeting, avocado appliances and feathered hair. Need I say more?
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 10:26 AM on July 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


All I can think of is that my elementary school had way more resources in the 1970s than does my son's school now.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:27 AM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Harry Reasoner = ?????????

One of the most respected TV journalists of his day.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:30 AM on July 14, 2010


The general mood was happier in the 70s.. it's pessimistic now by comparison. The yellow smiley face was created in 1971, an icon of the decade.
posted by stbalbach at 10:34 AM on July 14, 2010


The general mood was happier in the 70s.. it's pessimistic now by comparison.

DUDE.

Watergate
Vietnam
Nixon
"national malaise"
...

Reagan came along, said it was "morning in America," and people wanted to fit him for sainthood.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:39 AM on July 14, 2010


sorry, created 1963.. by Harvey Ball. But it seems to have really gone mainstream international in the 70s.
posted by stbalbach at 10:39 AM on July 14, 2010


1971 is when it leapt to national prominence. (The smiley face, that is.) I was around for that. The darn thing was EVERYWHERE. On Tshirts. On patches. (You guys are mostly too young to remember-we used to sew round patches-the peace symbol, the smiley face, witty sayings-to our BACKSIDES on our jeans. No stinking kidding.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:44 AM on July 14, 2010


Harry Reasoner = ?????????

One of the most respected TV journalists of his day.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:30 PM on July 14


Uh, I'm aware. I was responding to HuronBob re: everything of back then having equivalents today. I can't imagine a major news network making as incisive and poetic a look-back at recent history as the one I posted, primarily because news is all about facts or opinions rather than insights.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:47 AM on July 14, 2010


Like I said

Watergate/Whitewatergate
Vietnam/Iraq
Nixon/Bush/Bush
"national malaise"/Teaparty

it never changes....
posted by HuronBob at 10:49 AM on July 14, 2010


My tween and teen years were in the 70's. I think those years were pretty alright. I look at the fashions in the past several years and say "I already owned that shirt. I already owned those jeans. I already owned those shoes." And all the music I liked then, all those artists are touring still, and showing up at casino gigs all around me. Too bad so many people kept some of the the hair styles. Those were bad.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 10:49 AM on July 14, 2010


Cool Papa Bell those were events left over from the late 60s.. I'm talking general mood. There was a huge amount of optimism in the 70s, in particular in the later part of the decade. It's easy to look at those events from the late 60s and paint a dark picture but how do you explain the rise of Disco, Star Wars ("A New Hope"), Grease, Happy Days, etc.. Reagan was capitalizing on the spirit of the 70s with his "morning in America", it was a 70s outlook that set the tone of the 80s (anyway it was conservative propaganda that turned out to be the beginning of the end of America)
posted by stbalbach at 10:50 AM on July 14, 2010


Disco was a CIA plot to shift the focus of popular music away from politics and social justice toward vanity and consumption
posted by Jon_Evil at 10:58 AM on July 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


I was born in the mid 70s and also Star Wars and disco and the best porn happened.

Therefore the 70s were awesome*



(*empirical datas)
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:12 AM on July 14, 2010


I did high school and college in the 70's. I thought it was a fine, high ol' time. Certainly a hell of a lot more fun than the 21st century has been, so far.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:21 AM on July 14, 2010


the worst thing that could be said about the 70s is that to many people, ronald reagan's election seemed like a relief

As much as I hated Reagan and everything he and his political movement stand for, I could sure as fuck use a decade of "boy am I glad THAT' S over" right about now. I think a lot of people thought that's what we were getting with Obama, the same way we thought things would be better after Carter replaced Nixon/Ford. Hell, I'd even put up with the feathered haircuts and Members Only jackets if we could catch a breather.
posted by briank at 11:23 AM on July 14, 2010


Maybe it's just a natural thing where people idealize the way things looked right around the time they were born, but to me the design of things from about 1972-1974 is ideal.

Other great things the 70's brought us include punk rock, video games, attractive women in Playboy, abundant use of the Cooper Black typeface, the good Nixon, the pleasure of his hubristic downfall, Doonesbury, etc.
Orange shag carpeting, avocado appliances and feathered hair. Need I say more?
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 12:26 PM on July 14 [1 favorite +] [!]
Yes, all of these things ARE wonderful, you are right.
(You guys are mostly too young to remember-we used to sew round patches-the peace symbol, the smiley face, witty sayings-to our BACKSIDES on our jeans. No stinking kidding.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:44 PM on July 14 [+] [!]
Funny you should mention this as my favorite pair of shorts has a big pink FUCK FOR PEACE patch on the right ass pocket.
Disco was a CIA plot to shift the focus of popular music away from politics and social justice toward vanity and consumption
posted by Jon_Evil at 12:58 PM on July 14 [+] [!]
I think Rock already had the decadence taken care of at this point. If anything, at this point the DISCO SUCKSers seem more het up about there being a multiracial, pansexual scene, instead of everyone sticking to their own (not that I think this is your intent, just something I've noticed now that even Mohican punkers will throw some hihat action into their beats)
posted by jtron at 11:29 AM on July 14, 2010


I think sporting events are a good way, at least for me, to see how different the 70s were from today. If you watch any ESPN Classic sports form the 70s, you'll notice a difference in the way athletes react to making a good play. In he 70s, after a football player sacked a quarterback or caught a touchdown pass, there was none of the whooping and chest-thumping that goes on today. The player would run back to the huddle and maybe get a pat on the ass. In basketball, a dunk required no hanging on the rim, doing the dopey spread-legged celebratory crap that goes on today. Just dunk and run back to play defense. I don't mean to romanticize the 70s either; just an observation of how cultural changes are reflected in sports.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 11:50 AM on July 14, 2010


You guys are mostly too young to remember-we used to sew round patches-the peace symbol, the smiley face, witty sayings-to our BACKSIDES on our jeans. No stinking kidding.

That was before the jeans-makers started putting advertising there.

And the sweatshirt-makers, and the jacket-makers, and the shoe-makers, and the hat-makers ...
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:53 AM on July 14, 2010


This is a great post.

I am sort of slackjawed and gobsmacked with how well-written and almost poetic Reasoner is.

InfactsitdownI'lltellyouastory...

A couple Christmasses ago, I received the dvd set of every issue of Rolling Stone from the first up thru like 2005. Every issue, every page. Even the ads.

What I learned based on reading the 70s Rolling Stones: people (teenagers even?) weren't written to like they were 3rd graders. Not just the essays, but even the reviews and not just the reviews but the ads themselves! You would see ads for pop albums that featured a dozen graphs of really well-written dense text. The reviews were sharp and well-constructed and dealt with the deeper themes of an album and not just where they fit in the popcult firmament.

Conclusion: people are dumbs now.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:56 AM on July 14, 2010


And all the music I liked then, all those artists are touring still, and showing up at casino gigs all around me.

True Story: Our band was on the same bill as "KC and the Sunshine Band" at the Hard Rock in Biloxi, MI. My back was all effed up so I went up to the backstage area to wait for the rest of our gear to get loaded in. I was high on Vicodin as well. KC himself comes walking up to me all cool. I had no idea what to say because here, in front of me, was a 70s icon of sorts. I extended my hand and nervously said "Hello Mr. Sunshine!" I immediately felt like a dork because I was high and because I said something stupid. He was very cool and pretended not to hear me.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 12:00 PM on July 14, 2010


DISCO SUCKSers seem more het up about there being a multiracial, pansexual scene

That's a common refrain by disco apologists, and there's certainly a good deal of truth there. But I would suggest it has more to do with class than misanthropy. Disco's were for people who could afford the clothes and the cocaine. Bars where rock music was played were for everyone else.
posted by lumpenprole at 12:22 PM on July 14, 2010


I think sporting events are a good way, at least for me, to see how different the 70s were from today...

You might be interested in this book:
Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging '70s
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:29 PM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Orange shag carpeting, avocado appliances and feathered hair.

I just came.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:29 PM on July 14, 2010


Disco's were for people who could afford the clothes and the cocaine. Bars where rock music was played were for everyone else.
Then why so many not-wealthy discotheque habitues?
posted by jtron at 12:31 PM on July 14, 2010


Not habitues, denizens.

Or ducks.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:36 PM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I liked the Bicentennial celebration part of the 1970s . . . the clothes, hair, colors and gas lines, not so much.
posted by bearwife at 12:37 PM on July 14, 2010


Vietnam/Iraq

One of those involved many tens of thousands more American men dying, and there was a draft (which is a euphemism for a form of slavery). I can't speak from firsthand experience since I was born after the '70s, but I have no doubt about which war was worse for our national mood.
posted by Jaltcoh at 12:40 PM on July 14, 2010


Cool Papa Bell those were events left over from the late 60s..

the watergate break-in happened in 1972 - "national malaise" is from a speech jimmy carter gave in the late 70s

There was a huge amount of optimism in the 70s, in particular in the later part of the decade.

like hell there was - i remember that many of my classmates of '75 wanted nothing more than to get a job at one of the local factories and be set for life - when they graduated, many of these factories were in the process of shutting down and the rest weren't hiring - downtowns died, blocks and blocks of industry were torn down or abandoned

meanwhile, we had lost a war, our president had been disgraced, inflation was rampant, jobs were scarce, the cities were becoming lawless, and then the price of gas shot up through the roof

It's easy to look at those events from the late 60s and paint a dark picture but how do you explain the rise of Disco, Star Wars ("A New Hope"), Grease, Happy Days, etc..

escapism from desperate times and nostalgia for older ones - both things that culminated in reagan's "morning in america", which, for the lower half of us, turned out to be a false dawn

and so the "great optimism" you cite was just the growing tendency of more affluent americans to bullshit themselves into thinking the party could last forever, even while many of us knew damned well it was over - of course, they believed it - they believed it to the point where they thought they could pump up the real estate market, the stock market, and the banks forever and there would never be a day of reckoning

that's the real legacy of the 70s - half the nation lost in a haze of bubble-minded babbitry, the other half scrounging by and knowing things are getting worse

and here we are
posted by pyramid termite at 1:07 PM on July 14, 2010 [9 favorites]


I can completely look back on the 70s with nostalgia now, even though nearly half the decade was pretty wretched for me because of general bad-childhood stuff. (It's still a better proportion than the 80s.) In general, you can look at the 70s as when the people who were committed to making social change were still at it and not completely burnt out yet, even though a lot of the hippies had cut their hair, stopped marching, and were getting into orgies and cocaine. TV programs went from maybe having one black cast member to having entire black casts, even if most of them were sitcoms. The backlash against feminism hadn't yet gathered full steam. Coming out of the closet and staying out became a real option, even if you had to move to a big city or at least a decent-sized college town to live openly.

But you also had the energy crisis, which had a huge impact, not only on the economy and on people's everyday lives, but on the illusion that America possessed an unstoppable economic engine that could guarantee an ever-increasing standard of living for all its citizens. The admission of defeat in Vietnam also had an impact, as did Watergate (even people who hated Nixon were kind of shocked, I think, that he could and was taken down), but I really think that it was the energy crisis that created the "national malaise". Reagan owed his election far more to that than to the Iranian hostage crisis.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:39 PM on July 14, 2010


There was a huge amount of optimism in the 70s, in particular in the later part of the decade.

Not in the seventies that I remember. The sixties generation had lost and Nixon had won, cities were all bankrupt and crumbling, factories were closing, American cars were a joke and there was no gas to run them, TMI, high crime (or at least reporting of high crime) and just a general feeling that everything was falling apart. In retrospect, it easy to see how Reagan was able to exploit that pessimism with his promise of "Morning in America" and bullshit like that.
posted by octothorpe at 2:00 PM on July 14, 2010


But I would suggest it has more to do with class than misanthropy. Disco's were for people who could afford the clothes and the cocaine. Bars where rock music was played were for everyone else.

Incorrect. Not every disco was Studio 54, any more than all clubs are [wherever the celebrities are hanging out these days]. Similarly, you could actually go to a disco and not do coke, which for most people was probably pretty heavily cut anyway.

What discos did, really, was separate people who could dance from people who couldn't, or didn't want to. I think that a lot of people of the era thought that there was a class element because people did dress up for the clubs, as opposed to just throwing on jeans and a T-shirt and going to a Led Zeppelin or Rush concert, but it can't possibly be news by now that poor people like fancy clothes at least as much as anyone else. I think that a lot of rock fans felt threatened by something that was so unlike their own paradigm, where you're a more-or-less passive participant in the music; really, though, it wasn't so much of a much, despite this regrettable incident (which occurred when disco was already starting to fade).
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:04 PM on July 14, 2010


Harry Reasoner facts:
One of the founding hosts of "60 Minutes" where he worked with a Producer/Writer named Andy Rooney.
Co-anchored at ABC with the First Wonan Anchor on the Evening News: Barbara Walters.
Best Reporter's Name Ever: REASON-ER

There is no current equivalent for Harry Reasoner or any of the News Stars of the 60s-70s (Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, Howard K. Smith, Eric Sevareid, Peter Jennings, Nancy Dickerson* etc.). Even Barbara Walters of today is a pale shadow of Baba Wawa of the 70s.
* the true pioneer for women in TV news
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:13 PM on July 14, 2010


It didn't work.
posted by nola at 2:31 PM on July 14, 2010


Other great things the 70's brought us include punk rock,

As someone who listens to and LOVES punk from the 70s (but was only around for 3 last years of the decade decade), I do not get the impression they were particularly happy or optimistic times.
posted by Kirk Grim at 2:38 PM on July 14, 2010


In fact if anything the great creative outburst of pop culture in the 70s was intrinsically connected with the depression, violence and confusion of the rest of the culture.

If we take this documentary, and Harry Reasoner, as being the closest to the thing itself, his conclusions are here.

We may be quarrelsome, divided, and in financial and spiritual trouble, but you have to agree that though the system may have gone to the brink, the system worked.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:54 PM on July 14, 2010


that's the real legacy of the 70s - half the nation lost in a haze of bubble-minded babbitry, the other half scrounging by and knowing things are getting worse

Yes, pretty much this. Well said.

Not to pile on, stbalbach, but did you live in the 70's? I was born in 1970 and grew up with the decade so my childhood memories were formed in the later half of this decade and let me tell you, the cultural events that shaped a young child's mind were not optimistic: In 1976 America was a country that saw the release of a prophetic film like Network and also saw Disco Duck hit #1 on the charts. The first tried to wake people up, the second told people to stop worrying and go back to sleep.
posted by jeremias at 3:47 PM on July 14, 2010


I graduated from high school in 1977. The seventies were the pits. Energy crisis, inflation, the other things that jeremias mentioned upthread...respect for government was in the crapper. OTOH I was a child (literally) in the sixties, and that gave us all those nice assassinations plus the start of a little war in Southeast Asia.

There's more than one reason I loved Ronald Reagan so much.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:51 PM on July 14, 2010


I have a lot of love for the '70s aesthetic, and while I can rationalize it all I want, it's basically that brown-and-orange carpeting, muscle cars, Farrah Fawcett hair and rollergirls are all the comforting language of my childhood to me. (Or at least the comforting language of the television of my childhood. My actual childhood involved some pretty painful things, as well as some great things, pretty much like anybody else's -- but TV promised something better. I couldn't wait to be an adult. You lied, TV!)
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:01 PM on July 14, 2010


Squeeze
Ramones
Talking Heads
The Damned
Buzzcocks
Blondie
Sex Pistols
The Jam
The Clash

*puts stick of chalk back in tray, walks away from blackboard*
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:16 PM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


But in 1979 I saw this on my TV for the first time:


]LOAD
]
posted by digsrus at 6:28 PM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was in college from '75 thru '79, and I thought that it was a great time, especially for music, as ZenMasterThis demonstrates. I got to see, in their prime, The Ramones, Blondie, Nick Lowe/Dave Edmunds/Rockpile, The Stranglers, Elvis Costello, Foghat, Styx, Ian Hunter, Keith Richards & The New Barbarians, and Cheap Trick and I wasn't in some big coastal city, either. I sometimes think that nothing original has happened in music since the 70s.
posted by rfs at 9:06 PM on July 14, 2010


No, I can't cotton to this. Our fridge was green, and it was fucking ugly. The blender (which I still have, heart Oster) is yellow, and fucking ugly. Dark stained walls: fucking ugly. Shag carpets: fucking ugly. Feathered hair: fucking ugly (we loved Farrah for her nipples, not her hair). Bellbottoms? Ugly. Golf pants. Orange cars. Granny glasses. UGLY. UGLY. UGLY. I guess I'm more of a 60's child, but perhaps that's because when I was growing up in the 70s, we were poor and most of our stuff was second-hand.

Pubic hair, lush and proud, now that I fondly remember.
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:13 PM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sitting just a few feet away from me now in my TV room, sits the bright orange rotary dial telephone I grew up with. A thing of beauty, now known as "mid-century modern" and coveted by funky hipsters in condos all across this fair city.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:29 PM on July 16, 2010


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